If you plan to take up employment in Canada, you have to apply for a work permit for that country – and you probably have a thousand questions about how the process works. One of the first questions we often encounter is whether one needs an eTA once you have successfully applied for a Canadian work permit.
The answer is that, depending on which country you are from, once you have a work permit, you will normally need either a visitor visa or an eTA. The good news is that the visa or eTA will be automatically issued at the same time the authorities issue your work permit. There will, therefore, not be any need to submit a separate application or pay another fee.
You could also be asked to provide biometrics. Citizens from 1 territory and 29 countries have to do this, i.e. they must submit a photograph and fingerprints when they apply.
How does one get a work permit in Canada?
Two government departments handle the process of issuing Canadian work permits. In those instances where an LMIA or Labor Market Impact Assessment is compulsory, the LMIA application will be reviewed by the Canadian Department of Social Development and Employment. It has the final power to decide whether or not the application is approved.
The job of issuing work permits itself is dealt with by the IRCC or Department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada. Once an LMIA has approved someone’s application for a work permit, he or she has to forward the application to the IRCC. In cases where an LMIA is not necessary, the application for a work permit can be sent directly to the IRCC. Once issued, a work permit gives the holder the legal right to take up employment in Canada for a specific period.
Different types of Canadian work permits
There are basically two kinds of work programs in the country:
- Temporary Foreign Worker Program – If you are a national from a foreign country, you will typically need to undergo an LMIA or Labor Market Impact Assessment before you can get a work permit
- IMP or International Mobility Program – To qualify for a work permit under this program, a foreign national does not need an LMIA.
The LMIA aims to give the employer an opportunity to prove to the Canadian authorities that employing an overseas worker will not affect the country’s current workforce negatively. The ESDC or Employment and Social Development department is trying to make sure that the employment of overseas employees will not result in the displacement of any local workers or cause a reduction in their wages. Employees that have to undergo an LMIA resort under the TFWP or Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
While the LMIA process is basically the norm, quite a few types of work permits have been exempted from this. These are typically the result of free trade agreements like the one that used to be known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (which has since been renamed to CUSMA or the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement).
This type of agreement typically enables foreign employees to submit an application for a work permit without the employer being required to get an LMIA. Apart from work permits sponsored by employers, there are also various work permit options on offer to foreign job seekers who have not yet received a job offer, such as those for post-graduates, working holidays, and ‘open spousal’ work permits. Job seekers who are not required to have an LMIA done resort under the IMP or International Mobility Program.
What does the term ‘open work permit’ mean?
The term open work permit refers to a work permit that is not specific to any job. Because this is the case, you will not be asked for the following when you apply:
An LMIA, or Labor Market Impact Assessment, issued by the Canadian Department of Employment and Social Development or proof that an employer has submitted an employment offer via the relevant portal and that he or she has paid the necessary fee for employer compliance.
In the majority of cases, you will be asked to pay the work permit fee and the open work permit holder fee simultaneously.
Who is eligible to submit an application for an open work permit?
You will be allowed to apply if you:
- qualify for the PGWPP or Post-Graduation Work Permit Program
- are an overseas student who received your qualification from an approved learning institution
- are a destitute student, i.e. one who can no longer pay for your studies
- have a work permit that’s specific to an individual employer, and you are either already abused at your workplace, or there is a risk of this happening
- have submitted an application for permanent residence in the country
- are a family member who depends on somebody who has submitted an application for permanent residence
- are the common-law partner, spouse, or dependent kid of a high- or low-skilled worker
- are the common-law partner or spouse of an overseas student
- are the common-law partner or spouse of someone who applied for the AAPP or Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program
- are a protected individual, refugee claimant, or refugee or one of their family members
- are under a removal order that can not be enforced
- are the holder of a temporary resident permit
- are a young employee taking part in one of the various special programs
In all these situations, you will have to comply with additional criteria to qualify.
Can I apply to extend my work permit while I am inside Canada?
The answer is yes; provided that your work permit has not expired, you can apply for an extension while you are still in Canada.
Will my spouse, who is not a Canadian citizen, be allowed to work in Canada?
To a large extent, this will depend on your spouse’s immigration status. If your common-law partner or spouse is a Canadian permanent resident, he or she will be allowed to work in Canada. Suppose they are staying in Canada on a temporary resident visa, i.e. a visitor visa. In that case, however, they will first have to apply for a work permit before they are allowed to work.
Your common-law partner or spouse can, however, apply for a Canadian work permit from inside the country, provided they fall into one of the following categories:
- He or she has applied to become a permanent resident under the common-law partner in Canada or spouse class, and Immigration, Citizenship, and Refugees have sent them a confirmation that their application has been finalized.
- They qualify to apply for a work permit in terms of a completed LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment. Employers in Canada typically need this before they are allowed to employ foreign workers.
- The Canadian authorities have found that he or she meets the requirements for permanent residency under the “Common law partner/spouse in Canada” system.
- They qualify to apply for a work permit based on having been exempted from the (normally compulsory) LMIA process.