Press Room

Citizenship and Immigration Canada Implements Four-Year Maximum for Temporary Foreign Workers

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has announced on May 22, 2013 operational guidelines for implementing the four-year maximum for Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) that came into effect April 1, 2011 and is expected to begin impacting applicants in Spring 2013.

Applicants who accumulate four-years of cumulative work in Canada performed after April 1, 2011 will not be eligible to obtain a work permit until four years have elapsed. Applicants will also not be issued work permits that authorize them to work in Canada beyond the four-year maximum unless they are working in an occupation for which exceptions are allowed.

CIC has put forth the following guidelines on how applications will be assessed in light of the four-year cumulative duration maximum for TFWs:

All Work Counts

All work performed after April 1, 2011 will count towards the four-year total, regardless of whether the work was authorized by a work permit or exempted from work permit requirements. This also means that volunteer work, self-employed work and work under all work permits and in all occupations and categories of the National Occupational Classification (NOC) will count towards the four-year total.

However, work performed by students while they are authorized to study on a full-time basis in Canada will not count towards the four-year total.


Temporary Foreign Workers will be able to work in Canada beyond the four-year maximum if they are working in certain occupations or working under certain circumstances. It is to be noted, however, that work performed under these exceptions still counts towards the four-year total.

Exceptions to the four-year maximum can be made for persons working in volunteer positions, in highly skilled positions, work permit-exempt occupations, and certain other occupations. Exceptions are also made for persons who have received an approval in principal for an application for permanent residence, and for persons who have applied for an employer-specific work permit under a provincial nominee program.

Gaps in Employment

Periods not worked that occurred after April 1, 2011 may not be counted as time working in Canada if sufficient supporting documentation for these gaps can be provided, and if the gap in employment is of a duration of one consecutive month or more.

For example, applicants who spend at least a month or more of consecutive time outside of Canada will not have that period count towards the four-year total if sufficient documentation is provided. Periods of medical leave in Canada if provided for in an employment agreement or contract, and maternity or paternity leave spent in Canada will also not count towards the four-year total if these periods are of at least one month’s consecutive duration.

When the Four-Year Total is Reset

Temporary Foreign Workers who spend four consecutive years either (a) outside Canada; or (b) in Canada but not working (ex. with legal status as either a visitor or student) will be eligible to again apply for a work permit in Canada.

For additional information on obtaining and renewing work permits, please contact Green and Spiegel, LLP