How to apply for a Canadian open work permit

Shelby Thevenot
Published: March 9, 2022

Open work permits allow foreign workers the flexibility to choose where they work in Canada.

Oftentimes, foreign nationals who want to work in Canada need a work permit. These permits may be tied to a specific employer, or occupation. By contrast, open work permits allow for freedom of movement, whether it is between workplaces, occupations or locations in Canada.

Canadian employers do not need to do a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) in order to hire a foreign worker on an open work permit.

There are numerous ways to be eligible for an open work permit. Here are some of the more prominent ways:

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International student graduates

In 2021, most LMIA-exempt work permits went to international student graduates who were eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).

After graduation, international students can be eligible to work in Canada for up to three years if they completed a full-time study program of at least two years in duration. Study programs that are longer than eight months but shorter than two years may be eligible for a PGWP that matches the length of their program.

To be eligible, international students have to be going to a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada. IRCC has allowed for some flexibility within the eligibility criteria as a result of the pandemic. For example, IRCC is now allowing international students to have completed 100% of their study program online between March 2020 and August 2022.

Citizens of foreign countries with reciprocal agreements

International Experience Canada (IEC) is designed to allow foreign youth from over 30 different countries to work in Canada.

Youth between the ages of 18 and 35 may be eligible for a Working Holiday visa. Participants do not need a job offer, but will need to meet the criteria to be eligible for the IEC.

The IEC generally requires candidates to have the equivalent of $2,500 CAD to cover expenses, not be accompanied by dependents, be admissible to Canada, among other criteria.

Spouses and common-law partners of Canadians and temporary residents

Canada offers open work permit options to the spouse of Canadians, temporary foreign workers, and international students.

Spouses of Canadian citizens and permanent residents may be eligible for a Spousal Open Work Permit if they are applying under inland sponsorship, and living in Canada with their partner

Spouses of temporary foreign workers may also be able to get an open work permit. The temporary foreign worker has to meet certain eligibility criteria, such as having a work permit that will be valid for six months after the open spousal work permit is received, among others. The foreign worker also has to meet one of four conditions: working in a National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill level of 0, A, or B; working in any occupation when accepted to an Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP) stream; working in any occupation holding a provincial or territorial nomination from the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP); or working in any occupation and holding a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ). There are also further program-specific criteria that must be met depending on the temporary foreign worker's situation.

Finally, spouses of international students may be able to get an open work permit if they can demonstrate to the government that they are in a genuine relationship, and that the international student is enrolled in an eligible program.

Permanent residency applicants

Bridging Open Work Permits (BOWPs) allow people who have applied for permanent residence to remain in Canada while waiting for a decision on their application.

The following immigration programs are eligible for a BOWP:

The BOWP makes it so foreign nationals do not have to leave their jobs or the country if their temporary status expires before their permanent residence application is processed. It also means employers do not have to get an LMIA-based work permit in order to keep their foreign employee.

Find out if you are eligible for Canadian immigration

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