Working in Canada - LMIA Exempt Countries

March 28, 2024


  • Shireen Fisher

Dreaming of working in Canada? If you are a citizen of a country with a special agreement with the land of maple leaves, you might have a shortcut to working here: the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA exemption). Bypassing the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) can significantly speed up your work permit application.

We look at LMIA exemptions, exploring how they work, the benefits they offer, and the countries you can leverage them from. We will also explore alternative Open Work Permit programs, giving you a broader picture of your options to launch your exciting Canadian career.

What is an LMIA?

The Labour Market Impact Assessment is a process the Canadian government uses to see how hiring a foreign worker might affect the job market here. It is not just a formality but a way for the government to ensure that bringing in someone from another country does not take jobs away from Canadians who could do them.

The Canadian employer applies for an LMIA, providing details about the job, efforts to find Canadian workers, wages, and potential impacts. If everything looks good and it seems like hiring a foreign worker will not hurt Canadians, the employer gets a thumbs-up. If there are concerns that hiring someone from outside Canada might cause problems for Canadians, the request gets denied, and the employer might need to try harder to find Canadian workers.

Ultimately, LMIA ensures fairness in the job market, balancing the needs of Canadian workers and businesses while giving everyone a fair shot at employment in Canada.

LMIA Exemption

An LMIA exemption occurs when a Canadian employer does not have to apply for LMIA when they hire a foreign worker. It fast-tracks the work permit application for specific categories of foreign workers. This is typically arranged through the International Mobility Program (IMP).

The IMP was designed to allow Canadian employers to hire workers abroad without the LMIA process under selected programs. The IMP's purpose is to help foreign workers get to Canada to improve Canada's cultural and economic development in various ways.

Employers can make use of IMP to hire foreign workers but must meet the following requirements to do so:

  • Pay a compliance fee
  • Prove that a job or worker meets the requirements for LMIA-exemption
  • Submit a job offer through the IMP Employer Portal

Who Benefits From LMIA Exemption?

LMIA exemptions benefit both employers and foreign workers:

  • Employers - Save time and resources by skipping the LMIA application process.
  • Foreign Workers: Have a faster and potentially smoother path to obtaining a work permit in Canada.

Countries With the LMIA Exemption Advantage

Citizens from many countries can enjoy the fast-track benefits of LMIA exemptions when applying for work permits in Canada. Canada has established LMIA exemptions through various agreements with these countries. The agreements often focus on fostering economic exchange and facilitating the movement of skilled professionals. We explore some key agreements and learn which countries were participants.

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA)

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) simplifies work permits for US and Mexican citizens in professions designated by the agreement. This agreement streamlines the process for professionals in various high-demand fields, including:

  • Engineers (civil, electrical, mechanical, etc.)
  • Scientists (computer, environmental, physical sciences, etc.)
  • Accountants (chartered accountants, certified public accountants)
  • Lawyers (specializing in business law, intellectual property)
  • Doctors (with specific qualifications and licensing requirements)
  • Architects
  • Drafters
  • Graphic designers

CUSMA LMIA-Exempt Countries:

  • United States
  • Mexico

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) grants LMIA-exempt work permits to qualified citizens from European Union (EU) countries in specific categories. Using target categories, CETA offers LMIA exemptions for various business-related positions, such as:

  • Business managers and executives overseeing Canadian operations of a European company.
  • Specialists on intra-company transfers who possess specialized knowledge critical to the Canadian branch of a European company.
  • Commercial and technical personnel essential to establishing a new business or significant expansion of an existing EU company in Canada.
  • Independent professionals and consultants providing services in Canada based on a pre-arranged service contract with a Canadian entity.

CETA LMIA-Exempt Countries

Citizens from all European Union (EU) member countries, including:

  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Poland
  • Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia

Free Trade Agreements (FTAs

Canada has Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with several countries, including Colombia, Chile, South Korea, and some members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). These agreements often include provisions for LMIA-exempt work permits in specific professions.

Professions eligible for LMIA exemptions under FTAs vary by country but often concentrate on sectors like:

  • Information Technology (software engineers, systems analysts, database administrators)
  • Engineering (mechanical, electrical, telecommunications)
  • Finance (investment analysts, financial advisors)
  • Architecture and Urban Planning
  • Business Administration (specializations like marketing, human resources)

CETA LMIA-Exempt Countries

While specific professions might have LMIA exemptions under FTAs, these agreements cover a wider range of countries. Here are some examples of countries with FTAs offering potential LMIA exemptions:

  • Colombia
  • Chile
  • South Korea
  • Australia (member of CPTPP)
  • Singapore (member of CPTPP)
  • Peru (FTA with Canada)
  • Costa Rica (FTA with Canada)
  • Honduras (FTA with Canada)

Other LMIA-Exempt Work Permit Options

While LMIA exemptions streamline the process for specific professions under certain agreements, Open Work Permits offer another path to working in Canada for various situations. Here are some leading Open Work Permit programs.

Post-Graduation Work Permit

The Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) is a great option for international students who have successfully graduated from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada. This permit allows you to gain valuable Canadian work experience for up to three years after finishing your studies. Not only does the PGWP bridge the gap between graduation and your next career move, but the experience you gain can be a major asset when applying for permanent residency in Canada.

To qualify for a PGWP, you'll need to have graduated from a program lasting at least eight months at a DLI, held a valid study permit that covered your entire program, and met all residence requirements while you were a student in Canada.

Bridging Open Work Permit

The Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP) is a temporary solution for individuals navigating transitions between different work permit statuses in Canada. Designed to address specific situations, a BOWP bridges the gap, allowing you to continue working legally in Canada while awaiting decisions on their permanent residency applications, transitioning between employers under a new work permit, or extending their current work permit pending a decision on a renewal application. Eligibility for a BOWP depends on your existing work permit status and the underlying reason for needing such a permit.

International Experience Canada (IEC)

International Experience Canada (IEC) is for young adults (typically between 18 and 35 years old) from countries with which Canada has signed Working Holiday Agreements or arrangements for Young Professionals.

IEC offers various work and travel opportunities through programs like:

  • The Working Holiday: Allows you to work and travel in Canada for up to one year, with the possibility of an extension in some cases.
  • Young Professionals: Provides opportunities for international graduates with work experience to gain valuable Canadian experience in their field for up to one year.

Global Talent Stream (GTS)

The Global Talent Stream (GTS) speeds up the work permit process for highly skilled and in-demand professionals in specific occupations. While not directly an LMIA exemption, employers utilizing the GTS typically receive a positive LMIA for these specific hires. This program attracts skilled professionals to contribute to Canada's growing economy.


Are There Any Limitations on the Type of Work I Can Do With an LMIA Exemption?

Yes, LMIA exemptions are typically tied to specific professions or categories outlined within the agreement between Canada and your home country. Ensure your desired job aligns with the exempt professions listed in the agreement details.

What Happens if My Profession is Not Listed in the LMIA Exemption Agreement?

If your profession is not on the list, you will not qualify for an LMIA exemption for that specific role. But all is not lost; you might still be eligible for a work permit if your employer secures an LMIA through the regular process, or you could explore alternative Open Work Permit programs.