Family checking in at front desk of hotel - Hospitality Industry and Canadian Immigration

Canada’s hospitality sector is one of the fastest-growing industries, contributing significantly to employment and revenue generation within the Canadian economy. The industry is dynamic and includes a wide range of businesses from hotels, restaurants, tourism agencies, event planning, and entertainment venues. The rapid expansion of the hospitality industry following the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a significant labour shortage, forcing employers to hire foreign nationals to fill vacant positions. There are various avenues for employers and temporary foreign workers who want to work in Canada within the hospitality sector. These include several work permit options and a few long-term options should they wish to pursue permanent residency.


Work Permit Options

Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)

Labour Market Impact Assessment work permits provide the basis of support for certain types of work permit applications. When an employer wants to hire a temporary foreign worker, they will often have to obtain an LMIA to demonstrate a need in the Canadian labour market for the requested occupation that no Canadian or permanent resident is suitable or willing to fill. If a positive LMIA is rendered, the foreign national can begin the process of obtaining a work permit to come to Canada.

There are multiple streams of LMIAs including high and low-wage streams, agricultural streams, global talent streams, and applications to support permanent residency. The LMIA stream pursued by the employer affects the company’s commitments and compliance requirements.

If an employer is offering a wage to a temporary foreign worker that is at or above the provincial or territorial median hourly wage, they must apply under the high-wage stream. An example of jobs under this stream could include hotel managers or supervisors. A work permit issued under this stream is valid for three years or until the expiry of the passport. If an employer is offering a wage to a temporary foreign worker that is below the provincial or territorial median hourly wage, they must apply under the stream for low-wage positions. Examples of jobs under this stream could include hotel cleaning staff or restaurant servers. The validity of the work permit under the low-wage stream is a maximum of two years. It is important to note that classifying jobs under either the high-wage and low-wage stream is dependent on what an employer is offering to pay a foreign worker in a given position. As such, the same position can either be high-wage or low-wage, depending on the pay being offered.

Regarding low-wage positions, the government has set a 20% cap on the proportion of temporary foreign workers that an employer can hire in low-wage positions at a specific work location. For example, if the total number of employees in a workforce is 1000 people, then the maximum number of temporary foreign workers that can be employed is 200. The cap is meant to ensure that Canadians or permanent residents are given priority for available jobs.


Reciprocal Employment Agreements

A reciprocal employment agreement is intended to allow a foreign national to work in Canada with a work permit if evidence can be produced demonstrating that a Canadian citizen has been provided a similar or ‘reciprocal’ arrangement to work abroad. There are several businesses within the hospitality sector that utilize the international mobility program to attract temporary foreign workers to fill labour shortages in Canada. One benefit of the International Mobility Program is that it allows the employer to hire a temporary worker without requiring a Labour Market Impact Assessment. This results in significant cost and time savings for employers looking to fill labour shortages within the hospitality sector. If a hotel, for example, participates in the international mobility program, this may be an indication that they have reciprocal employment agreements in place with employers in other countries.


Students Working on Study Permits


There have been recent changes to the rules surrounding allowable work hours for international students. On April 29, 2024, The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced that the temporary policy which allowed students to work more than 20 hours per week off campus would come to an end on April 30, 2024. Beginning in the Fall 2024, the Minister intends to change the number of hours students may work off campus per week to 24 hours. The change is being made to ensure that students focus primarily on their studies while having the option to work, if necessary.

International students may be eligible to work off-campus without a work permit if they meet all of the following requirements:

      • Enrolled full-time at a designated learning institution (DLI)
      • Enrolled in either:
        • A post-secondary academic, vocational or professional training program or
        • A secondary-level vocational training program (Quebec only)
      • Study program is
        • At least 6 months long and
        • Leads to a degree, diploma or certificate
      • Studies have begun
      • Has a social insurance number (SIN)

If a student is part-time at a designated learning institution, they can work off campus only if:

      • They meet all of the requirements above, except the requirement to be a full-time student, and
      • They were a full-time student in their program in Canada, up until their last semester
Spousal Sponsorship

Spouses and common-law partners of some international students may be eligible for an open work permit. If an international student’s spouse or common-law partner applied for an open work permit before April 30, 2024 they would be exempted from the current open-work permit requirements. The spouse or common-law partner of an international student who is applying for an open work permit on or after April 30, 2024, may be eligible if the international student meets the following criteria:

      • Has a valid study permit
      • Studying in a master’s or doctoral degree program
      • Participating in an eligible pilot program, or
      • Studying in one of the following professional degree programs:
        • Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS, DMD)
        • Bachelor of Law or Juris Doctor (LLB, JD, BCL)
        • Doctor of Medicine (MD)
        • Doctor of Optometry (OD)
        • Pharmacy (PharmD, BS, BSc, BPharm)
        • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
        • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN, BSN, BNSc)
        • Bachelor of Education (BEd)
        • Bachelor of Engineering (BEng, BE, BASc)

If a work permit is granted to the spouse or common-law partner of an international student, it will be valid for the same period of time as the international student’s study permit.


Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)

A post-graduation work permit is available for international students who graduated from a designated learning institution and who want to stay in Canada temporarily to work. A PGWP can be used as a viable option for students looking to remain in Canada who can fill the labour shortage in the growing hospitality industry. The Honourable Marc Miller has alluded to upcoming changes to the rules on postgraduation work permits, specifying a condition that international students would have to graduate from programs tied to labour shortages and meet new language requirements to get a work permit after graduation.


International Experience Canada (IEC)

The International Experience Canada stream gives individuals aged 18-35 the opportunity to come work and travel in Canada. The program is designed to give individuals valuable international work experience in Canada and improve language skills in English and French. Some of the participating countries in the IEC stream include Australia, Costa Rica, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, South Korea, and Taiwan, to name a few. Three different work and travel experiences are offered under the IEC program: working holiday, young professionals, and international co-op.

    1. A working holiday is for individuals who do not have a job offer, and who wish to work for more than one employer in more than one location in Canada. The working holiday grants an open work permit allowing foreign nationals to work for almost any employer in Canada with some exceptions.
    2. The young professionals category is for individuals who have a job offer in Canada that counts towards their professional development. The foreign national must intend to work for the same employer in the same location during their stay in Canada. Under the young professional category, an individual is granted an employer-specific work permit.
    3. An international co-op is for students registered at a post-secondary institution who have a job offer for a work placement or internship in Canada that is necessary to complete their studies. Under this category, the individual must work for the same employer in the same location during their stay in Canada. A foreign national is granted an employer-specific work permit under this stream.


French Mobility

The Francophone Mobility Work Permit is available for French-speaking foreign workers who have a job offer with a Canadian employer outside of Quebec. Canadian employers choosing to hire a foreign worker who can speak French is particularly advantageous within the hospitality industry as they can serve clients in one or both of the nation’s official languages. This program is LMIA-exempt, allowing an employer to hire a foreign national without the need to obtain a positive LMIA. An LMIA-exempt work permit is valid for the duration of the offer of employment or until the expiry of the travel document, whichever comes first.



Compliance is an important aspect of hiring a foreign national to work in Canada. Whether it be in the hospitality industry or any other sector, employers are required to uphold the employment terms. The work conditions should be “substantially the same” as those outlined in the LMIA or Offer of Employment such as maintaining the agreed-upon wage, working hours, providing adequate housing (Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program employers only), and providing working conditions that are mostly the same but not less favourable than those in the employment offer. 25% of all employers that have hired temporary foreign workers are expected to be inspected each year. Inspections that reveal employers non-complying with the terms and conditions may result in bans from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program. Other possible consequences include revocation/suspension of LMIA(s) and work permits, administrative monetary penalties, criminal charges, or information sharing between Employment and Social Development Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada which may trigger further investigations.


Permanent Residence

Foreign nationals who work in Canada under any of the previously discussed programs may wish to pursue permanent residency in Canada. Avenues to permanent residence include sponsorship, business immigration, and express entry. Each avenue has specific requirements, processing times, and varying levels of success depending on the immigration climate at the time the foreign national is applying.

Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP)

One notable path to permanent residency is through the OINP. The OINP is the province’s economic immigration program and it allows foreign workers, international students, and others with specified skills, experience, and education to apply to be nominated by the province of Ontario to submit an application for permanent residence.  The Government of Canada reviews these applications and makes the final decision regarding the approval of applications.

The Ontario Immigrant Nominee program uses two intake systems to manage applications. A foreign national must register in either the Expression of Interest system or the Express Entry system to notify the OINP that they wish to be invited to apply. The Expression of Interest streams and their corresponding requirements can be found here.

Ontario’s Express Entry Stream under the OINP has three main sub-streams, each with specific requirements. The French-Speaking Skilled Worker stream is for foreign nationals who are French-speaking skilled workers who have strong English language abilities. Requirements to apply under this stream can be found here. The Human Capital Priorities stream is for foreign nationals who have the required skilled work experience, education, and language abilities. Requirements to apply under this stream can be found here. The Skilled Trades stream is for foreign nationals with Ontario work experience in an eligible skilled trade. Requirements to apply under this stream can be found here.


For more information on any of the above work permit or permanent residence options, we invite you to contact us.


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