Work Permits

Work Permits

There are few exceptions to the requirement that foreign workers must have a work permit to work legally in Canada, so if you are considering entering Canada for work, or you are an employer seeking to hire a foreign worker, you must take steps to ensure that you have addressed whether a work permit will be required.

There are two types of work permits: open work permits and employer-specific work permits.

Open Work Permits - (You can work for any employer)

Generally available to:

  • Permanent residence applicants who have applied to an office in Canada
  • Dependent family members of some permanent residence applicants
  • Spouses and common-law partners of some workers and international students
  • Refugees, refugee claimants, protected persons and their family members
  • Some temporary resident permit holders
  • Some young workers participating in special programs through International Experience Class (working holiday visa).

Students also have the ability to work for any employer should their Study Permit allow for off campus work, so long as they meet the criteria which includes being a full-time student at a designated learning and studying a program that is longer than 6 months and leads to a certificate, diploma or degree.  

Post Graduate Work Permits are also open work permits. A student who graduates from a full-time program of study more than 8 months in duration, from an eligible institution, may apply for a PGWP.

Employer-Specific Work Permits

This Work Permit allows you to work only for the employer noted on the document for the duration noted.  In order to obtain an Employer Specific Work Permit, there are several routes available:

Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA):  In most cases, foreign workers will need a positive LMIA in order to apply for a Work Permit.  The application for an LMIA is submitted to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) by the Employer who wishes to hire a foreign worker.  Essentially, an employer must prove to ESDC that they have advertised the position according to strict requirements set by ESDC and have shown that there are no Canadians available to fill the position or that none of the applicants have the skills required of the position advertised.  Once, a positive LMIA is obtained, the foreign worker can make a work permit application. 

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (available to American and Mexican Citizens):

This agreement is a reciprocal agreement between Canada, Mexico and the US, the purpose of which is to liberalize the trade of goods and services between them. For citizens of the US and Mexico, NAFTA facilitates temporary entry to Canada:

  • NAFTA removes the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) for all professionals covered by the Agreement.
  • In the case of a business visitor, it removes the need for a work permit.
  • For professionals and intra-company transferees, it expedites the application process because the employer does not need to advertise the position or obtain the LMIA and the professional worker can apply for the work permit at a Canadian Port of Entry instead of making an application to a visa office. 

International Experience Class:  If your country of Citizenship has an agreement with Canada which allows young people to travel and work in Canada, then you may be eligible for an IEC (working holiday) open work permit. Eligibility requirements differ from country to country as do the options available depending on where you are from, you may be able to choose from up to three travel and work experiences:

Working Holiday

The type of work permit is an open work permit.
This category is for you if:

  • You don’t have a job offer yet
  • You want to work for more than one employer in Canada
  • You want to work in more than one location
  • You’d like to earn some money so that you can travel

Young Professionals

The type of work permit is an employer specific work permit.
This category is for you if:

  • You have a job offer for paid employment typically in a high skilled position in Canada that contributes to your professional development
  • You’ll work for the same employer in the same location during your stay in Canada


We represent foreign workers and Canadian employers. When considering working in Canada, you need to know whether you may do so without a work permit, whether you need a work permit, or whether you need a work permit and your prospective employer requires a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) from the Canadian government. We can assist with all applications including:

  • Work Permit Applications and work permit Extension Applications;
  • Work permit Applications under NAFTA (and preparation for a Port of Entry application)
  • Post Graduate Work Permits
  • LMIA Applications

We can also advise on whether your employment in Canada will qualify as work experience under the Canadian Experience Class and how you can maximize your potential for Express Entry. 

If you are a foreign national from a country whose citizens require a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) to come to Canada, we advise on related TRV issues as well.

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