Canada: Canadian Work Permit

Last Updated: December 19 2014
Practice Guide by Green and Spiegel LLP

Overview

Individuals who are neither Canadian Permanent Residents, nor Canadian Citizens, and who wish to temporarily reside in Canada for employment purposes will likely have to apply for a Work Permit. A Work Permit is not issued for persons wanting to come to Canada to look for work. It is only issued once an offer of employment has been made.

It should be noted that a Work Permit is not an employment contract. It is strictly for the purposes of allowing a foreign national to work in Canada to fill a labour shortage, and to support economic growth in Canada.

A Work Permit usually contains specific terms and conditions, including the start and end dates of the employment, name of employer, location of employment, and job title. If the Foreign National does not abide by the terms and conditions set out in the Work Permit, the Foreign National may be prosecuted and/or asked to leave Canada. The employer may also receive disciplinary action or face charges.

Most Work Permits are employer-specific and cannot be used to work in another company. Should the employment be terminated, the Foreign National must apply for a new Work Permit in order to work in a new position. In some cases, a Foreign National will receive an “open” Work Permit, which will allow them to work in any position, and for any employer in Canada.

HRSDC Confirmed Employment vs. HRSDC Confirmation-Exempt Employment

Generally, there are two types of Work Permits: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada Confirmed Employment (HRDSC Confirmed Employment); and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada Confirmation-Exempt Employment (HRDSC Exempt Employment).

HRDSC Confirmed Employment requires an approval from HRDSC. This approval signifies that there are no other Canadians qualified to fill the position. In order to apply for this approval, the employer must provide details of the position being offered, proof of their recruitment efforts in Canada, and evidence of their inability to find a suitable Canadian to fill the position.

The HRSDC Exempt Employment is one that benefits from certain exemptions under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This type of Work Permit has expedited processing and involves less paperwork. The categories of work that fall under the HRSDC Exempt Employment are:

  • North American Free Trade Agreement professionals, traders and investors. A regulation also allows the issuance of Work Permits to people who enter Canada under other types of international agreements such as the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
  • Some types of entrepreneurs, intra-company transferees and other types of workers, who will provide significant benefit to Canadians or permanent residents by working in Canada.
  • Persons whose employment in Canada provides similar employment to Canadians abroad, such as participants in youth exchange programs, exchange teachers and other reciprocal programs.
  • Foreign students studying in Canada who need to work in order to fulfill co-op placements.
  • Foreign students in Canada applying under the Off-Campus Work Permit program.
  • Foreign students in Canada seeking to purse post-graduate employment.
  • Spouses and common-law partners of skilled Foreign Nationals, spouses and common-law partners of certain foreign students, spouses and common-law partners of a person doing post-graduation employment for certain foreign students and post-doctoral fellows.
  • Persons undertaking charitable or religious work.
  • Foreign Nationals who had resided in certain countries for more than six (6) months within a five year prior to their arrival in Canada; and
  • Foreign Nationals in occupations where the protection of public health is a concern (such as working with children and/or the elderly, working in the food and/or agriculture industry, and working in the healthcare industry).

Applying for a Work Permit

In many cases, Foreign Nationals must apply for a Work Permit at a Canadian Consulate, Embassy or High Commission abroad. However, certain applicants from visa-exempt countries may now apply at the Port of Entry.

Medical Examinations

Some Foreign Nationals may be required to undergo a medical examination prior to being granted a Work Permit, these individuals are:

Social Insurance Number (SIN)

Foreign Nationals must apply for a Social Insurance Number, which is required upon the commencement of employment. The Social Insurance Number is used by the employer for tax purposes.

Foreign Nationals are issued a SIN that begins with the number “9”, which indicates to others that they are a Foreign National. Each person who applies for a SIN receives a SIN Card. On the SIN Card of a Foreign National is an expiry date. These SIN cards are valid until the end of the person’s authorized stay in Canada, to a maximum of five years.

Provincial Health Coverage

Foreign Nationals may apply for health coverage in the province in which they work. In Ontario, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) becomes effective ninety (90) days after the Foreign National commences his or her employment.  The Foreign National’s family member may also be eligible, depending on the Foreign National’s employment terms. For interim coverage, see the link on our home page.

This document is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should not act or rely on any information in this document without first seeking legal advice. This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any specific questions on any legal matter, you should consult a professional legal services provider.

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