For the purpose of Canadian immigration, the definition of “work” is quite broad and encompasses any activity for which wages or commissions are earned. This includes activities that directly compete with the Canadian labor market, regardless of the activity’s duration. In most cases, obtaining a Canadian Work Permit requires a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to ensure that hiring a foreign worker won’t negatively affect Canadian workers.
Step 1: Employer Initiates LMIA Application (If Required)
The Canadian government distinguishes between two categories of work permits: those that require a labor market test and those that are exempt from it. The labor market test, known as LMIA, is essential in cases where it must be demonstrated that hiring a foreign national won’t harm Canadian workers or wages. Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) oversees the LMIA process and issues a positive or neutral LMIA when it’s satisfied that no Canadian citizen or permanent resident is available for the job. A negative LMIA is issued when there are domestic workers suitable for the job.In most instances, Canadian employers wishing to hire foreign nationals need to obtain a positive or neutral LMIA from ESDC. Once granted, the foreign national can apply to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for their work permit. After obtaining the work permit, they can relocate to Canada and begin working for the employer.
If the Canadian employer is hiring for a position in Quebec, the foreign worker must also obtain a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) to work temporarily in Quebec. The CAQ application should be submitted to Quebec’s Ministère de l’Immigration, Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI) concurrently with the LMIA application to ESDC.
ESDC and MIFI offer streamlined LMIA processes for employers to fill specific positions in Quebec without requiring proof of recruitment efforts.
When is an LMIA not required?
In certain situations, foreign workers can obtain a work permit without needing an LMIA. These are typically referred to as LMIA Exempt Work Permits and include various categories, such as international agreements (e.g., NAFTA, CETA), work that benefits Canada significantly, reciprocal agreements, co-op placements for international students, work for accompanying spouses/partners, charitable or religious work, refugee claimants supporting themselves, certain permanent residence applicants, certain migrant workers experiencing abuse, and more.
Step 2: Employer Extends Temporary Job Offer
After receiving a positive or neutral LMIA, the Canadian employer must provide the foreign worker with a copy of the LMIA approval letter and a detailed job offer letter. These documents are necessary for the foreign worker to apply for a work permit.
Step 3: Foreign Worker Applies for Work Permit
Armed with the LMIA approval letter, job offer letter (and CAQ if applicable), the foreign worker can apply for a Canadian temporary work permit through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Depending on their citizenship, the foreign worker may also need to obtain a temporary residence visa (TRV) to enter Canada. Therefore, they may need to submit the temporary work permit application at a Canadian visa office abroad.
Step 4: Work Permit Issuance
Upon arrival in Canada, a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer at the point of entry will issue the Canadian temporary work permit. The permit’s duration can range from a few days to several years.
Most Canadian work permits are employer-specific, meaning they are tied to a particular job in Canada. This implies that the foreign worker can only work for the employer specified on the work permit. Therefore, if they wish to change employers or job positions in Canada and do not yet have permanent resident status, they must apply for and receive a new work permit before making such changes.