Work Permit

Most people who are not Canadian permanent residents or citizens need to apply for a work permit in order to work in Canada. However, for some types of work and people, a work permit is not required. The line is obscured between what constitutes work (and therefore a work permit is required) and what does not. Whenever in doubt, one should consult an experienced immigration lawyer.

Foreign workers

To apply for a work permit, most foreign workers will need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Unless exempted by law, most prospective employers will need to apply for LMIA with the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). The company also needs to pay for a compliance fee and send an offer of employment form to CIC.  Then you can apply for a work permit.

If you are applying for an open work permit and you do not need an LMIA, you do not need to submit any documents from an employer.  With the open work permit, you can virtually work for any Canadian employer unless otherwise prohibited.

When you want to extend your work permit, you need to provide one of the following reasons:

  • your job is extended or changed;
  • you have a different job in Canada;
  • you want to work and apply for permanent residence
  • you have worked in Canada and leave this country, but you want to come back to work

Live-in caregivers

Live-in caregivers work and live in their employers’ home.  They take care of the babies, the elder people, or people with disabilities without supervision.  In the past, there was only a Live-in caregiver work permit for this job.  Now, to work as a live-in caregiver in Canada for the first time, you must apply for a regular work permit.  Before you apply, your employer has to send an LMIA application to Service Canada.

If you are working as a live-in caregiver and now you are thinking about living out, you will need to apply for a regular work permit.  Your current and future employers will send a new LMIA application before you apply.

Business people

Nowadays, there are more and more free trade agreements(FTAs) in which Canada is a party.  Under these FTAs, business people can come to Canada to do business.  Currently, there are 3 categories of agreements that business people may think about:

  • North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

NAFTA includes three countries: the U.S., Mexico and Canada.  If you are a business person from the U.S. or Mexico, you do not need an LMIA to get hired in Canada.  There are 4 groups of business people under the NAFTA category:

  • Business visitors
  • Professionals
  • Intra-company transferees
  • Traders and investors
  • Other Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)

Canada also signed bilateral FTAs, such as the Canada-Chile FTA, the Canada-Peru FTA, the Canada-Colombia FTA and the Canada-Korea FTA.  These FTAs resemble the NAFTA and provide an easier way for business people from the respective countries to do business in Canada.

  • General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)

The GATS promotes the flow of trade in services.  As a party to this agreement, Canada opened its service market to the now 140+ member countries of the World Trade Organization.  However, only 3 groups of business people (in services trade) are covered under GATS: business visitors, professionals and intra-company transferees.  Once qualified, these business people do not need an LMIA or a work permit.


Work on campus

As a full-time student with a valid study permit, you may be eligible to work on campus if it is clearly stated on your study permit as a condition.  This happens to most post-secondary students, both public and some private institutions.  As long as you remain a full-time student at your school and your study permit is valid, you can work on campus after you get the Social Insurance Number (SIN) from Service Canada.

In some cases, there is not a condition on your study permit saying that you can legally work on campus.  Don’t worry, you can make an request to amend your study permit before applying for SIN.

Work off campus

See “Work while you study” in the “Study Permit” artilce.

Work after graduation: Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP)

Congratulations!  Now you have graduated from a college, a university or other post-secondary institutions.  What’s next?

If you want to stay in Canada and work here (not immigrate), you must apply for a PGWP.  This work permit will give you a chance to accumulate precious Canadian work experience.  Depending on the length of your program, the length of your PGWP will differ and it is case-specific (see the table below).

Length of your program Possible length of your PGWP
From 8 months to 2 years No longer than the length of your program
2 years and up Maximum 3 years

You may be qualified for further experience-based immigration program once you have gained work experience in Canada.  See “Express Entry for immigration to Canada“.


The rules governing work permit can be complicated. If you are not sure which type of work permit you need and how to apply for one, call us for an assessment today.


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