Explanation of basic terms of work, work permit and worker:

  • What is considered work in Canada? work means an activity for which wages are paid or commission is earned, or that is in direct competition with the activities of Canadian citizens or permanent residents in the Canadian labour market.
  • What is a work permit? A work permit means a written authorization to work in Canada, issued by an immigration or border services officer to a foreign national. Please note that a Canadian permanent resident or citizen does not need a work permit to work in Canada.
  • Who is a worker? A foreign national is a worker and a member of the worker class if the foreign national has been authorized to enter and remain in Canada as a worker. In most cases, a foreign national is required to have a work permit in order to perform work or receive a job offer, in some exceptional circumstances a short-term employee (for example 15 to 30 days) may be exempt from having a work permit. Some occupations are not open to foreign nationals and despite having a work permit a foreign national is not allowed to work in such occupations such as strip tease, erotic dance, escort services, or erotic massages.

Those foreign nationals who require a visa to enter Canada must apply for a work permit before attempting entry to Canada, however, visa-exempt nationals can apply for a work permit at a port of entry. The work permit issuance requirements are the same for both visa required, and visa-exempt foreign nationals.

Types of Work Permits

There are only two types of work permits that are issued for workers in Canada:

1. Open Work Permit

2. Employer-Specific Work Permit

Each type of work permit is explained in the following topics.

What is an open work permit?

Open work permit (No LMIA required): This type of work permit is not restricted to any employer or job; therefore, the open work permit holder can work for any employer without the need for an LMIA. In special circumstances, the IRCC can apply certain restrictions on the permit holder despite having an open work permit such as limiting the employee not to work in the medical sector, or strip tease, etc. Please always check the bottom of your work permit for understanding the limitations of your work permit (if any).

Who can obtain an Open Work Permit?

The following people can obtain an open work permit:

1) If you have been accepted (approved) in a provincial nominee program (such as BCPNP, etc.) or in a federal immigration program such as FSWP, FSTP, C.E.C, etc. until you receive your C.O.P.R (confirmation of permanent residence).

2) Family member of a permanent resident.

3) Spouse of a common-law partner of a PR or Citizen,

4) Spouse of a common-law partner of a highly skilled worker who works in TEER 1, 2 OR 3.

5) Spouse of a common-law partner of an international student enrolled in D.L.I.

6) Spouse of a common-law partner of a provincial nominee.

7) A temporary resident permit (T.R.P) holder if the permit is issued for more than 6 months.

8) Refugee claimants and convention refugees.

9) in special circumstances, IRCC will issue an open work permit to a foreign national who is stuck in Canada and have no other means of support, such as rejected refugees who are not being removed due to moratorium (on removal) or other reasons.

10) International students after graduating D.L.I.

11) Family members of foreign diplomats, and military to work in Canada.

What is an Employer-Specific Work Permit?

Employer-specific work permits require LMIA too.

Temporary Foreign Workers will be issued employer-specific work permits, in some cases industry-specific work permits such as Agriculture, etc. All the limitations will be written on the work permit, so please read your work permit before starting your work. These are usually but not always low-skilled occupations classified under TEER 4 and 5. These types of permit holders are usually not allowed to sponsor families or apply for other positions and it is extremely hard for them to become Canadian citizens because they do not have a path to permanent residence or citizenship. The majority of the workers in Canada fall under this category. However, the Canadian government creates public policies that announce transition pathways from time to time for this specific group to transition to PR, however, the creation of such public policies entirely depends on the sole discretion of the Canadian government and may not be available all the time.

Types of LMIA Applications

There are only two types of LMIA Applications that you can submit to recruit a foreign worker:

1) high-wage position: If a position is paying at or above the provincial/territorial median hourly wage, it is considered under “stream for high-wage positions”

2) low-wage position: if a position is paying below the provincial/territorial median hourly wage, it is considered under the “stream for low-wage positions.”

Please note, LMIA is a complicated application, please always make sure both the employee and employer are eligible to apply for the LMIA, moreover, that your application is in accordance with current public policy considerations to avoid refusal.

LMIA Application’s Documents Checklist

You need the following documents to apply for LMIA:

1) Labour Market Impact Assessment Application Form (E.S.D.C E.M.P.5593)

2) Documents that prove your business is legitimate.

3) Copy of the Section(s) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement related to rates of pay (if applicable)

4) Proof of recruitment activities (job advertisement, etc.)

  • Recruitment plan (job advertisement, duration, placement, etc.)
  • Proof of Job Bank Advertisement
  • Proof of at least 2 other job advertisements

5) Schedule D – Skilled Trades Job Offer for Employer 2 (If applicable)

6) Copy of the Employment Contract (signed by both employer and the employee).

Four Types of Workers in Canada

There are four types of work programs designed for foreign national workers in Canada:

1) Temporary Foreign Worker Program – T.F.W.P: Temporary foreign workers are usually hired when Canadian employers cannot find a suitable candidate from inside Canada. You need an LMIA -based job offer and also need a work permit to work in Canada as a temporary worker.

2) International Mobility Program – I.M.P: This program is designed for highly skilled workers and aims to bring talent to Canada so the Canadian economy can benefit economically or culturally. You may or may not need a work permit depending on the type of work you will be performing. LMIA is usually not required under this type of work permit.

