Canadian Work Visas

Foreign nationals who wish to work in Canada on a temporary basis usually require a work permit, or work visa. Find out which programs issue work permits and how to apply.

If you need assistance with identifying the best Canadian work visa for your circumstances or with the application process, we’re on hand to help. You can get in touch with us by phone at +1 844 290 6312 or via our quick inquiry form.

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    Canada Work Visas - Overview of Programs

    Every year, the Canadian government welcomes thousands of foreign workers into the Canadian job market through its many immigration programs. If you wish to work in Canada on a temporary basis a work permit will be required in most cases. If your goal is permanent residency, Canadian work experience is very valuable.

    A holder of a Canadian work permit can bring their family with them to Canada.

    Work permits are issued through several immigration programs. Two of the main ones are the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and International Mobility Program (IMP), but there are also others.

    The TFWP requires that an employer hiring a foreign worker obtains a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The purpose of an LMIA is to confirm that there is a need for a foreign worker for a vacancy that no Canadian workers are available for. IMP work permits, on the other hand, do not require an LMIA.

    There are two types of work permits: employer-specific work permits and open work permits.

    The individual programs that issue work permits for foreign nationals to work or conduct business in Canada are listed below. The top four of the programs listed are Express Entry programs which is a system that manages applications for permanent residence in Canada from skilled workers. These four are included on this page to provide information about the permanent residence (PR) process that you would follow if you wish to settle in Canada after accumulating the necessary Canadian work experience under a work permit.

    Note that certain occupations are exempt from the work permit requirement.

    The province of Quebec manages its own immigration programs which generally have different eligibility criteria to the rules of the federal immigration programs.

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    Canadian Work Permit Process

    Canada’s work permits allow a variety of foreign workers and business people to work in Canada on a temporary basis.

    To apply for a work permit you need to create an IRCC account online. You can also apply via a Canadian visa office, or at a point of entry, depending in the type of work permit you are applying for. Eligibility requirements vary depending on the work permit you are applying for.

    For more information on the application process, fees, requirements, and supporting documentation needed for a Canada work permit, please visit our Canada work permit page.

    A Canadian work permit can be an employer-specific work permit or an open work permit. Application processes may differ depending on which one you apply for.

    The employer-specific or closed work permit is where an applicant is coming to work for one employer from whom they have a job offer.

    An open work permit on the other hand allows a temporary foreign worker to work for any eligible Canadian employer.

    To receive the correct information for your situation contact one of our experienced immigration lawyers on +1 844 290 6312 or complete the quick inquiry form.

    Express Entry Programs

    Canada’s Express Entry system is a competitive ranking system that manages permanent residency applications from foreign skilled workers. There are four Canadian immigration programs that Express Entry processes:

    For each of these programs, the Express Entry process scores eligible candidates against certain criteria and invites those with the highest ranks to apply for Canadian permanent residency status by sending them an Invitation to Apply (ITA).

    The criteria that candidates are ranked against include age, education, work experience, language proficiency, and others.

    The Express Entry route allows individuals and families to be able to settle in Canada within a matter of months. However, although Express Entry is the fastest way to immigrate to Canada, not everyone is eligible for it. There are many eligibility requirements and these vary across the different programs.

    Express Entry programs have no annual cap on applicants but the number of Invitations to Apply (ITA) issued is not unlimited. Express Entry is open throughout the year and holds frequent draws to select those candidates who will be sent an ITA.

    Applications for Express Entry are made online.

    For more information on the Express Entry requirements, programs, and application process visit our Express Entry page.

    Federal Skilled Worker​ Program

    The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) is one of the programs that is managed under the Express Entry system. It’s designed for foreign skilled workers with eligible foreign work experience who wish to acquire permanent residence status and settle in Canada.

