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Work Permits / LMIA

(A) LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment)

The following guide is for jobs that require a positive LMIA before applying for a Work Permit
In most cases, employers are required to apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) before they can hire foreign workers (see exemptions including NAFTA and GATS). In order to obtain a positive LMIA, a Canadian employer must prove that there is no Canadian or permanent resident worker available to complete the job in question and a foreign worker is therefore required.

LMIA applications should show the following:

Efforts made to recruit available Canadian citizens/permanent residents
  • Wages offered for the position are consistent with the prevailing wage rate paid to Canadians/permanent residents in the same occupation in the region
  • Working conditions for the occupation meets the current provincial labour market standards
  • Any potential benefits that hiring a foreign worker might bring to the Canadian labour market, such as the creation of new jobs or the transfer of skills and knowledge
  • Transition plans will be required for high-wage positions whereby employers must demonstrate increased efforts to hire Canadians in the long-term.

The positive LMIA is provided to the foreign worker to submit with his/her application for a work permit, which is typically issued for one year if granted.

LMIAs are overseen by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and have an associated application fee of $1,000 for each temporary foreign worker position applied for.

There are shorter processing times of 10 days available for highest-demand, highest paid and shortest duration occupations, i.e. skilled trades within top 10% of pay bracket and for positions that are less than 120 days.

The LMIA process is different depending on whether the targeted employee is classified as “high-wage” or “low-wage”. Temporary foreign workers being paid under the provincial/territorial median wage are considered low-wage, while those being paid at or above are considered high-wage. Depending on whether a prospective employee is classified as high-wage or low-wage, certain specific provisions apply.

High-Wage Workers

Employers seeking to hire high-wage workers must submit transition plans along with their Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) application to ensure that they are taking steps to reduce their reliance on temporary foreign workers over time. High-wage workers are those earning above the median hourly wage for a given occupation in specified region.

The transition plans are designed to ensure that employers seeking foreign workers are fulfilling the purpose of the program. This entails that they are using the program as a last and limited resort to address immediate labour needs on a temporary basis when qualified Canadians are not available, ensuring that Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs.

Certain occupations in Quebec are “facilitated”, meaning that local recruitment efforts do not need to be performed by employers as part of their applications to hire temporary foreign workers for any of the facilitated occupations.

Low-Wage Workers

Employers seeking to hire low-wage workers do not need to submit transition plans with their Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). They must, however, follow a different set of guidelines.

To restrict access to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), while ensuring that Canadians are always considered first for available jobs, the Government of Canada has introduced a cap to limit the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers that a business can employ. Furthermore, certain low-wage occupations may be refused for LMIA processing. Employers with 10 or more employees applying for a new LMIA are subject to a cap of 10 percent on the proportion of their workforce that can consist of low-wage temporary foreign workers. This cap will be phased in over 2015 and 2016 in order to provide employers who are above the 10 percent cap time to transition and adjust accordingly.

Employers offering a wage that is below the provincial/territorial median hourly wage must:
  • pay for round-trip transportation for the temporary foreign worker;
  • ensure affordable housing is available;
  • pay for private health insurance until workers are eligible for provincial health coverage;
  • register the temporary foreign worker with the provincial/territorial workplace safety board;
  • provide an employer-employee contract.
As of April 30, 2015, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program uses the latest Labour Force Survey results for the unemployment rates in regions across Canada. These rates determine which regions are eligible for employers to submit Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) for low-wage/lower skilled occupations in the Accommodation and Food Services sector and the Retail Trade sector. LMIA applications for these sectors will not be processed in economic regions where the unemployment rate is 6 per cent or higher.
Given its unique labour market conditions, and as requested by the Government of the Northwest Territories, applications in these sectors for positions located in Yellowknife will be accepted for processing.

