Work in Canada

In most cases, in order to work in Canada foreign nationals must first obtain a work permit.

 This authorization may be “open” or “closed” depending on the type of permit. In addition, some foreign nationals must apply for an entry visa prior to coming to Canada. Please see Visit Canada for more information about entry visas.

In order to obtain work permit in Canada, you must usually have pre-arranged employment from an employer authorized to hire you. If you are accompanying a spouse or common-law partner to Canada you may be eligible for a spousal work permit.

The International Mobility Program (IMP)

The International Mobility Program includes all Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exempt work permit categories.

This includes employees entering Canada on work permits pursuant to Free Trade Agreements and Intra-Company Transfers. Employers of foreign nationals working in Canada through the IMP must still comply with all requirements of the program and are subject to the same compliance and enforcement measures as those using the Temporary Foreign Worker Program​.

Free Trade Agreement Work Permits

Individuals from countries with whom Canada has a free trade agreement may be eligible for a temporary work authorization in Canada.

In order to qualify, a professional must have an offer of employment from a Canadian employer for a job covered by the free trade agreement and be otherwise admissible to Canada. Canada has free trade agreements with countries including the U.S. (North American Free Trade Agreement), Mexico, South Korea, Honduras, Panama, Jordan, Columbia, Peru, Costa Rica, Chile, and Israel.

In 2017 Canada entered into the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), facilitating the entry of business visitors and certain foreign workers into Canada.

Intra-Company Transfers

Canadian business with international operations or multinational companies may be eligible to transfer their executive, senior managerial and/or specialized knowledge employees to Canada.

The entry of intra-company transferees is guided by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, and is supplemented by provisions contained in international trade agreements for citizens of signatory countries.

Francophone Mobility

Permis de travail pour la mobilité francophone

Cette catégorie peut être utilisée pour faire venir un travailleur francophone pour combler un poste hautement qualifié dans un établissement canadien à l’extérieur du Québec. Le travailleur étranger n’est pas tenu d’avoir une expérience antérieure au sein de l’entreprise et l’employeur n’est pas tenu de démontrer qu’il n’y a pas de travailleur canadien disponible pour ce poste. Le but du programme est d’encourager les employeurs à embaucher des travailleurs francophones. Certains candidats de niveau exécutif ou professionnel peuvent bénéficier d’un délai de traitement accéléré de 2 semaines.


Francophone Mobility Work Permit

This category can be used to bring in a French speaking worker to fill a high-skilled position at a Canadian location outside of Quebec. There are no requirements for the foreign worker to have any previous experience with the company nor are there obligations for the employer to demonstrate that there is no Canadian worker available for the position. The purpose of the program is to encourage employers to hire francophone workers. Some Executive or Professional level applicants can benefit from an expedited 2-week processing time.

The Innovation Stream Work Permit

The Innovation Stream Work Permit is LMIA-exempt and an employer-specific work permit.

This work permit that can be issued for up to a duration of five years for highly skilled workers who are:

  • In select in-demand occupations.
  • Destined to work for employers who have been identified by the Government of Canada as contributing to industrial innovation goals.

This work permit is for individuals who have received a job offer in a highly skilled occupation (i.e. in National Occupational Classification (NOC) Training, Education, Experience and Responsibilities (TEER) categories 0, 1, 2 or 3) from an employer who is participating in the Global Hypergrowth Project (GHP).

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is a work permit category of last resort for employers who are unable to recruit qualified Canadians and Permanent Residents.

The program uses a Labour Market Impact Assessment to make a determination about work permit approval and includes very detailed advertising and recruiting requirements as well as other compliance obligations. This difficult process has caused headaches and problems for Canadian employers for years, and without proper experience, can significantly setback their staffing needs.

Global Skills Strategy

The Global Skills Strategy came into effect on June 12, 2017 in what is promised to be faster access to highly skilled foreign talent to help Canadian companies grow and prosper.

The ambitious plan is aimed at reducing barriers and regulatory provisions, helping attract foreign investment, and speeding up the process to bring in foreign skilled talent.

The two main pathways for this brain gain will be facilitating the faster and timely entry of skilled foreign workers for short-term Canadian positions and the Global Talent Stream for Canadian firms to scale-up their highly-skilled work force with global talent.

Short-duration Work Permit Exemptions:

Skilled workers coming to Canada for less than 30 days are now exempt from the requirement of first obtaining a work permit. Now, if a worker is coming to perform work for 30 days or less and their occupation is classified as “highly skilled” or “managerial”, they are eligible to work without a work permit. Researchers are now eligible for a work permit exemption for 120 days if they are coming to work at a publicly funded, degree-granting institution at the college or university level.

Global Talent Stream:

The two streams of the program are:

Category A – for innovative, high-growth, high-potential firms, that have been referred to the Global Talent Stream by a Designated Partner, who need to hire unique and specialized talent. Unique and specialized talent has been defined as:

  • Advanced knowledge of the industry;
  • Advanced degree in an area of specialization of interest to the employer; AND/OR
  • Minimum of five years of experience in the field of specialized experience; AND
  • A highly paid position with a salary of usually $80,000 or more

Category B – for Canadian businesses that are seeking to hire highly-skilled foreign workers to fill the following occupations found on the Global Talent Occupations List:

  • NOC 0211 – Engineering managers
  • NOC 0212 – Architecture and science managers
  • NOC 0213 – Computer and information systems managers;
  • NOC 2147 – computer engineers (except software engineers and designers);
  • Subset of 2161 – Mathematicians and statisticians (excluding actuaries)
  • NOC 2171 – Information systems analysts and consultants;
  • NOC 2172 – Database analysts and data administrators;
  • NOC 2173 – Software engineers and designers;
  • NOC 2174 – Computer programmers and interactive media developers;
  • NOC 2175 – Web designers and developers;
  • NOC 2283 – Information systems testing technicians who earn a wage of at least $37.50;
  • Sub-set of 5241 Digital Media and Design – position requires a minimum of five years of industry experience
  •  Sub-set of 5131 Producer, technical, creative and artistic director and project manager – visual effects and video game.

Both Category A and Category B firms are required to work with the Department of Employment and Social Development to develop a Labour Market Benefits Plan that demonstrates their commitment to activities that will track overall job creation, skills and training  investments, and provides a benefit to the Canadian economy through the employment of the highly-skilled global talent.

​The Government of Canada believes that investment follows talent and as part of the innovation agenda, Canada is opening the door to the next brain gain of highly skilled, specialized, in-demand foreign workers who will help Canadian companies scale up and grow their businesses.

Does an Employee Need a Visa?

Most foreign nationals from Visa-Exempt countries may make their work permit applications at any Canadian port-of-entry.

Examples of Visa-Exempt countries include, but are not limited to, US, UK, Mexico, Spain and France. Foreign Nationals from Non-Visa Exempt countries must apply for a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) and their work permit at a consular office in advance of arriving in Canada.

For more information on employee visas and/or assistance in preparing an application for an employee visa, please contact us.

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