    Some of the main requirements you will need to meet to apply for the FSWP include:

    • Skilled work experience means that you have worked in one of these job groups: managerial jobs (skill type 0), professional jobs (skill level A) or technical jobs and skilled trades (skill level B).
    • You must demonstrate that in your main occupation, you performed the NOC all the essential duties and most of the main duties listed.
    • Your skilled work experience must be in the same type of job (have the same NOC) as the job on the basis of which you are applying for FSWP.
    • Your work experience must have been gained within the last 10 years.
    • Your work experience must have been paid, not unpaid, work
    • You have at least 1 year of continuous work or 1,560 hours total (full-time or part-time).
    • English or French language ability skills
    • No job offer is needed.
    • Secondary education is required.
    • Sufficient funds to support you and your family members

    Visit our Federal Skilled Worker Program page for more information on the FSWP requirements and how to apply for this work visa.

    Canadian Experience Class

    The Canadian Experience Class (CEC) is aimed at helping foreign workers who have at least one year’s skilled work experience in Canada to reside there permanently. The main requirements of the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) include:

    • One year’s work experience in Canada in the last 3 years (full-time, part-time work, or a combination of both). The work experience must have been obtained under an official work permit.
    • Skill type – O, A, B under the National Occupational Classification (NOC).
    • English or French language ability – CLB 7 if your NOC is 0 or A, CLB 5 if your NOC is B
    • A job offer is not required.
    • There are no education requirements

    Any work experience gained through self-employment or while a full-time student is not eligible under the Canadian Experience Class. Additionally, the skilled work experience must be paid work as any volunteer work or unpaid internships are not counted.

    If any of the below applies to you, you will not be eligible for the Canadian Experience Class:

    • You’re a refugee claimant in Canada
    • You’re working without authorization
    • You gained work experience without temporary resident status in Canada.

    To find out more about CEC eligibility requirements visit our Canadian Experience Class page.

    Federal Skilled Trades Program

    An Express Entry program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) is designed for skilled workers who are qualified in a skilled trade to become permanent residents in Canada.

    Eligible trades include industrial, electrical, construction, maintenance and equipment operation, supervisors and technical jobs in natural resources, agriculture and related production, processing, manufacturing and utilities supervisors and central control operators, chefs, cooks, butchers and bakers.

    Key requirements for the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) include:

    • At least two years of paid work experience (full-time or part-time equivalent) in an eligible skilled trade within five years before applying for FSTP
    • Have a valid job offer of full-time employment for at least one year or a certificate of qualification in your skilled trade that was issued by a Canadian provincial, territorial or federal authority
    • Skill type – Canadian or foreign experience in a skilled trade under key groups of NOC B (National Occupational Classification)
    • English or French language skills – CLB 5 in speaking and listening, CLB 4 in reading and writing
    • Sufficient funds to support you and your family upon arrival in Canada
    • No education requirements need to be met

    Visit our Federal Skilled Trades Program page for more information on this Canadian work visa.

    For assistance with the Federal Skilled Trades Program or any other Canadian immigration program, call us on  +1 844 290 6312 or complete the short inquiry form on this site.

    Provincial Nominee Programs

    The Express Entry pools are used by most of Canada’s provinces and territories to select candidates for permanent residency nomination through their Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).

    PNPs vary in terms of the specific programs they offer, their eligibility criteria, and the application process. You may need to apply online through Express Entry or via a paper-based application mailed to IRCC. Police certificates and a health check will be required as part of the application process.

    If selected, you will receive a Notification of Interest in your Express Entry profile online after which you will have several days to submit a complete application to the province.

    If your PNP application is approved you will be expected to reside and work in that province.

    Visit our Provincial Nominee Program page for more information on PNPs, or if you need assistance with deciding which PNO would be best for you, call us on  +1 844 290 6312 or contact us via our contact page.

    Self-Employed Persons Program

    The Self-Employed Person Program (SEPP) is for those who wish to establish a business in Canada on a self-employed basis within the areas of cultural activities or athletics. They must show that they are able to make a significant contribution in one of these fields in Canada.

    In order to be eligible for the self-employed program, you must show that you have two years of experience within the last five years in either cultural activities or athletics, and this experience must have been gained at a prominent (world-class) level or you can have been self-employed in one of these areas. 

    You will need to meet the definition of a self-employed person, as well as meet other requirements to be eligible for the program. You will be given points against certain criteria including education, experience, age, English or French language ability, and adaptability. The minimum score that you must achieve in order to be eligible is 35 points.

    One of the main appeals of the self-employed person visa is that it offers a route to permanent residence in Canada.

