Each year, Canada issues hundreds of thousands of work permits to talent from all over the world.
This is due to Canada’s desire to welcome global talent in support of its economic and social objectives. Canada issues work permits so that foreign workers can support its economic and labour market needs. It also issues work permits for social reasons, such as to keep families together in Canada, and to strengthen cultural ties with partner countries.
To support these policy objectives, Canada offers more than 100 different work permit pathways.
The pathways fall under two major programs. They are the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), and the International Mobility Program.
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About the TFWP and IMP
The TFWP exists to address labour shortages in Canada. Employers must demonstrate to the Canadian government that the hiring of a foreign worker is due to the absence of suitable workers in Canada. To prove this, they must complete a labour market test. It is called the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The Canadian government must then confirm the hiring of the foreign worker will have a positive or neutral impact on the Canadian labour market. Once this is confirmed, the foreign worker can go ahead and submit a work permit application to the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
The International Mobility Program (IMP) exists to advance Canada’s diverse economic and social interests. An LMIA is not required under the IMP. Instead, eligible foreign workers under the IMP can apply to IRCC to obtain a work permit. Some foreign workers are eligible to forgo this step altogether and travel to Canada to work for a short period of time.
The many pathways that fall under the IMP are a result of Canada’s many free trade agreements and domestic policy interests. For instance, the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA, formerly known as NAFTA) is a prominent free trade agreement that allows American and Mexican nationals to work in Canada without an LMIA. Youth from around the world are able to work in Canada under the IMP due to youth mobility agreements between Canada and fellow industrialized nations. Canada also allows its residents, such as international graduates, and eligible spouses/partners to obtain work permits under the IMP since Canada wants to enable them to get local work experience and be able to support themselves financially while they live in the country.
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How do I get a Canadian work permit under the TFWP?
Getting a work permit under the TFWP is an employer-driven process. An employer must have a vacancy and determine there are no suitable workers in Canada to do the job. The employer must then apply for an LMIA and get a positive or neutral assessment. Once this is secured, the foreign worker can submit their job offer letter, the LMIA letter, and all other supporting documents to IRCC to get a work permit. Work permits under the TFWP are employer-specific, also referred to as “closed.” This means the foreign worker can only work for the employer that hired them and for a duration of time that has been approved by the Canadian government.
How do I work in Canada under the IMP?
Getting a work permit under the IMP can be led by an employer or by the foreign worker. If an employer has a vacancy and a foreign worker falls under an IMP stream, the employer can hire the foreign worker. In addition, unlike the TFWP, a foreign worker that falls under the IMP can, generally speaking, go and work for any employer of their choice (although this is not the case for everyone).
Common reasons to be eligible to work in Canada under the IMP include:
- CUSMA: American and Mexican citizens may be eligible for facilitated processing when applying to work in Canada.
- Intra-Company Transfers: This allows certain employers to transfer workers to their offices in Canada.
- Television and Film: Canada welcomes entertainment industry workers to support its booming TV and film industry.
- Business Visitors: Foreign workers who demonstrate they meet certain conditions, such as that they will be in Canada for under six months and will not be entering the Canadian labour market, can be eligible to work in Canada without needing a work permit.
- International Experience Canada: Canada has bilateral agreements with over 30 countries that allow youth to gain work experience in Canada.
- Bridging Open Work Permit: Eligible skilled worker candidates living in Canada can apply for a BOWP while their permanent residence application is being processed. In addition, eligible spouses/partners of Canadian citizens/permanent residents can get a BOWP if they are living in Canada.
- Post-Graduation Work Permit: The PGWP is the most common work permit under the IMP. Eligible international graduates of Canadian designated learning institutions (e.g., colleges and universities) can obtain a PGWP for up to three years.
These are just some of the dozens of ways you can enter Canada and work legally. It is understandable that navigating Canada’s work permit pathways can feel overwhelming at first, however you do not need to feel this way. There is plenty of support available to help you identify the best option for you.
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