Canada: Work Permits For Foreign Nationals

Last Updated: October 3 2017
Article by Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

In Québec, immigration matters and work permit applications come under the joint jurisdictions of the federal and provincial governments.

General rule

As a general rule, foreign workers who wish to work in the Province of Québec (or, for that matter, in any other Canadian province or territory) must obtain a work permit. In principle, a work permit will only be delivered if the prospective employer succeeds in first obtaining a confirmation of job offer approved by an officer of Employment and Social Development Canada ("ESDC") and a Québec Acceptance Certificate from an officer of the Québec Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion ("MIDI"). A confirmation of job offer in support of a work permit will only be issued if the ESDC and MIDI officers confirm that, in their opinion, the employment of the foreign worker will not have a negative impact on labour market conditions for Canadians. This long process usually requires that the position first be advertised in Canada or that other initiatives be taken in order to eventually satisfy the ESDC officer that no Canadian applicants are suitable.

Note that there are several exemptions from the above rules.


First, some foreign nationals may work in Québec without having to obtain a work permit. This exception extends in particular to certain sales representatives, guest speakers and employees of related companies abroad seeking entry to consult with local employees. Further exceptions can be found in the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, 2002 and in the Business Visitor provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement ("NAFTA") and the General Agreement on Trade in Services ("GATS").

Second, some other foreign nationals can be employed in Québec by obtaining a work permit without the necessity of a confirmation of job offer. As a matter of fact, a significant number of work permits being delivered do not require that the prospective employer go through the confirmation of job offer process.

For instance, to name only a few of the most common, work permit applications for certain intra-company transferees and professionals processed under the provisions of the NAFTA and GATS do not require the approval of either the ESDC or MIDI officers. A similar exemption also extends to other key personnel and self-employed individuals wishing to obtain a work permit and whose employment will create or maintain significant employment, benefits or opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Finally, there exist other confirmations of job offer exemptions for working spouses.

Intra-company transferees

The exemption for intra-company transferees, commonly known as Code C-12, is available to a person of any national origin who is employed in a senior executive or managerial category by a branch, subsidiary or parent of the Canadian entity for a minimum of 18 to 24 months, and who is temporarily transferred to Québec to hold an identical senior executive or managerial position with a Canadian entity.

Applications by other intra-company transferees who possess the required type of specialized knowledge and meet the requirements of the NAFTA, GATS or Code C-12, can be processed under either one of these Agreements, taking into consideration the important differences between them.


Applications by professionals can also be processed under either one of NAFTA or GATS, having consideration for the differences between the two (2) Agreements.

Other key personnel

Other key personnel who do not qualify for other exemptions (e.g. highly skilled individuals who do not have prior employment history with a related company abroad), and whose employment will result in significant employment, benefits or opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents can obtain an employment authorization under the Code C-10 confirmation of job offer exemption, but such application needs to be carefully prepared as immigration officers are increasingly reluctant to use their discretionary powers, unless the facts strongly support the application.

Self-employed individuals

An individual whose services are retained on an independent contractor basis, as opposed to an employee, and where such services will result in significant employment, benefits or opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents, can obtain an employment authorization under the Code C-11 exemption.

Working spouses

The spouse of a work permit holder can also obtain a work permit under the Code C-41 confirmation of job offer exemption. This exemption applies in circumstances where the principal applicant received a work permit in an occupation requiring a sufficiently high level of expertise to be considered a skilled worker, namely if a work permit was obtained to perform work in a Skill Level 0, A or B occupation listed in the National Occupational Classification dictionary.

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The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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