Can I travel outside Canada after applying for a work permit extension? 

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: February 22, 2024

When a foreign national applies to extend their Canadian work permit, they are free to leave Canada and come back.

However, upon returning to Canada, work permit extension applicants should be aware that one of three things will take place.

In some cases, work permit applicants may need to return to Canada as a visitor instead of a temporary resident. This means applicants may not be able to continue working in Canada if they travel outside the country.

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Note: The first two of the three following situations assume that the applicant has not yet received approval for their work permit extension.

Re-entry as a visitor

Work permit extension applicants may be permitted to re-enter Canada as a visitor, meaning they cannot work upon their return until a decision has been made on their extension.

At this time, permit extension applicants may also be asked to prove to an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officer that they have enough money to support themselves in Canada.

Request to apply for a new work permit

Extension applicants may also be asked to apply for a new work permit at the port of entry upon their return to Canada.

Note that IRCC does not clarify whether these applicants can immediately continue working in Canada if they apply at the port of entry when they return or if they need to wait for the new permit to be processed.

Re-entry as a worker

In some cases, IRCC officers will determine that the applicant was granted their work permit extension while outside of Canada. In this case, the applicant may be allowed to return to Canada as a worker.

Re-entry requirements as a work permit holder

While permitted to leave and re-enter Canada freely, work permit holders must also meet certain re-entry requirements to be allowed back into the country.

For instance, in addition to the permit itself, work permit holders must also have either a Temporary Resident Visa (also known as a visitor visa) or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).

Still, according to IRCC, “Having an eTA or a visa, along with your work permit, doesn’t guarantee that we will let you back into Canada.”

Visitor visas and eTAs

The re-entry requirements for temporary residents in Canada vary depending on an individual’s situation, as requirements for re-entry are different for residents of visa-exempt countries and those who reside in visa-required countries.

Residents of visa-exempt countries

Alongside their work permits, residents of visa-exempt countries require a valid passport and an eTA to re-enter Canada.

According to IRCC, eTAs are only required for those planning to travel to Canada by air. In other words, temporary residents “don’t need an eTA if you’re arriving by car, bus, train or boat (including cruise ship).”

Note: IRCC clarifies that eTAs are “automatically issued” when an applicant’s “initial work permit” is approved. Details can be found in the applicant’s letter of introduction.

Residents of visa-required countries

Residents of visa-required countries will require “a valid visa and a valid work permit to return to Canada” for work.

Note: IRCC clarifies that valid visas are not required for those who “return directly from a visit only to the United States or St. Pierre and Miquelon.”

In the case that a resident’s visitor visa has expired or was only valid for a single entry to Canada, they must re-apply for a visitor visa. In addition, residents of visa-required countries can use a valid visitor visa “to travel to Canada until it expires.”

A visitor visa will let you travel to Canada by plane, car, bus, train or boat.

eTAs for some citizens of certain visa-required countries

According to IRCC, “eligible citizens of some visa-required countries will receive an eTA when they renew their work permit”. The eTA is valid for five years or until the recipient’s passport expires.

eTAs obtained by residents of visa-required countries can only be used when travelling to or through Canada by air on their way to their final destination.

Schedule a Free Work Permit Consultation with the Cohen Immigration Law Firm

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