Types of Canadian Work Permits

November 2, 2023


  • Shireen Fisher

Canada is a popular destination for individuals seeking employment opportunities. With a strong economy and a welcoming attitude towards immigrants, the country offers a range of work permit options for foreign nationals. Whether you want to work temporarily or establish a long-term career here, understanding what type of Canadian Work Permit you will need to work in Canada is essential. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the various work permits in Canada and their requirements.

What is a Canadian Work Permit?

A Canadian work permit allows you to work legally in Canada. Having this document means that you can now earn an income, pay taxes, and conduct business. You will need one if you want to work in the country temporarily but are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

There are two main types of Canadian work permits - the Canadian Open Work Permit and the Employer-specific Work Permit.

The Canadian Open Work Permit

A Canadian Open Work Permit allows you to work for any employer in the Great White North. There are, however, some exceptions as to who you can work for. These are as follows:

  • You cannot work for an employer deemed ineligible.
  • You cannot work for an employer who is not compliant with IRCC conditions
  • You cannot work for someone who regularly offers adult services

You may qualify for an Open Work Permit if you tick the following boxes:

  • You are an international student who has obtained a degree from a designated learning institution and qualifies for Canada Post-Graduation Work Permit Program
  • You are a student who cannot afford to fund your tuition fees any longer
  • You have obtained an employer-specific work permit, but you are currently in a situation where you are being abused at risk of being abused at work or risk of being abused in relation to your job in Canada
  • You have applied for Canadian Permanent Residency
  • You are a dependent of someone who has submitted an application for Canadian Permanent Residency
  • You have a spouse, partner, or child who has applied for a low- or high-skilled worker visa to Canada
  • Have a Spouse or partner who is an international student in Canada
  • Have a spouse or partner who has applied to the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program
  • You are a refugee, refugee claimant, protected person under a removal order
  • You have a temporary resident permit
  • You are participating in special programs as a young worker

The International Mobility Program

The IMP allows Canadian employers to hire skilled international workers on a temporary or permanent basis without obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Employers must submit an offer of employment via the Employer Portal, after which you must apply for your work permit. The IMP Categories are as follows:

Post-Graduation Work Permit

The Post-Graduation Work Permit Program is for international students who have completed studies at a Canadian institution. This program allows graduates to gain valuable work experience in the Great White North. This makes it a significant step toward obtaining Permanent residency.

Reciprocal Youth Exchange Agreements

The IMP’s Reciprocal Youth Exchange Agreements allow young people from different countries to travel and work in Canada. These agreements help with improving cultural understanding and the boosting of professional skills.

International Free Trade Agreements

The IMP’s International Free Trade Agreements play a huge role in facilitating international mobility. These agreements provide the temporary entry of business people from free trade agreement partner countries. Programs include:

Intra-Company Transfer Program

The IMP’s Intra-Company Transfer Program helps multinational companies to facilitate temporary transfers of their staff members. This is done for management practices and the enhancement of global markets.

The Bridging Open Work Permit

The IMP’s Bridging Open Work Permit allows you to work in Canada while you wait for your application for Canadian Permanent residency to be approved.

The Employee-specific Work Permit

An Employer-specific work permit allows you to work in Canada. With this type of work permit, your employment will have to align with the following conditions:

  • Who you work for
  • Your period of employment
  • Where you work

Before you apply for your employer-specific application, you must obtain the following from your employer:

  • A copy of your employment contract t
  • A copy of a labor market impact assessment (LMIA) OR
  • A job offer number if you are an LMIA-exempt worker. Your employer must get this number on the employer Portal.

Getting an Employer-specific Work Permit

Canada offers several options for foreign workers to get an employer-specific work permit. Depending on your needs and skill level, you can choose from pathways within the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)

The Great White North’s TFWP is meant to be a tool for helping much-needed foreign workers fill the country’s labor gaps. It is utilized when there are no Canadian citizens or permanent residents to plug labor holes.

High and Low-wage Positions

The remuneration an employer offers an employee determines whether they have to apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) under the stream for high-wage positions or the stream for low-wage positions.

High-wage positions include:

  • The Global Talent Stream
  • The High-wage Stream, including caregiver positions
  • The Agricultural Stream, and
  • Applications in support of Canadian permanent residency

Global Talent Stream

Canada’s Global Talent Stream allows Canadian employers to speed up hiring highly skilled global talent to relieve the major skills drain in the country. This stream is for innovative firms in Canada that have been referred to Service Canada by a designated referral partner and that require unique and specialized foreign nationals to help take their businesses to the next level.

Agriculture Worker Stream

If you are an employer in the Agricultural sector and need to hire temporary foreign workers to fill labor gaps within your agricultural operation, you can do so via the TFWP agricultural streams. Canada has two streams to facilitate hiring temporary foreign workers in agriculture.

Caregiver positions

Families are allowed to hire foreign caregivers to assist with caring for children, seniors, or persons with certified medical needs if they cannot find Canadians and permanent residents to assist.

To be able to hire a foreign caregiver via the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the caregiver must:

  • Assist on a full-time basis for at least 30 hours per week
  • Provide care in the private home where care is required
  • Meet the criteria set by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)/Service Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)

Foreign care workers can be hired on a live-in or live-out basis within two categories:

  • As caregivers for children under 18 year-old
  • As Caregivers for persons with high medical needs and the elderly

Academic Stream

Hiring foreign academics to work in Canada means that Canadian degree-granting institutions of higher learning can meet their staffing and teaching demands and add additional purveyors of knowledge and expertise to its campuses. Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)/Service Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have worked with Canadian institutions to develop hiring criteria.


Can Family Members of Foreign Workers in Canada Apply For Canadian Open Work Permits?

Yes. But this depends on your situation. Your family member can apply for their work permit at the same time as you, either online or at the port of entry, or separately.

I Want to Apply for a Canadian Work Permit, But my Accompanying Family Member is not Planning on Working. What do They Have to do to Join Me?

They must apply to visit or study in Canada to be able to join you when you work in Canada.