Do You Know About The 4 Year Maximum Rule For Working in Canada?


Deadline - Word on ClockFor those who want to work temporarily in Canada, there is a 4 year maximum (cumulative duration) rule.  This means you can only work in Canada for a total period of 4 years.

When you reach that 4 year limit, you have to wait another 4 years before you can work in Canada again.

No big deal right? Well, it depends.

The problem is that lots of work activity in Canada counts towards that 4 year period, and you might be surprised what it includes.

The following list of activities in Canada count towards your 4 year limit.  So you have to include all those days spent in Canada and begin adding them up:

  • Time spent working with a work permit (obviously).
  • Time spent working under a post-graduation work permit.
  • Time spent working in Canada under an exemption to a requirement for a work permit.  Here’s where people sometimes stop counting, but it’s all included.  So for example, if you are here as a business visitor without a work permit, each day still counts towards your 4 year limit.
  • Time spent in unpaid work.  Whoa – most people miss this entirely.  Yes, if you are working here as a volunteer, this time still counts towards the 4 year limit!

So what can you do in Canada that won’t count toward the 4 year maximum?

The following type of work will not be counted toward to cumulative duration of 4 years:

  • Time spent working before April 1, 2011; and
  • Time spent working while authorized to study on a full-time basis, such as co-ops and internships.

There are also some exceptions from counting toward the 4 year maximum.  These are as follows:

  •  Gaps in employment in Canada of one month or more (for example, traveling outside of Canada, periods of medical leave and so forth.  BUT vacation time and part-time work don’t count here.  So you can not take a one month vacation and subtract it from your 4 year maximum.
  • Time spent working in managerial or professional positions (NOC level O or A) are exempt, however, the time spent working is still counted.  For example, if you were working as a professional for 4 years, then you wanted to work in a different occupation in NOC B, you would not be issued a work permit.  You could continue to work as a professional however beyond the 4 year period.
  • Time spent working in a labour market opinion exempt category such as NAFTA, or spouses of workers with a work permit, or those with in-Canada permanent resident applications under way.
  • Those who have applied for permanent residence and received a Provincial Nominee Program certificate, or who have received a positive selection decision under the Federal Skilled Worker Class or Canadian Experience Class.

Remember, it is up to you to convince the visa officer that your 4 year cumulative period has not elapsed.  So keep records of what you were doing and when, especially if you plan to rely on one of the exceptions above.

Let’s say you’ve worked in Canada of a total of 4 years when you add-up all the days since April 1, 2011 (when the rule started).

What can you do?

You can either continue working in a category that is an exception (above) or wait for 4 more years NOT working in Canada, in order to work in Canada again.

Why is this rule in place?

CIC is simply recognizing that the temporary worker program is temporary.  It is not meant to go on indefinitely.  CIC is trying to encourage people who work in Canada for lengthy periods to apply for permanent residence.

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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