How To Get A Work Visa For Canada

Work Visas / Permits

I blog a lot about the details of the different immigration categories.  This time, I’m going to take a higher level view on how an individual can obtain a work permit for Canada.

I’ll address business visitors and other workers in another post.

In most circumstances, obtaining a work permit usually requires a job offer from a Canadian employer.  Depending on your citizenship and occupation, this job offer may or may not have to be “confirmed” by a government agency in Canada called Service Canada which issues a labour market opinion.

The labour market opinion simply confirms whether or not it is difficult (or impossible) for an employer to find a Canadian to do the job.  Canada has what is termed a “Canadians First” policy which means that if Canadians are readily available to do the work, then a work permit will not be issued to a foreign national.

Work Permits That Do Not Require A Labour Opinion

If you are a US or Mexican citizen you may be in luck – you may be able to take advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which means you won’t have to get a positive labour market opinion from Service Canada.  You will still need a job offer from an employer but your employer will not have to show that it is difficult to find a Canadian to do the job.

However, in order to take advantage of NAFTA as a professional, your profession and training have to be on the list of NAFTA professionals. Click here  to see the list of professionals and training requirements to qualify as a professional under NAFTA.

Another work permit that does not require a labour market opinion is an open work permit that can be applied for by a spouse of a foreign student or worker in Canada.  An open work permit allows a spouse to work for whomever he or she chooses in Canada.

There are other work permits that do not require a labour market opinion that I’ll address in another post.

Work Permits That Do Require A Labour Market Opinion

Most work permits require a labour market opinion.  Generally, a work permit will only be issued to individuals in an occupation level of A, B or 0 in the National Occupational Classification of Canada.  These are generally skilled, management or scientific occupations.

There are provisions for work permits for individuals to perform semi-skilled labour through a number of provincial nominee programs.

In order to obtain a work permit, an individual must first secure a job offer from a Canadian employer.  This job offer will be subject to a positive opinion from Service Canada and the individual obtaining the work permit.

The employer must follow very specific steps in terms of advertising the position across Canada using various methods (and for various time periods) depending on the position and occupation.

The employer must then apply to Service Canada using their forms and providing supporting evidence (such as job ads, the offer letter, certificate of incorporation and so forth) for a labour market opinion.  There are Service Canada offices in each Canadian province.

If the opinion is positive (or neutral), the next step is for the individual to apply for a work permit with a copy of this labour market opinion to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

CIC will evaluate the individual’s training and experience to determine whether he or she qualifies for a work permit.  If so, CIC will grant a work permit (barring any criminal or medical issues depending on the circumstances) for usually 2 years, though it varies.

An individual with a spouse should also always apply for an open work permit for the spouse, as these are not automatically granted – they must be applied for.

As mentioned, there are other avenues to work in Canada without a labour market opinion (or even a work permit), which I’ll discuss in future posts.

The process can be a bit daunting for both the employer and worker, so consulting a Canada immigration lawyer is always a good bet.

About the author

Gianpaolo Panusa Gianpaolo Panusa is a Canadian immigration lawyer, writer, and founder of the PanCanadian Immigration Law Group based in Vancouver, Canada. Google+ Profile


  • Jaymacpherson

    hi there ,,i have a question regarding getting a work visa for my son ,,hes here visiting us his parents for 6 months he has been offered a job and the business have applied for a lmo he is a chef ,,,so we thought we would prep forms for the work visa so as not to slow down the process if and when the lmo came back approved ,,,we have been on the immigration web site and there are only forms for applying for a work visa outside of canada ??? how do you apply for a work visa if are already here visiting ???

  • http://immigrationcanada.pro Gianpaolo Panusa

    If the LMO is successful, you can likely use the “Application to Change Conditions or Extend Your Stay” form and package from CIC, so long as his resident status is still valid. That’s just the form – there are of course many other requirements to meet in order to get the permit.

  • http://immigrationcanada.pro Gianpaolo Panusa

    I encourage you to sign-up with at our discussion forum:

    http://immigrationcanada.pro/canada-immigration-forum