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Work visa FAQ

Professional house painter covers wall with flag of Canada. Stock photo by Getty images

Most foreign nationals coming to Canada for work need a government-issued work permit. Here’s what you need to know about them.

What is a work permit?

A work permit is a government-issued authorization for immigrants to work in Canada. It includes conditions detailing the type of employment, where they can work, for whom, and for how long.

Do I need a work permit?

The majority of immigrants need a permit to work in Canada, but some people and jobs are exempt. Some of those exemptions include:

  • Foreign athletes and coaches visiting Canada;
  • Business visitors (people here on business, but not entering the labour market);
  • Diplomats or official representatives of other countries;
  • Clergy.

The government provides information on jobs exempted from work permits.

When can I apply for one?

Generally, you must apply for a work permit before you enter Canada. In some cases, you can apply at the border or while already inside the country, although these cases are rare. 

Can I get my permit extended?

Yes, work permits can be extended under certain circumstances. You can apply for an extension without leaving Canada as long as you and your employer meet several conditions, such as signing a new contract. 

My permit expired. Can I get another one?

Yes, but only if your permit expired less than 90 days ago. Also, you cannot work while your new application is in progress.

How long can I continue working with permits?

Canada’s “cumulative duration rule” allows immigrants to work for a maximum of four years. After that, they must wait four years for another work permit, even if their employer is willing to rehire them.

Some workers, including live-in caregivers, charity workers or provincial nominees are exempt from the four-year rule.

Can I change employers?

Generally, a work permit applies to a specific employer and you’ll need a new one if you change jobs.

The government also issues open work permits that have more flexibility, but only some people are eligible for them.


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