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.

Immigration for Individuals | Immigration for Businesses | Immigration for Families | Canadian Work Permits

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 Service Canada. 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 after exhausting the search for a Canadian to fill the position.

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 Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) and the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement are two examples of international agreements that facilitate the issuance of work permits.


The Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) – formerly called 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 CUSMA 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 CUSMA 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

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