Expediting an LMIA

LMIAs will be provided within a 10-business-day service standard for workers in the following occupational categories:
  • Highest-demand occupations
  • Highest-paid occupations
  • Shortest-duration occupations

Highest-demand occupations

The 10-day service standard for this category is limited to skilled trades positions where the wage offered is at or above the provincial/territorial median wage. These positions are essential to the development of major infrastructure and natural resource extraction projects and are therefore considered vital to Canadian economic growth.

Highest-paid occupations

The 10-day service standard for this category is limited to employers hiring temporary foreign workers in the highest-paid occupations that offer wages in the top 10 percent of wages earned by Canadians in a given province or territory where the job is located. This wage level indicated that a temporary foreign worker is the highest-skilled in their occupation, and that those skills are difficult to find in the Canadian labour market.

Shortest-duration occupations

The 10-day service standard for this category is limited to employers requesting temporary foreign workers for a short duration, defined as 120 calendar days or less, in any occupation where the wage offered is at or above the provincial or territorial median wage. Positions falling under this category include those related to repairs or manufacturing equipment and warranting work.

After receiving a positive LMIA, the employer should send a copy to their identified foreign worker. The positive LMIA must be included in the worker’s application for a Temporary Work Permit. A single LMIA can be issued for one or multiple employees. In the case of multiple employees, the LMIA will only be issued to employees who will be filling identical positions as identified by the Canadian National Occupation Classification.

There are several instances where an employer may be exempt from the requirement to secure a LMIA. For more information, please visit the LMIA Exempt Work Permit page.

Advertising Requirements

Employers must advertise all job vacancies across the Canadian job market for at least four weeks before applying for a LMIA. Towards this end, employers are required to prove that they have used at least two other recruitment methods in addition to having posted an advertisement on the Canada Job Bank. Employers must focus advertising efforts on groups of Canadians who are under-represented, such as First Nations or persons with disabilities.

​Employers wishing to hire a temporary foreign worker to Canada must pay a processing fee of CAD $1,000 for each request for a Labour Market Impact Assessment. 

​English and French are the only languages that can be determined as job requirements, both for LMIAs and for job vacancy advertisements, unless the employer can prove that another language is otherwise required for the position.

Need Help?

Contact us for more information on LMIA Work Permits or for assistance in applying for work permit.

(B) LIMA Exempt work permits

Canadian Employers usually require a positive LMIA outcome in order to hire temporary foreign workers. There are several cases, however, where the need for a LMIA may be waived.

Some of the most common LMIA-exempt streams are outlined below.

a) International Agreements

Canada is a party to several international agreements that facilitate the entry of foreign workers. Admission of foreign workers under these agreements is considered of significant benefit to Canada and, as such, does not require a LMIA. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada-Chile FTA, Canada-Peru FTA, Canada-Columbia FTA are example of this case. Visit the NAFTA Work Permit section for more information on how to obtain a Work Permit under NAFTA.

b) Entrepreneurs/Self-Employed Candidates

A LMIA exemption may be granted to private entrepreneurs who wish to come to Canada temporarily in order to start or operate a business. Applicants to one of these programs must be the sole or majority owners of the business they wish to pursue in Canada. They will also have to demonstrate that their business will be of significant benefit to Canada. Entrepreneurs are only eligible for LMIA-exempt work permits if they can demonstrate that their work in Canada is temporary in nature. This category is particularly well suited to owners of seasonal businesses. Entrepreneurs who have already applied for Canadian permanent residence may also qualify for LMIA-exempt work permits in this category. Entrepreneurs are only eligible for LMIA-exempt work permits if they can demonstrate that their work in Canada is temporary in nature.

c) Intra-Company Transferees

 Intra-Company Transferees may be granted a LMIA exemption for a temporary transfer to Canada. Transferees must be considered executives, managers, or specialized knowledge workers, and must work for a foreign company with a qualifying relationship to the company in Canada.