    Also, you can find more about this Canada work visa on our Self-Employed Person Program Page.

    If you would like to explore how we can help you make an application for the Self-Employed Person Program, please call us on +1 844 290 6312 or fill out our inquiry form.

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    Start-Up Visa

    Canada’s Start-up Visa Program is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to immigrate to Canada as permanent residents through setting up a qualifying new business. The business they start must be innovative, create new jobs for Canadians, and be able to compete globally, and it must have the support of a designated entity.

    With a Start-up Visa, you can bring your dependent spouse, common-law partner, and unmarried children to Canada.

    While waiting for permanent residence to be granted, a Start-up Visa applicant is eligible for a temporary work permit, in order to visit Canada to start setting up their business.

    For the Start-up Visa Program, four main eligibility requirements need to be met, as follows:

    1. Have a qualifying business – you must hold at least 10% of the voting rights of the company, and jointly with the designated organization, you must hold more than 50% of the voting rights.

    2. Commitment from a designated organization – a designated organization is an eligible venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator. A certain amount of investment or support from a designated organization needs to be secured. Take a look at our Start-Up Visa page for more information about how much investment you need to raise for this visa.

    3. Language requirement – you must evidence your language ability via an English or French language test from an approved agency, even if English is your primary language.

    4. Proof of funds – you need to be able to show that you have sufficient funds to live in Canada upon arrival in the country until you are able to take money from your business. The specific amount you need depends on the size of your family.

    To apply for the Start-Up Visa you can submit your application online, or as hard-copy via the mail. With your application, you’ll need to submit significant supporting documentation as well as medical exam documents and police certificates.

    If you submit your application via mail, note that there are certain guidelines for how to do this, for example, the envelope size and the address to send it to.

    Applications are typically processed within 12 to 16 months. If your application is successful, the applicant and their family will immediately receive permanent residence status in Canada.

    Working Holiday Visa

    A Working Holiday Visa allows young people aged 18 to 35 from over 30 countries to spend time in Canada working on a temporary basis for up to 12 or 24 months, depending on their country of citizenship.

    The Working Holiday Visa Program comes under the banner of International Experience Canada (IEC) whose aim is to allow young adults to come to Canada temporarily to gain valuable work experience and knowledge of Canada.

    To be eligible for the Canada Working Holiday Visa, you have to meet the following requirements:

    • You must be a citizen of one of the IEC participating countries, or have the support of a Recognized Organisation
    • Your passport must be valid for the entire length of your stay in Canada
    • You must be between the ages of 18 and 29, 30 or 35 when you apply, depending on your country of citizenship)
    • Have already purchased a return travel ticket or have enough money to purchase one after arriving in Canada
    • Have at least CAD $2,500 (or the equivalent of) on arriving in Canada
    • Have health insurance covering the full duration of your Working Holiday Visa
    • You are not allowed to bring dependants
    • Citizens of some countries have to be residing in the country of citizenship at the time of applying
    • Have the necessary police and medical certificates

    To apply for a Working Holiday Visa you need to create an International Experience Canada (IEC) account. Then the next step is to complete the IEC questionnaire which will tell you if you meet the requirements to be accepted into the IEC pools. You can also find out if you’re eligible without an IEC account.

    IEC regularly conducts random draws of IEC candidates and those that are selected will receive an Invitation to Apply.

    If you are applying from the U.S. or another country not on the IEC list, you will need to provide a confirmation letter to show that you have the support of a designated organization.

    IRCC will inform you of the outcome and if your application is successful, you will receive a Port of Entry (POE) letter of introduction in your online account. You will need to present it at customs when you land in Canada.

    For more information or assistance with acquiring a working holiday visa, call us on +1 844 290 6312 or complete the short inquiry form.

    Post-Graduation Work Permit

    If you are a U.S. citizen studying in Canada, you may be eligible for a Canadian Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) that will allow you to stay and work in the country after your graduation. A PGWP is an open work permit that allows you to work for as many hours as you want (full-time or part-time) at any employer in Canada. You may also become self-employed if you wish.

    A PGWP provides a route to permanent residency once you have gained eligible Canadian work experience.

