Each year, nearly 300,000 foreign workers come to work in Canada on Temporary Work Permits.

Although there are some exceptions, as a general rule, foreign workers require a work permit to work in Canada on a temporary basis.

Obtaining a Canadian temporary work permit is a multi-step process that can take several weeks. There are a number of different ways to secure a work permit. Depending on one’s nationality, occupation, and intended work in Canada, there may be possibilities for expediting the process.

Canadian Temporary Work Visa

In order to be granted a temporary work permit, Canadian employers will need to provide foreign workers either an approval from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) or an Offer of Employment number issued by Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Depending upon their country of citizenship, foreign workers may need to obtain a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) to travel to Canada.

Step 1: Employer applies for Labour Market Impact Assessment, if necessary.

Canadian employers who wish to hire temporary foreign worker must obtain a neutral or positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from ESDC, which is issued if ESDC is satisfied that there is no Canadian citizen or permanent resident available to do the job.

Further, if the Canadian employer is hiring for a position located in the province of Quebec, the foreign worker will need to obtain a Certificat d'acceptation du Québec (CAQ) in order to work temporarily in Quebec. The CAQ application will have to be submitted to Quebec’s Ministère de l'Immigration, Francisation et de l'Intégration (MIFI) at the same time as the LMIA is submitted to ESDC.

ESDC and MIFI have made available to employers a streamlined LMIA process to fill selected positions in Quebec without having to include proof of recruitment efforts.

In a limited number of situations foreign workers may obtain a work permit without the need for a LMIA. These work permits are typically referred to as LMIA Exempt Work Permits and include the following:

  • International agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), or Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP);
  • Canadian interest:
    • As a result of significant economic, social or cultural benefits to Canadians;
    • As a result of reciprocal agreements Canada and its provinces/territories have entered into with other countries, such as youth and teacher exchange programs;
    • To allow international students studying in Canada to fulfill academic requirements known as co-op placements;
    • To allow the accompanying spouses/common-law partners of certain work permit and Study Permit holders residing in Canada to work in Canada;
    • To allow for charitable or religious work;
  • In recognition that certain persons in Canada for reasons other than the above-mentioned, such as the making of a refugee claim, need to support themselves;
  • Certain permanent residence applicants in Canada;
  • Certain migrant workers and their dependents in Canada on employer-specific work permits who are experiencing abuse, or who are at risk of abuse.

Step 2: Employer extends Temporary Job Offer.

Once a positive or neutral LMIA is granted, the Canadian employer must provide a copy of the LMIA approval letter along with a detailed job offer letter to the foreign worker, who will need those documents to apply for a work permit.

Step 3: Foreign Worker applies for Work Permit.

With the LMIA approval letter, the job offer letter (and the CAQ if applicable), the foreign worker can submit an application for a Canadian temporary work permit to IRCC. Depending on their country of citizenship, the foreign worker may need to obtain a TRV to travel to Canada, and would therefore need to submit the temporary work permit application at a Canadian visa office abroad.

Step 4: Work Permit is issued.

The Canadian temporary work permit, will be issued at the point of entry by a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer at the time the foreign worker arrives in Canada.

A temporary work permit may be issued for a period of time ranging from a few days to a few years.

Most Canadian work permits are employer specific, otherwise referred to as “closed” work permits, and are granted for a specific job in Canada. Consequently, a foreign worker may only work for the employer specified on the work permit. As such, if the foreign worker finds a different employment and does not yet have permanent resident status, the foreign worker must apply for and receive a new work permit prior to changing employers or their position in Canada.


Note that a Canadian Temporary Work Permit is for those foreign workers who plan on working in Canada for a finite period of time. To work and live in Canada on a permanent basis, foreign workers must undertake the Canadian permanent residence process. However, a temporary work permit may be a stepping stone to Canadian permanent residence. Once in Canada on a temporary work permit, a foreign worker may qualify for Canadian permanent residence under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), through a Skilled Worker category, or through one of the Provincial Nominee Programs.

Work in Canada: Basic Facts

  • For Canadian immigration purposes the definition of "work" is very broad and is defined as an activity for which wages are paid or commission is earned, or that competes directly with activities of Canadian citizens or permanent residents in the Canadian labour market, no matter the duration of the intended activity.
  • Generally, Canadian immigration authorities will grant a work permit only if supported by a LMIA approval letter issued by ESDC, indicating that the proposed employment will not adversely affect Canadian workers.
  • In most cases a job offer from a Canadian employer is required to apply for a Canadian Work Permit.
  • In limited situations, Canadian immigration regulations allow for Open Work Permits, which are not employer-specific.
  • A work permit is always temporary in nature, but can often be extended from inside Canada.

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