Canadian Work Permits

In limited situations, a foreign national may apply to enter Canada for work or business without requiring a work permit. Business visitors engaging in these limited activities, religious workers, and emergency workers are examples of those who do not require work permits. An exhaustive list and the description of activities permitted appears in section 187 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

Business Vistors

Business visitors may enter Canada to work without having to apply for a work permit. In order to qualify as a business visitor, individuals must demonstrate that they are entering Canada to pursue business activities that fall outside of the Canadian labour market. The principal place of business must remain outside of Canada and their primary source of remuneration must also originate from outside Canada. Business visitors must maintain a foreign residence and be paid by an entity outside Canada. The business visitor category is wide in scope, but not every activity qualifies for a business visitor visa. Generally, activities that reflect components of a business cycle will be accepted for business visitor purposes. Examples include entering Canada to perform after-sales service contracts, general service contracts, activities related to research and design, growth, manufacture and production, marketing, sales, and distribution. Trainers, Intra-company training, and installation activities are also covered.

Work Permits

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has two distinct streams for foreign nationals seeking work permits in Canada:

  1. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP);
  2. The International Mobility Program (IMP)

Temporary Foreign Worker Program

The TFWP is managed by a branch of the Canadian government called Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). The program is in place for employers as a last resort to employ a foreign worker where Canadians or permanent residents of Canada are not available to fill the position. The employer is required to file a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) application, which replaced the former Labour Market Opinion (LMO) application. The process to apply for an LMIA is similar to the previous LMO process. First, the employer must apply for the LMIA from ESDC. With an approval, the foreign worker can then apply for a work permit from CIC.

The LMIA is process has five (5) streams based on wage level or occupation. The streams are

      1. Low wage: Occupations with a prevailing wage below the provincial/ territorial median wage
      2. High Wage: Occupations with a prevailing wage at or above the provincial/territorial median wage.
      3. Highest Demand, Highest Paid or Shortest Duration Occupations:
        Allows for speedier LMIA processing times.
        Highest Demand: Selected occupations that are deemed to be “high demand” in Canada
        Highest Paid: Occupations where the prevailing wage for the occupation is in the top 10% of wages earned by Canadians in a given province or territory.
        Shortest Duration: Occupations where the employee is required to enter Canada for 120 days or less and where the wages offered are at or above the provincial/territorial median. Renewals will not be permitted in this category.
      4. Primary Agricultural
      5. In-Home Caregiver

The LMIA application requires employers to sign off on a series of attestations that are aimed to ensure employer compliance.

International Mobility Program

With the objective of advancing Canada’s economic and cultural national interest, the International Mobility Program or IMP, is the processing stream for temporary foreign worker applicants who do not require an LMIA. The IMP categories include: Intra-company transfers, International Experience Canada (IEC)/ working holiday, professional or business work permits based on an international agreement, reciprocal employment, emergency repair, post graduate work permits, bridging open work permits and spousal work permits.

Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) Work Permits

Companies may transfer their currently employed senior managers, executives or specialized knowledge foreign national employees to a Canadian branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of their foreign company. Citizens of all countries may apply for an intra-company transfer (ICT) work permit.

The requirements to qualify for an intra-company transfer are:

    • Employee must be currently employed by the overseas company with at least 1 year of continuous employment in the past 3 years
    • Foreign company must be permanent and a continuing establishment.
    • The employee is seeking to enter Canada for a temporary period to work for the Canadian company.

Work permits may be issued for an initial period of 3 years and are renewable in two year increments. The maximum duration for senior managers or executives is 7 years and 5 years for specialized knowledge employees.

Specialized Knowledge Intra-company Transfer

Effective June 1, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration introduced a more rigorous approach to evaluating what constitutes specialized knowledge. In order to establish that an employee has specialized knowledge, the applicant must demonstrate that they hold both proprietary knowledge and advanced expertise within the company and industry. In order to be approved, an application in this category must establish that the specialized knowledge employee’s will be paid according to the mandatory wage floor.

New Canadian Office

Foreign based companies may also transfer senior managers or executives to a newly formed Canadian branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of their foreign company. In addition to the requirements to apply for an ICT work permit for an existing Canadian company, a new office ICT application should be supported by a business plan, evidence of physical office premises.

International Agreement

The Canadian government has entered into international agreements that promote mobility of people between countries. The North American Free Trade Agreement and the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement are two examples of international agreements that facilitate the issuance of work permits.


The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) eases temporary entry into Canada of citizens for citizens of the United States and Mexico who are:

    • Traders
    • Investors
    • Professionals (limited to 60 occupations)
    • Business Visitors
    • Intra-company transfers

Applicants who qualify for entry under NAFTA are exempt from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) requirements for a work permit. Work permits are applied for, assessed, and issued at the Canadian port of entry by US citizens. Mexican citizens should apply for NAFTA based work visas or business visitor visas at a Canadian visa post.

For further information on international agreements and Canadian work permits, contact us at


FREE PARKING Behind office building Drive down Lomond from Aberfoyle. Just before the “dead end” where the TTC Parking Lot begins, turn LEFT and speak with the Parking Attendant. Tell him you’re here for an appointment with Sikand Immigration Law and you will be given FREE parking.


3250 Bloor Street West Suite 600, Toronto ON M8X 2X9


Tel: 647-875-2114