Work Permits for Canada
In order to legally work in Canada, you’ll either need a residence permit or a temporary work permit; large quantities of both documents are granted annually, but it’s important expats recognise the difference between the two.
Residence permits are for those who wish to permanently, or at least on a long-term basis, live and work in Canada, and entitle their holders to take advantage of many of Canada’s social systems, like healthcare and education. On the other hand, temporary work permits are granted to individuals coming to Canada to complete a specific job which can help a Canadian employer satisfy a skills shortage.
Temporary work permits do not entitle their holders to certain rights, and they expire after a certain amount of time.
Though in the past Canada advocated for an immigration policy that pushed for foreigners to have the opportunity to settle in the nation, recently, changes have been made so that more temporary work permits – which of course do not come with immigration rights – are offered.
Work permits should almost always be applied for from outside of Canada, but there are certain exceptions to this general rule.
Do note that nationals that are not from the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and most European countries will also need to obtain a temporary residence visa alongside their temporary work permit. The Canadian government lists those nationals who must apply for this second document on their website.
Applying for a temporary work permit for Canada
In order to apply for a temporary work permit you must first solidify a job offer from a Canadian employer. Furthermore, your Canadian employer must be able to prove that the job being offered cannot be filled by a local employee because there is no one available in the domestic market that has the skills or the experience to assume the job.
In order to prove the above, your employer must obtain a written confirmation, which is called a “Positive Labour Market Opinion” from the Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) department. This generally means that the employer must show that they have advertised the position throughout Canada for a period of 90 days. However there is a list of 33 occupations that qualify for expedited labour market opinion, which only takes five days. Additionally, there are some situations where no labour market opinion is needed.
If you have both of the above, you can submit a temporary work permit application, along with the required supplementary document, to the responsible Canadian visa office in your area.
Documents required for temporary work permit application
- Completed temporary work permit application form
- Completed application for temporary residence visa (if applicable)
- 2 x passport photos
- Copy of passport information page (if not applying for temporary residence visa)
- Copy of original passport (if applying for temporary residence visa)
- Copy of contract offer from Canadian employer (with file number of labour market opinion)
- Proof you meet the requirements of the job offer (references from previous employers, certification qualifications, diplomas, transcripts, etc.)
- Proof of fee payment
- Proof of funds (bank statements)
After the application has been received by your respective Canadian visa office, it may be necessary to meet in person for an interview. At this point, it may also be necessary to provide police clearance certificates and proof that you are healthy, as confirmed by an official medical exam. As these documents can greatly extend the processing times associated with the application, try your best to find out if you'll need them, so you can obtain them and submit them beforehand.
Application processing times vary immensely, and depend largely on where you have applied. In general though, plan on the application taking one to three months to be approved.
Expat families will need to go through the same process to apply for each family member’s visa. The visa and work permit process is often made more complicated on a provincial level as some provinces, such as Quebec, require applications on a federal and provincial level.