Work Permits for Canada

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In order to legally work in Canada, foreign nationals will either need a residence permit or a temporary work permit. Large quantities of both documents are granted annually but it is important that expats recognise the difference between the two. 

Residence permits are for those who wish to permanently, or at least on a long-term basis, live and work in Canada. They entitle their holders to take advantage of many of Canada’s social systems, such as healthcare and education.

On the other hand, temporary work permits are granted to individuals coming to Canada to complete a specific job that can help a Canadian employer satisfy a skills shortage. Temporary work permits do not entitle their holders to certain rights, and they expire after a certain amount of time. 

Although in the past Canada advocated for an immigration policy that pushed for foreigners to have the opportunity to settle in the country, more recently, changes have been made so that more temporary work permits are offered. 

Work permits should almost always be applied for from outside of Canada, but there are certain exceptions to this general rule.

Do note that nationals that are not from the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and most European countries will also need to obtain a temporary residence visa alongside their temporary work permit in order to settle in Canada. The Canadian government lists those nationals who must apply for this second document on their website.

Applying for a temporary work permit for Canada

In order to apply for a temporary work permit foreigners must first solidify a job offer from a Canadian employer. Furthermore, Canadian employers must be able to prove that the job being offered cannot be filled by a local employee because there is no one available in the domestic market that has the skills or the experience to assume the job. 

In order to prove the above, employers must obtain written confirmation, which is called a “Positive Labour Market Opinion” from the Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) department. This generally means that the employer must show that they have advertised the position throughout Canada for a period of 90 days. However there is a list of 33 occupations that qualify for expedited labour market opinion, which only takes five days. Additionally, there are some situations where no labour market opinion is needed.

If an expat has both of the above, they can submit a temporary work permit application, along with the required supplementary documents, to the relevant Canadian visa office. The list of documents is subject to change so it is always best to check government websites for the latest information. However, expats should have references from previous employers, qualification certificates and degree transcripts available. 

After the application has been received by the respective Canadian visa office, it may be necessary for the applicant to meet an official in person for an interview. At this point, it may also be necessary to provide police clearance certificates and proof that the applicant is healthy, as confirmed by an official medical exam.

Application processing times vary immensely and depend largely on where they have been applied for. In general though, plan on the application taking one to three months to be approved. 

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