How To Apply For A Work Visa In Canada

Dreaming of running away to Great White North? A world of moose, politeness, and hockey awaits. But unless you've got Rhianna's kind of money (aka billions), you're probably going to have to get a job. And if you want to do that, you'll need to apply online for a work permit. A Canadian work permit allows you to be a person born outside of Canada who, as a temporary worker, a business professional, or a student, can legally work in Canada (via Visa Place). Canada also offers specialized work permits for Ukrainian nationals, caregivers, agricultural workers, overnight camp counselors, vulnerable foreign workers, and recent foreign student graduates.

Before beginning work in Canada, you'll need to file your application from your current nation of residence (or in certain situations if you're already in Canada). If your spouse, partner, or children want to join you, they too must apply online for permits. The process itself is straightforward and multi-stepped, but with a bit of dedication, diligence, and patience, you'll be working à la canadienne in no time.

Decide which work permit you'll need

Canada offers two types of work permits: employer-specific and open. The employer-specific work permit allows you to work for a specific employer for a specified amount of time in a specific location (if that applies). If you are employed by a Canadian company, your employer must provide you with a copy of your contract and either a copy of a labor market impact assessment (LMIA) or an offer of employment number (for LMIA-exempt workers). These items will enable you to apply for a permit.

An open work permit is only available in particular cases, including if you are a student graduating or facing financial difficulty; if you are a worker facing abuse; if you are the partner of a student, worker, or immigration program participant; if you are a refugee; if you have applied for permanent residence; if you are a dependent of a person applying for permanent residence; if you have a temporary resident permit; if you participate in young worker special programs; or if you are under an unenforceable removal order (meaning you did not leave Canada at the stipulated time but have not yet been expelled from the country).

Should you meet those requirements, an open work permit allows foreign nationals to work anywhere and for any employer in the nation, unless that employer is ineligible because of compliance issues or because that employer is part of the sex industry.

Determine if you meet eligibility requirements

Wherever you are in the world, you can apply for a work permit in Canada. In general, in order to be issued a work permit, you have to show officials that you will vacate the country on or before the expiration of your permit, that you possess sufficient funds to keep you and your family afloat while you are abroad, and that you have money to return to your home in the U.S. (via Visa Place). While in Canada, you must also follow the national and local rules and avoid criminal behavior as you may be required to provide a police clearance certificate. You must also present no danger to the security of Canada and pass a physical, should your well-being be questionable. If officers ask for any extra paperwork, you'll be expected to present it in order to enter Canada.

Due to COVID-19, you'll also have to be fully vaccinated to apply for a work permit. If you're under 18, that doesn't apply to you, but you will have to be enrolled in a DLI — designated learning institution — that has a plan to address issues related to the virus.

Have your significant other and kids apply as well

If you're moving to Canada for a job, you may want to bring your family with you. Canada does allow for your spouses, domestic partners, or dependent children to join you while you work. But in order for them to do so, they too must apply to either work, visit, or study in Canada at the same time you apply for your work permit.

For spouses and common-law partners, they may be eligible for an open work permit, but if they are not, your other half with have to apply for another type of work permit, unless they plan on coming with you as either a student or a visitor. Any of your children under the age of 22 who are not married or partnered themselves — called dependent children — will also need a permit to be in Canada as visitors, workers, or students. As students, they'll need to apply for a study permit. As workers, the same rules apply to dependent children as they do to spouses and partners. As visitors, you'll have to discover whether your children need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) or a visitor visa.

Find Out If Your Application is Eligible for Two-Week Processing

You may be eligible to apply for an expedited Canadian work permit through The Global Skills Strategy, which offers speedy two-week application turnarounds. But emigreé beware — you must meet each path's requirements in their entirety in order to qualify.

Depending on where outside of Canada you reside, your local visa office may have additional requirements. The online work permit application will let you know the regional requirements when you select the territory or country of residence. Paper, incomplete, and International Experience Canada applications will not be processed as quickly.

If you need a labor market impact assessment (LMIA) before receiving your work permit, you must apply from outside of Canada, and your LMIA decision letter must have a positive assessment through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in order to be eligible. If your employment is LMIA-exempt, you apply from outside of Canadian borders, have a professional and managerial skill level or type in Canada's National Occupational Classification (NOC) system, and your employer has paid all compliance fees and submitted an employment offer through the Employer Portal, you can also look forward to two-week work permit issuance.

This eligibility applies to your family when they submit with you. Simply pay the fees and send in any requested health inspections or specimens, law enforcement documentation, and translations of documents not in English or French that have been certified for accuracy in language with your online application.

Trade in North America could make your visa easier to obtain

Do you trade goods or services? Invest? There's good news for you: The success of the Canadian economy has enabled our neighbors to temporarily open their borders to certain skilled workers under what was formally known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) but as of 2018 is now called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA in the States and CUSMA in Canada). Better still? You can apply at the port of entry for same-day issuance, although that's rare (via Visa Place).

All Americans need is an offer of employment in a line of work recognized in the agreement as well as other requirements such as citizenship, education, and previous employment history. Benefits of this alliance include eliminating the requirement for an LMIA and making the whole permitting experience less difficult and faster. Only four types of skilled workers receive these benefits: investors/traders, business travelers (who do not require a work permit to conduct business outside of the U.S.), in-house corporate transferees, and other professionals. If you need to become a temporary resident to emigrate to Canada, you must apply online in advance instead of at the port of entry upon your arrival.

Once you've applied, the Canadian government's website can walk you through what to expect next. Bon voyage!