Work Without a Canadian Work Permit

April 20, 2023


  • Shireen Fisher

Most foreign nationals who want to work in Canada need a work permit. This is a legal document that allows you to engage in employment and receive a salary from a Canadian employer. But is it possible to do this without one? This blog touches on all the information you’ll need about working in the Great White North without a Canadian Work Permit.

Is it Possible to Work in Canada Without a Work Permit?

The answer to the above question is yes! According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) Foreign nationals are allowed to work in Canada without a Canadian work permit. But only if their activity is included in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) or the Global Skills Strategy public policy for short-term work and 120-day work for researchers.

Who Can Work in Canada Without a Work Permit?

  • Business visitors: This category is for individuals who wish to do business or trade in Canada but will not enter the Canadian labor market. Your activity in Canada must be international.
  • Foreign Government Representatives: You must be accredited by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Your entry into Canada must be for official diplomatic duties.
  • Family members of a foreign representative in Canada: The principal family member must be accredited with diplomatic status by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The International Trade and that Department must confirm in writing that it has no objections to the person working in Canada
  • Members of the armed forces: You have to be a member of the armed forces of a nation that qualifies as a designated state as per the Visiting Forces Act.
  • Officer of a foreign government: You must be sent by your government on an exchange program between Canada and other countries. You will take up station with a federal or provincial agency.
  • Cross-border maritime law enforcement officer: You would be a cross-border maritime law enforcement officer sent by the United States within the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America.
  • In-flight security officer: Your government would have an arrangement with Canada for commercial passenger aircraft security.
  • Full-time students: You can be a full-time student on a Canadian campus.
  • Foreign productions or groups, or guest artists: Performing artists who appear alone or in a group in an artistic performance qualify to work without a work permit. A performance primarily for a film production, television, or radio broadcast is excluded.
  • Participant in sports activities or events: You would be part of an individual participant or part of a foreign team.
  • Foreign Media: This includes employees of foreign media outlets covering events in the Great White North.
  • Guest speaker: The reason for your entry to Canada must be to deliver a paper at an event.
  • Clergyman: Religious officials who help congregations achieve religious and spiritual goals.
  • Judges, referees, or other officials at international competitions: You may be attending sports competitions or an international cultural or artistic event.
  • Research examiners or evaluators: This would be for research proposals or university projects, programs, or theses.
  • Expert witnesses or investigators: You would be conducting surveys or analyzing evidence to be delivered to a federal or provincial regulatory body or a court of law. Or you would appear as an expert witness in a case.
  • Medical students: This includes all students in healthcare.
  • Civil aviation inspectors: You would be part of a national aeronautical authority inspecting flight operation procedures or cabin safety of an international airliner.
  • Accredited representative or adviser: You would participate in an aviation accident or incident investigation conducted under the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act
  • Emergency service providers: This includes all medical services that protect and rescue people and property.
  • Indians: If you are a citizen of India.

Entering Canada: Temporary Resident Visa or Electronic Travel Authorization eTA

As a foreign national entering Canada, you will be required to state your reason for entering the country at a primary inspection line (PIL), primary inspection kiosk (PIK), or to a border services officer. If you intend to be employed here, you must disclose this during the examination.

Temporary Resident Visa (TRV)

If you have to get a temporary resident visa (TRV) and wish the enter Canada to work under the authority of R186, you will need to include all supporting documentation in your TRV application. This will help the immigration official determine whether your work activity falls within the R186.

Officials will also have to review the “Purpose of your visit” and “Other” fields that appear on the Global Case Management System (GCMS) IMM screen. This will help them if you are asking to work in the country in a work permit exemption category.

Successfully meeting the criteria of the regulations may lead to the issuing of a TRV. And if you don’t meet the criteria, your application will be rejected.

The Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

If you need an electronic travel authorization (eTA), you will find that there is no section on the application for you to state the reason for entering Canada. You will carry the responsibility of declaring your purpose of entry.

You will have to have the documentation to prove to the port of entry officials that your profile matches the requirements of the paragraph of R186.

Conditions For Working Without a Canadian Work Permit

While you will not receive a work permit if you qualify to work in one of the professions mentioned in section R186, you will still have to adhere to legal conditions under section R183. The conditions specified in R185(b) may still be imposed by officials.

The general conditions for temporary work, according to paragraph R183(1)(b), temporary residents cannot work if they are not permitted to do so under sections R186, R200, and R201. This applies to those who qualify to work without a permit [R186], as well as open work permit holders [R200] and employer-specific work permit holders [R201].

You will not be able to work for:

  • An employer that offers adult services
  • An employer who is under investigation for irregularities with wages and working conditions
  • An employer who has committed an offense under section R209.95
  • An employer who is in arrears with penalty fees or has not adhered to the terms of payment.

Extending Your Stay to Work Without a Permit


As a temporary resident employed in Canada without a permit under the authority of R186, you can extend your status by applying online, using the Application to Change Conditions, Extend my Stay or Remain in Canada as a Visitor or Temporary Resident Permit Holder [IMM 5708E (PDF, 592 KB)] forms. To learn more about this, check out Extend your stay in Canada on the IRCC website.

Maintained Status

According to the IRCC, you can extend your period of authorized stay before it ends under R181. Doing this will mean that you are legally allowed to stay in Canada until a decision is reached [R183(5)].

This means that you will have maintained your status as a temporary resident during the processing period.

Get Ready to Work in Canada Without a Work Permit

Now that you know more about working in Canada without a Canadian work permit, it’s time to make your move to this North American wonderland for the ultimate work experience. Make sure you thoroughly go through all the requirements and conditions.

To make sure all your boxes are ticked, let one of our Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants assist with checking all the legalities and application forms to make your application go as smoothly as possible.


Can I Apply for a Work Permit After I Enter Canada?

If you currently or plan to work in Canada without a work permit under the authority of R186, you can apply for a permit after you have entered the country. This, however, is not applicable to business visitors as per R186(a) and R187.

Will I be able to get a Canadian Work Permit if my Spouse is Eligible to Work in Canada Without a Work Permit?

The IRCC states that spouses or common-law partners of skilled workers entering Canada as temporary workers will be able to get an open work permit should they meet the criteria.

So you will be able to apply for an open work permit if your spouse

  • Works under the authority of section R186 without a Canadian work permit
  • Can prove that they will work in Canada for at least six months after your work permit application
  • Has an occupation which falls within National Occupational Classification management occupation or professional occupations
  • Live in Canada and will live here while they work