Canada's current Temporary Foreign Worker program is expansive and complicated. There is a need to balance this need to meet the shortages in the labour market while protecting the jobs prospects of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Therefore, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Employment and Social Development Canada share the responsibility for assessing the eligibility of employers to hire foreign workers and processing their work permit and visa applications.
For most foreign nationals that want to work in Canada they must have a work permit to legally work and receive compensation in Canada. Those who have received an immigration visa and are permanent residents of Canada have no restrictions on their ability to live and work anywhere in Canada. However, by contrast, those who obtain a work permit are restricted in terms of the type of employment they may undertake and are granted a work permit for a limited period of time.
There are a number of different ways to qualify for a work permit and this week I will be writing about the major categories that currently exist under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and related Regulations. In the coming weeks I will be writing about the regulation of the Foreign Worker Program and how employers and employees must navigate this system carefully to ensure they comply with all the requirements of IRPA.
Most Common Types of Work Permits in Canada
1) Employer-Specific Work Permits
An employer-specific work permit allows you to work according to the conditions of your work permit, including a specific, named employer, how long you may work and where you may work. If you obtain an employer-specific work permit you may only work for that employer and if you wish to change employers you will have to go through the process to obtain a new work permit for the new employer.
Depending on type of work and who the employer is there are different types of employer specific work permits that you may qualify for. Most employer specific work permits require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”). An LMIA is issued by Employment and Social Development Canada that allows an employer to hire a foreign worker through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program upon showing that the employer was unable to recruit a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and meets the other requirements of the Program.
In addition, in an effort to increase the competitiveness of Canadian businesses, Canada introduced the Global Skills Strategy last year. Under this program employers that want to recruit foreign workers that are facing extreme shortages identified in Canada's Global Talent Stream (occupations such as computer programmers, web developers and software engineers) face a more streamlined LMIA process that is fast-tracked allowing for temporary foreign workers to join the company as quickly as possible.
There are also a number of employer-specific work permits that are exempt from the LMIA requirement. For example there is no need to obtain an LMIA if an employer wants to transfer one of its employee from outside of Canada to its Canadian operations as long as it meets certain conditions.
There are numerous other provisions of IRPA that allow for granting employer-specific work permits such as for those who are setting up and managing a business that will create significant benefits and create jobs for Canadian citizens or permanent residents
2) Open Work Permits
An open work permit allows a person to work for any employer in Canada (with a few specific restrictions). The most well known type of open work permit is the Post-graduate Work Permit that is granted to those who have completed an eligible period of study in Canada and allows them to work legally in Canada for a period of 1 to 3 years.
Another type of open work permit is a Bridging Work Permit that allows those who are already working in Canada and have applied under an eligible immigration program to be able to remain and work in Canada until their immigration application is processed.
Others who may be eligible to obtain an open work permit include spouses of some foreign workers and international students as well as refugee claimants or protected persons and their family members.
This is not an exhaustive list of work permit options but includes some of the most common types of work permits available in Canada. In fact since there are numerous exemptions and provisions that allow for other workers to qualify for temporary work in Canada you should speak with an experienced immigration lawyer to seek advice in any particular situation.