d) International Exchange Programs

Canada is a participant in several programs for international youth exchange. Such programs include the International Experience Canada (IEC) Working Holiday Visa, Student Co-op programs, Young Professionals programs, and teacher exchange programs. These programs are exempt from the need for a LMIA.

e) Dependents of Foreign Workers

Spouses and children of Foreign Workers holding a Canadian work permit for a skilled position do not require a LMIA when applying for an Open Work Permit (OWP). Please note that this does not apply to the spouses of workers on an International Exchange Program.

f) French-Speaking Skilled Workers

Foreign nationals who have been recruited through a francophone immigration promotional event coordinated between the federal government and Francophone minority communities, and who are destined for a province or territory outside of Quebec and qualified under a National Occupational Classification (NOC) 0, A or B, may be eligible to work in Canada through Mobility Francophone.

g) Religious Workers

The need for a LMIA for religious workers will vary depending on the kind of work to be done in Canada. A foreign national may work in Canada without a LMIA when the main duties are “spiritual”.

h) Academics

This includes researchers, guest lecturers, and visiting professors.

i) Provincial LMIA Exemptions

Workers nominated by a province for permanent residence and who have obtained a job offer in that province may be exempt from the need for a LMIA.

Note: Being exempt from obtaining a LMIA does not mean the individual is exempt from obtaining a work permit. All streams on the LMIA exemption list still require the individual to obtain a work permit to work in Canada legally.

Need Help?

Contact us for more information about working in Canada or for assistance in applying for work permit.

(C) Spouse work permits

Spouses or common-law partners of full-time students with a valid study permit may apply for an open work permit. An open work permit will enable the spouse or common-law partner of the international student to work. Your spouse/partner will not require a job offer to apply, and his/her permit will be valid for the same period as your study permit. This is an excellent way for your spouse or your common-law partner to connect with the local community, gain valuable work experience and earn extra money. Your spouse or your common-law partner can apply for a work permit after you arrive to Canada. It is also possible to apply for the spouse/common-law partner work permit at the same time as applying for your initial study permit outside of Canada. Your minor child/children may also study without a study permit at the preschool, primary, or secondary level. Please note children accompanying an adult who is in Canada on a work or study permit may study in Canada without a study permit at the pre-school, primary and secondary levels.
Please note Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) require that applicants submit government application processing fees for most of applications.
Your spouse or common-law partner may apply for an open work permit if you:

are a full-time student at a:
  • public post-secondary school, such as a college or university, or CEGEP in Quebec
  • private college-level school in Quebec or
  • Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law (for example, Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate degree) and
  • have a valid study permit

a) Foreigners that are eligible for an Open Work permit

Spouse/common-law partner being sponsored for Permanent Residence through an Inland Spousal Application
  • Spouse/common-law partner of a Temporary Foreign Worker
  • Spouse/common-law partners of International Students studying in Canada
  • International Students who recently graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution and are eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program can apply for a Post-Graduation Open Work Permit

b) Spouse/Common-law of Temporary Foreign Worker

Spouse or common-law partner of a foreign temporary worker must demonstrate that:

  • the principal temporary foreign worker has employment in Canada that is at a management level, or a job in a professional occupation, or as a technical or skilled tradesperson. In other words, the skill level of the principal temporary foreign worker’s job must be level 0, A or B, according to the National Occupational Classification (NOC). This skill level requirement does not apply to principal temporary foreign workers who have been nominated for permanent residence by a province (provincial nominees).
  • the principal temporary foreign worker is permitted to work in Canada for a period of at least six months.

c) Spouse/Common-law partner of Foreign Student

To be eligible for an Open Work Permit, the spouse or common-law partner of a foreign student cannot themselves be full-time students and must demonstrate that:

  • the foreign student is studying full-time at a diploma/degree-granting, publicly-funded post-secondary educational facility; or
  • the foreign student has graduated and is the holder of a valid work permit for a job related to his or her studies.

