Changing Immigration Status in Canada

I get many enquiries from people who come to Canada and then wish to change their status from visitor to worker (for example) or even apply for permanent residence.

Can it be done?

Generally, a person can apply to change their temporary status from visitor to worker within Canada, however, that individual must still obtain a work permit. There is no right to remain in Canada as a worker without a work permit.

However, a problem of timing arises. Most commonly, work permits require a job offer from an employer and a positive labour market opinion from Human Resources Skills Development Canada. After this is obtained, the individual must then apply for a work permit. This process takes time, and the time it takes to obtain a work permit may exceed the person’s permitted time to stay in Canada as a visitor.

This means the individual may have to leave Canada before a work permit is approved and status can be changed.

So although the status change process can be initiated in Canada, an individual has to be prepared to leave Canada if the work permit process is not completed by the time his or her visitor visa status expired.

Changing status from visitor to permanent resident is not possible. The permanent resident application process is lengthy and has many requirements as discussed in various past blogs I’ve written on this site. It is simply not possible to arrive in Canada as a visitor and expect to remain as a permanent resident.

If an individual arrives in Canada as a worker, then he or she may be able to apply for permanent residence under the Canada Experience Class immigration category after 24 months of work experience in Canada. The Canada Experience Class category still takes about 12 months, so an individual would need a work permit extension of at least another year in order to remain in Canada during the permanent resident application process under the Canada Experience Class.

In my experience, CIC will often grant work permit extensions to allow individuals to remain in Canada during processing of a Canada Experience Class permanent residence application.

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


  • http://twitter.com/GennexTrader GennexTrader

    What if for a student.
    I am doing MBA since January 2013 now on a student visa. This is 24 month/6 semester course

    Now, if I find a suitable employer, willing to sponsor/hire me after positive Labor Market Opinion.. Can I change status from Student Visa to Work Visa.

    P.S. I have 4 yr. Bachelors of Science Degree in Comp. Science.