This article will examine work permit application and processing guidelines.  A work permit is a document issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada which allows a foreign national to temporarily work in Canada.  Work permits are typically issued pursuant to an LMO application and are usually granted for a period of two years.  In the course of this article we will refer to such work permits as “closed” work permit.

An application for a work permit will typically be accompanied by:

a) completed forms for applicable permit;

b) job offer and/or a conditional employment contract;

c) positive LMO application;

d) translated and notarized educational degrees and reference letters;

e) proof of English and other languages required by the LMO

a. A TOEFEL or IELTS exam results, or
b. university or college transcripts

f) proof the Applicant is able to support himself in Canada;

g) medical examination results (where required);

h) proof of payment of application fee.

Where to Apply?

Visa Exempt Countries

Individuals from visa exempt countries are able to apply for work at a port of entry into Canada such as a border crossing or airport.  When applying at a port of entry an individual does not have to present a work permit application form or proof of payment.  The work permit will be handled directly by an immigration officer and payment can be processed on the spot.

Individuals from visa exempt countries can also apply for work permits when entering Canada or proceed with what is sometimes referred to as “flag pole” processing.  Flag polling involves driving to the US border,  departing Canada but not actually entering the United States by literally making a U-turn before entering US territory.

Non Visa Exempt Countries

Individuals from countries that require a visa to enter Canada are typically  required to apply for work permits at a Canadian consulate abroad unless they are residing in Canada and satisfy one of the following conditions:

    • are a spouse or common-law partner of an individual working in Canada in a higher skilled occupation;
    • have a valid study permit;
    • are the child, spouse or a common law partner of an individual with a valid study permit;
    • have visa that is valid of six months or more;

In such cases work permit applications may be processed in Canada and are sent to Vegreville, Alberta.

When applying for a work permit at the appropriate Canadian consulate, there is no need to apply for a separate visitor visa or pay a second visa fee.  If the work permit is approved, the visitor visa will be issued at the same time as the documentation you need to enter Canada as a worker.
Please note that entry into Canada is subject to medical and security clearances, which vary according to the home country of the worker and the job sought.

Spouse and Common Law Partners

A spouse or a common law partner of an individual holding a valid work permit in a higher skilled occupation (NOC 0, A or B) is eligible for an open work permit.  This means that they will be able to work for any employer without an LMO (subject to certain medical checks or licensing from professional organizations.)

It is possible for apply for a dependent work permit at the point of entry or by sending the application to Vergeville.   Depending on the particular circumstances, it is sometimes best to provide proof that the partner that received the initial “closed work permit” has actually commenced working.  This can be done by providing a pay-stub or other supporting documentation.  The “dependent work” permit cannot exceed the validity period of the primary “closed” work permit.

Some provinces have also launched pilot programs which extend the rights of spouses to open work permits to the spouses or common law partners of individual with lower skilled work permits.

Point of Entry Processing

Whether an individual is applying upon arrival in Canada or utilizing the “flag pole” method there are some common questions an officer may ask in order to satisfy himself that your application meets the requirements of the regulations and can be approved:

1) Proof of English or French if specified in the LMO.  If you are not presenting language testing results be prepared to satisfy the officer of your language competency by other means such as speaking to the officer and or writing a short statement.

2) Temporary Work Permits are by definition intended to be temporary.  Therefore be prepared to answer questions about your connection with your country of origin.  You must satisfy the officer that you intend to return to your country at the conclusion of your work permit.

Canada does allow for dual intent which recognizes that an individual may be applying for a temporary work permit while simultaneously applying to remain in the country permanently under the CEC class or other program.  However, you must still be able to satisfy the officer that if the application for permanent residence fails, you would be prepared to return to your country of origin.

An officer may ask questions about substantial connections to your country of origin dealing with matters of family, real estate and other areas that show a substantial connection.

3) Be prepared to demonstrate that you have sufficient money to support yourself  in Canada.

4) If you were previously a visitor in Canada, be prepared to explain what you were doing and how you were supporting yourself.

5) Be prepared to describe your reference letters and make sure you know your dates and job duties.
6) Be prepared to explain how you met your employer.

Our firm often helps individuals with flag pole processing. Our experience shows that different points of entry will have different methodologies with respect to processing work permits.

Extending Work Permits

Once an individual obtains a work permit, he becomes a Temporary Foreign Worker (“TFW”). An individual can stay in Canada as a Temporary Foreign Worker for up to four years. A work permit extension is typically accompanied by another LMO application (if the previous LMO has expired) and the appropriate supporting documentation.

Implied Status

As noted above, temporary work permits are usually granted for 2 years and may be extended for a further 2 years. If you applied for the extension for a work permit prior to the expiration of the original work permit you may be able to keep working, under implied status. This means the law implies you are a temporary resident. The implied status lasts until Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) decides on your new permit application. However, in order to maintain the implied status the following conditions must be maintained:

If you applied for a another work permit for the same job

  • You must remain in Canada and meet the conditions of your original work permit. If however, you applied for a work permit for a different category of employment you cannot continue working until CIC has issued a new permit.

If you applied for a different kind of permit

  • You cannot continue to work at any of the activities allowed by the original work permit. For example, if you came to Canada as a worker and then applied for a study permit you would be required to stop working when your work permit expires. After that, you cannot work or study until a new permit is issued

Bridging” Work Permits

In certain cases, if you have applied for permanent residency in Canada and your closed work permit obtained pursuant to an LMO is about to expire while your permanent residency application is still being process you may be eligible for a “bridging” open work permit that allows you to work in Canada while your permanent residency application is being processed.
Individuals who has submitted their permanent residency applications under the Canadian Experience Class, Provincial Nominee Program as well as the Federal Skilled Worker and/or Federal Skilled Trades program may apply for an open work permit if their application has passed the initial stage: they have received a confirmation from CIC that their permanent residency application is eligible under the program they have selected.
The open work permit application should be submitted with the permanent residency application. Only individuals who are currently in Canada are eligible for a “bridging” open work permit.

Common Issues with Work Permits

The most common issues that cause delays or refusal of work permits involve incomplete applications failing to either show a match between the LMO and the foreign worker’s qualification. There are occasions when the employer fails to property confirm the job offer by omitting some of the work conditions presented in the LMO.
Please note that submitting a work permit application while being in Canada on a visitor’s visa does not provide “implied status”.


Levine Associates are hopeful this brief article has helped to answer some basic questions about the application process for temporary work permits. If you have questions or wish to speak to a lawyer please contact our firm to arrange an appointment today.