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Can refugees work in Canada?

If you are a refugee in Canada and would like to work, you will need to apply for a work permit with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. You also need a social insurance number if you have been granted a work permit. You should apply for the SIN as soon as you are granted a work permit.

You also have the right to work in Canada while your refugee claim is being processed.

Applying for a work permit doesn’t mean you will automatically get it. You have to show that you have to work in order to support yourself. If you are on social assistance or have applied for social assistance you should include proof of that in the application.

A refugee claimant can apply for a work permit even if:

  • You have filed a claim for refugee protection in Canada and
    • You are waiting for the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada to decide on your claim; and
    • You cannot pay for your basic needs without working.
  • The RPD has rejected your refugee claim
    • You cannot be removed from Canada for reasons beyond your control; and
    • You cannot pay for your basic needs without working.

What are the steps involved in applying for a work permit?

  • Complete the application form for obtaining a work permit;
  • Read the guide, for more help and information;  
  • Collect all the documents you need – don’t send originals unless you are specifically asked to and make sure you retain your originals in a safe place that is easily accessible to you;
    • As a refugee claimant, you will need to show proof that your Personal Information Form has been submitted to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) or a copy of your completed form which was signed and stamped by the IRB.

Once you have completed your application you must mail it to CIC.


Regardless if you’re applying inside or outside Canada, you have to fulfill these eligibility requirements:

  • Prove to an officer that you will leave Canada when your work permit expires;
  • Show that you have enough money to take care of yourself and your family members during your stay in Canada and to return home,
  • Obey the law and have no record of criminal activity – you may have to produce a police certificate if asked,
  • Not be a danger to Canada’s security,
  • Be in good health and have a medical exam, if needed,
  • Not plan to work for an employer on the list of ineligible employers,
  • Not plan to work for an employer who, on a regular basis, offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages, and
  • Give the officer any other documents they ask for to prove you can enter the country.

Refugees wanting to get a work permit should contact an immigration lawyer for help.

Read more:

Apply for a work permit

Work permits for refugee claimants