Do I Need a Work Permit in Canada and How Do I Get One?

Do I Need a Work Permit in Canada and How Do I Get One?

Work permits and work visas allow you to work and earn a living in Canada. Different immigration programs in Canada have different types of work permits and work visas. While work permits are typically issued for one year, this can depend on the type of permit, duration of the work assignment, and the validity of the worker’s passport.

Who needs a work permit?

Work permits are needed by most foreigners in every province and territory in Canada. In some situations, exemptions exist in which foreign workers do not need to obtain a work permit. They can work for a short period of time if they entered Canada legally. Examples of certain categories of people who can do some jobs without a work permit include:

  • Military personnel
  • Foreign government officers and foreign representatives
  • Business visitors
  • Athletes and coaches
  • Students working on-campus
  • Media crews and reporters
  • Investigators and Expert Witnesses
  • Clergy members
  • Emergency service providers

Open Work Permits:

Open Work Permits allow individuals to work for any Canadian employer. You can apply for an open work permit if you are:

  • Applying for a permanent residence visa
  • The dependant of permanent residence applicant
  • A student (after 6 full months of study)
  • A spouse or common-law partner of some international students or workers
  • A refugee, protected person, or member of their family
  • A young worker through the International Experience Class program

Closed Work Permits:

Closed Work Permits are given to individuals who qualify through Labour Market Impact Assessment.

Student Work Permits:

Students in Canada that work solely on campus do not need work permits. If you are a foreign student that wants to work off-campus, you will need to apply for an Off-Campus Work Permit. This permit will allow you to work up to 20 hours a week while studying. To be eligible, you must be enrolled in full-time studies and have completed at least six months of your studies.

Upon completing your program of study, you can apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP). A PGWP is an open, full-time work permit. It allows you to work in any job in Canada. A PGWP is based on the duration of your studies, and may be valid for up to three years.

Bridging Open Work Permit:

A bridging open work permit (BOWP) refers to an open work permit issued to foreign nationals in Canada during the transition period between the expiry of their current work permit and a decision on their permanent residence application. Essentially, it allows one to keep working while waiting for the results of their PR application.

The bridging open work permit processing time is approximately 3 months.

Spousal Open Work Permit:

The spouses or common-law partners of foreign workers or students can obtain their own work permits if their spouse or partner works in a skilled occupation. A spousal open work permit allows one to work in any job in Canada.

A spousal open work permit is usually valid for the same amount of time as your spouse’s work permit is valid. Your work permit stays valid even if your spouse or partner loses their job, completes their studies early, or you separate or get a divorce.

Extension of spouse open work permit:

If your spouse or partner loses their job, completes their studies early, or you separate or get a divorce, you will not be able to extend your work permit. You may however, be able to apply for another work permit.

How do you get a work permit in Canada?

Applicants usually apply for a work permit outside of Canada. In some circumstances, you can apply upon entering or from within Canada.

You can apply for a work permit online or on paper by mailing it in. You must ensure that you meet all the requirements and gather the correct documents to complete the application process. On average, it takes three months to issue a work permit.

Can a Work Permit Lead to Permanent Residence?

A work permit does not allow you to live in Canada on a permanent basis. In some situations, you will be allowed to apply for permanent residence while in Canada on a work permit, if you meet the requirements under an immigration category.

For example, if you have been working in a skilled occupation for at least one year on a PGWP, you may be able to apply for permanent residence under the Canadian Experience Class.

If My Work Permit is Denied, Can I Appeal?

If your application for a work permit is denied, you can appeal to the Federal Court of Canada. If the decision was made within Canada, you have 15 days to file your appeal. If the refusal was made by an office outside of Canada, you have 60 days. These appeals often take up to a year to resolve.

To save time and energy, you can simply re-apply for a work permit with a new application rather than appealing the initial decision.


Getting a work permit in Canada can be a complex and time-consuming process. There are approximately 400,000 people in Canada on student and work permits each year. Thousands of qualified individuals are turned away each year merely due to processing capacities.

The Law Office of Matthew Jeffery are experts in work and study permit applications. An experienced immigration lawyer can increase the chances of your work or study permit being issued. Please CONTACT US to find out if we can help you with your matters.