For spouses and common-law partners, open work permits are generally issued with a validity date that coincides with the period that their spouse is permitted to work or study in Canada, as the case may be.

Our Canadian immigration services include different options where you can choose between Full Representation, Final Review and Do-It-Yourself packages. If you have any questions, you can book free immigration consultation to speak with immigration consultant in Toronto.

D) Open Work Permits (OWP)

An Open Work Permit (OWP) authorizes a foreigner to work in Canada in any job, without restrictions. The holder of an OWP does not need an LMIA or confirmation of employment first. Once issued an OWP, the holder can apply and work in any job/occupation in Canada.

a) Foreigners that are eligible for an Open Work permit:

Spouse/common-law partner being sponsored for Permanent Residence through an Inland Spousal Application
  • Spouse/common-law partner of a Temporary Foreign Worker
  • Spouse/common-law partners of International Students studying in Canada
  • International Students who recently graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution and are eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program can apply for a Post-Graduation Open Work Permit
  • International Experience Canada (IEC) Candidates (Working Holiday)

b) Inland Sponsorship

Spouses and common-law partners being sponsored through the Inland Spousal/Common-Law Partner Sponsorship Category of the Family Class can be granted an open work permit while the application for permanent residence is being processed. This allows the Spouse/Common-law partner to work in any job while waiting for permanent residence application to be processed.

c) International Graduates

To be eligible for an open work permit, graduating international students must meet the requirements under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.

d) International Experience Canada

Open work permits are also available to candidates for the International Experience Canada (IEC) Candidates under the Working Holiday category.

Type of Work Permits

a) Employer-specific work permit

An employer-specific work permit lets you work in Canada according to the conditions on your work permit, such as:

  • the name of the specific employer you can work for
  • how long you can work
  • the location where you can work (if applicable)

Before you submit your application for an employer-specific work permit, the employer who wants to hire you must complete certain steps and give you either a copy of a Labour Market Impact Assessment or an offer of employment number to include in your application.

b) Open work permit

An open work permit lets you work for any employer in Canada, except for one that:

  • is listed as ineligible on the list of employers who have failed to comply with the conditions or
  • regularly offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages

You can only get an open work permit in specific situations.

Not sure which one you should get? Find out what type of work permit you need for your situation.

Eligibility requirements for all applicants

There are specific requirements you need to meet depending on where you are when you apply for your work permit. But regardless of where you apply or which type of work permit you apply for, you must:
  • 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 (we may ask you to give us a police clearance certificate),
  • 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 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

Eligibility requirements if you apply from outside Canada

Anyone can apply before they enter Canada. However, there may be visa office requirements that you need to meet depending on what country or territory you’re applying from. Make sure you follow the instructions for how to apply.
Find out if you can benefit from the Global Skills Strategy’s two-week application processing.

Eligibility requirements if you apply from inside Canada

You can only apply for a work permit from inside Canada if:
  • you have a valid study or work permit
  • your spouse, common-law partner or parents have a valid study or work permit
  • you’ve graduated from a program at a:
    • Canadian university
    • community college
    • CÉGEP
    • publicly funded trade/technical school, or
    • other eligible school
  • you have a temporary resident permit that is valid for six months or more
  • you’re waiting on a decision on an application for permanent residence from inside Canada
  • you made or will make a claim for refugee protection
  • you’ve been recognized as a convention refugee or protected person by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
  • you’re allowed to work in Canada without a work permit but you need a work permit to work in a different job, or
  • you’re a trader, investor, intra-company transferee or professional under NAFTA

Eligibility requirements if you apply when you enter Canada at a port of entry (POE)

We recommend that you apply for your work permit before you travel to Canada. However, you can apply for a work permit when you enter Canada if:
  • you don’t need a visitor visa to come to Canada
  • AND
  • you’re applying for an open work permit, or
  • your employer has completed all of the required steps for your employer-specific work permit
You may need to take a medical exam before you come to Canada. Find out if you need one.