3) International Students Under Post-graduation Work Permit Program: Students who finished at least 8 months of study in any of the designated learning institutions, are eligible to apply and receive a post-graduation work permit. However, please note, the program that you graduated from, must also be an eligible program for a post-graduation work permit, not all programs from a D.L.I are eligible. So, make sure you double-check your program eligibility for P.G.W.P before you even apply for the program. If you attended a program for less than 8 months, you are not eligible for a P.G.W.P. If the program was for 8 months and less than 2 years, your work permit will be issued up to the same length of your study program. If your study program was for 2 years or more, you will get a 3 years work permit. If you completed more than 1 program each for more than 8 months, the P.G.W.P will be issued according to the total duration of these programs. Please note, you can get a work permit only once, if you let it expire and do not apply for renewal or restoration, you cannot get another P.G.W.P.

4) Trade Agreements: Canada has signed at least 11 international free trade agreements that facilitate temporary entry for businesspersons. Eligible people need to obtain a work permit; however, they are not required to obtain LMIA first. A few of the international free trade agreements include the Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement (C.U.S.M.A), Canada-Chile FTA , Canada-Peru FTA , Canada-Colombia FTA , Canada-Korea FTA, Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), Agreement on Trade Continuity between Canada and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (CUKTCA), General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), Canada–Panama Free Trade Agreement, Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Who can apply for a work permit from inside Canada?

Some foreign nationals can also apply for a work permit after entering Canada, such as:

1) Students after finishing studies that are longer than 8 months. Students must apply within 90 days of receiving the final marks, and the study permit must be valid when applying for a work permit.

2) A person who received a temporary resident permit that is longer than 6 months,

3) An in-Canda permanent resident applicant and their family members such as caregivers, spouse or common-law partners, protected persons, and H&C applicants,

4) Mexican citizens applying under C.U.S.M.A and U S citizens applying under the Professional or Intra-company Transferee C.U.S.M.A categories only.

What is NOC 2021?

NOC stands for the National Occupational Classification system; this system is used to classify jobs/occupations in Canada. NOC groups jobs based on job duties and the work a person does. Every ten years, the Canadian government revises the grouping and classification of all jobs in the economy. Minor revisions that do not affect the structure of NOC are released consistently annually. The new version of NOC was released in 2021 and this is the only version currently in effect.

You must know your Canadian NOC code and job title to immigrate to Canada under economic classes.

How to find your NOC and Code number?

Step 1: go to the search page of the NOC website,

Step 2: Enter your current job title,

Step 3: the website will show you a couple of job titles, choose the closest one and dive deep to know the main duties whether they are matching with your job or not.

Step 4: Write down the 5-digit code number, the job title, and TEER of the job that is matching with your job.

This is all you need from the NOC website, don’t sweat the unnecessary details.

Do you need a work permit or LMIA ?

Generally, all foreign workers in Canada are required to have both a work permit and LMIA. however, some workers are work permit exempted, and some others are LMIA exempted, and there is a small number of workers who are exempted from both work permit and LMIA.

1) Temporary Foreign Workers need Both LMIA and Work Permit: This is the case for Most jobs in Canada, including high-wage positions, low-wage positions, and high-demand occupations,

2) International Mobility Program and Francophone Mobility Program do not need LMIA, they only need a Work Permit to work in Canada. This is also the case for intra-company transferees, self-employed class, Entrepreneurs class, high-skilled professionals, and citizens of a few countries such as the USA, Mexico, Chile, Peru, South Korea, Columbia, Panama, Australia, Singapore, and New Zealand. Also applicable to Citizens of most of the European Union, French-speaking foreign nationals, religious workers, and academics,

3) The category of people who are mentioned under S186 of I.R.P.R are exempt from both LMIA and work permit. Such people include Business visitors, Athletes, aviation inspectors, clergy, events/convention organizers, Crew members, emergency service providers, examiners and evaluators, expert witnesses or investigators, Foreign government officers, Foreign representatives and family members of foreign representatives, Health care students, Judges, referees and similar officials, Military personnel, News reporters, media crews, Performing artists, and public speakers.

LMIA Exemption Streams

If you can find your work under any of the following streams, you will be exempt from obtaining LMIA.

A25.2: Public policies that are announced from time to time.

R204: International agreements or arrangements

R205: Canadian interests

R206: No other means of support

R207: Permanent residence applicants in Canada

R207.1: Vulnerable workers

R208: Humanitarian reasons

and finally, you could be LMIA exempted based on the opinion of the International Mobility Workers Unit (I.M.W.U) at the port of entry (P.O.E)

Work Permit Exemption Streams

A small number of people who has no or little impact on the Canadian labour market are neither required to have a work permit nor an LMIA, the following streams of people are authorized to work without a work permit.

R stands for Regulation (that is I.R.P.R) in the following list:

R186(a)—Business visitor

R186(b)—Foreign representatives and R186(c)—Family members of foreign representatives

R186(d)—Military personnel

R186(e)—Foreign government officers

R186(f)—On-campus employment

R186(g)—Performing artists

R186(h)—Athletes and team members

R186(i)—News reporters, media crews

R186(j)—Public speakers

R186(k)—Convention organizers

R186(l)—Religious leaders

R186(m)—Judges, referees, and similar officials

R186(n)—Examiners and evaluators

R186(o)—Expert witnesses or investigators

R186(p)—Health care students

R186(q)—Civil aviation inspector

R186(r)—Aviation accident or incident inspector


R186(t)—Emergency service providers

R186(u)—Implied status

R186(v)—Off-campus work

R186(w)—Off-campus work (under transition to post-graduation status)

R186(x)—Registered Indians

and people who are assessing farm work

Public Policy: Short-term (15-30 days) work permit exemption

Public Policy: 120-day work permit exemption for researchers.

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