Work permits currently fall into one of two categories: employer-specific, or open.

Employer-specific work permits restrict the foreign worker to a certain employer, work location, and occupation. This creates inflexibility for both employers who may wish to alter the work of their employees, and for the employees themselves who may wish to seek out new roles within their organization, or to leave their employer for a new organization entirely.

Open work permits allow foreign workers to work in nearly any type of job for nearly any employer in Canada, subject to a few restrictions. They increase mobility opportunities for workers who may wish to take on new roles at new organizations. There are limited circumstances in which you can obtain an open work permit.

Occupation-specific work permits

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada ("IRCC") is looking at creating a third category of work permit: occupation-specific. Initially, this work permit would be specifically aimed at the primary agriculture and low-wage stream. An occupation-specific work permit would allow a foreign national to work in one occupation or National Occupational Classification ("NOC") code more generally, rather than in one position only for a specific employer.

Workers who are issued an occupation-specific work permit, however, will only be able to seek employment with organizations that have vacant positions and an approved Labour Market Impact Assessment ("LMIA") from Employment and Social Development Canada (Service Canada) in order to ensure continued appropriate oversight on employers of foreign workers. For example, this works to ensure employers of foreign workers with occupation-specific work permits will still meet certain commitments surrounding wages and working conditions.

IRCC has sought input on supports that would be necessary to help foreign workers find a new employer in Canada that had a valid LMIA for their occupation, including whether a job matching or similar mechanism should be put into place. Such a mechanism would be intended to help foreign workers seeking new opportunities in their occupation to find new employment, but would also potentially be an asset to employers who are looking to fill vacant positions.

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.