    The PGWP eligibility requirements for a U.S. citizen or other foreign national include the following:

    • You must be at least 18 years of age.
    • You must apply within 180 days of completing your program of study.
    • You studied under a valid study permit or you had the authorization to study without one
    • The educational establishment you study at must be an eligible DLI that offers programs that meet PGWP requirements.
    • Your program of study was at least eight months
    • Your program of study was full-time (excluding your final semester).
    • Your program of study led to a degree, diploma, or certificate
    • Online or distance-learning courses are not eligible if more than 50% of the course was by distance-learning or online.
    • The majority of learning took place in Canada.
    • Studying at more than one DLI is permitted if the combined study length is at least 8 months and is continuous

    PGWP applications can be made online or by mail. For online applications, you need to create an IRCC account. For mail, the application package for a PGWP can be requested through the IRCC website.

    After receiving confirmation from the DLI that your program of study is complete, you will have 180 days to apply. Most applicants will need to provide their biometrics (fingerprints and photo) once they have submitted the application.

    A person is only allowed to have one PGWP in their lifetime. Therefore it is important to plan carefully the best time to submit the PGWP application. For example, if you apply after the longest period of study you will be undertaking in Canada, your PGWP will have longer validity, as a PGWP is usually valid for the same amount of time as the duration of your study program.

    You can find out more about the full requirements and application process on our Post-Graduation Work Permit page. For assistance with eligibility and applying, call us on +1 844 290 6312 or contact us via this website.

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      Free Trade Agreement Work Permits

      Business people can enter Canada temporarily for business purposes under one of Canada’s Free Trade Agreements (FTA). In most cases, if you are coming to Canada under an FTA you will need a work permit but there is no requirement for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

      Canada’s FTAs eliminate or reduce trade barriers such as export tariffs thus making international trade easier and more preferential for businesses.

      If you are a U.S. citizen wishing to explore a work permit via an FTA, then the Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) (formerly North American Free Trade Agreement NAFTA) could help you achieve your goal.

      Here is a list of all of Canada’s current free trade agreements, although these can be subject to change:

      • North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – Superseded by Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) as of July 1st, 2020:
      • Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) (called T-MEC in Mexico)
      • Canada-Chile FTA (CCFTA)
      • Canada-Peru FTA (CPFTA)
      • Canada-Colombia FTA (CCoFTA)
      • Canada-Korea FTA (CKFTA)
      • Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)
      • Agreement on Trade Continuity between Canada, the UK and Northern Ireland (CUKTCA).
      • General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)
      • Canada–Panama Free Trade Agreement
      • Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

      There are 4 categories of business persons who can enter Canada via the various FTAs: business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, traders and investors.

      Applications can either be made at a Canadian Port of Entry (POE) or prior to travel to the appropriate visa office.

      The FTA work permit application process can be challenging if you go through the process alone. Get in touch with our immigration lawyers who will assist you with clarifying the eligibility requirements and help to submit a compelling and comprehensive application.

      How Total Law can help

      There are a wide variety of Canadian Immigration Programs which offer work permits for a host of different circumstances and purposes. It can be difficult to decide on which program to apply for, which involves sometimes extensive information that must be evaluated and multiple criteria met.

      To help with this task Total Law’s lawyers can assist you with selecting the best program to apply through after they evaluate your personal circumstances and your goals. They will help to compile a compelling and error-free work permit application, while providing support and guidance every step of the process.

      Contact us via our quick online inquiry form, or call us on +1 844 290 6312 to find out how we can provide you with a personalized service to help you to achieve your work goals in Canada.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  The processing time for a work permit is determined by the program you are applying through, how complete your application is and the visa office you applied at.

                  On average it can take anything from 1 to 27 weeks for a Canadian work permit application.

                  The Province of Quebec manages its own business immigration programs. To find out more information about these programs visit Quebec’s immigration website here.

                  Each type of Canadian work permit will carry with it a fee to be paid. These can vary significantly depending on the type.

                  For example, temporary work permits cost around CAN$ 155, while most Express Entry programs can cost around CAN$ 1,365. It’s important to carefully assess and research your chosen pathways to ensure you know upfront how much money you will require.