Work Permits and Free-Trade Agreements

Do you have a job offer in Canada and are interested in applying for a work permit?  You ma

y be from a country that has a free trade agreement with Canada, which can make it easier for you to obtain a work permit.

Am I from a country that has a free-trade agreement with Canada?

The following countries have free-trade agreements with Canada that have provisions for work permits: the United States, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Korea, and citizens of the European Union.

What are the benefits to applying for a work permit based on a free-trade agreement?

Most importantly, if you are eligible for a work permit under a free-trade agreement, then you do not need to apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) before you can apply for a work permit.  Applying for an LMIA can be a lengthy, expensive, and complicated process, and so applying directly for a work permit can save you time and money.  Securing a work permit can also help you get the work experience you may need to apply for permanent residence, if that is your ultimate goal.

There are many exceptions to the requirement for an LMIA and if your interest is permanent residence, you may be eligible to apply right away without the need for a work permit first, and so you should consider getting legal advice about what is the best option for you.

If I am from a country with a free-trade agreement, is any job offer sufficient?

No.  The job offer must also be in an occupation that is covered by your country’s free-trade agreement with Canada to apply under this category and benefit from the LMIA exemption.  Each agreement has its own list of the specific occupations that are eligible for work permits, and only work in one of those occupations will be eligible for a work permit.  In some cases (i.e. Peru and the EU), the agreement provides a list of occupations that are not covered by the agreement.

You must also prove that you meet the qualifications to work in the occupation in which you have been offered the job.  The specific qualifications for each occupation are usually set out in the free trade agreement itself.

You can find more information about the occupations that are covered by the free trade agreements and the requirements to work in each occupation here:

What type of work permit am I eligible for?

If you meet the requirements to apply for a work permit under a free-trade agreement and your application is approved, you will be issued what is called a “closed” work permit.  This means that your work permit will only allow you to work for the employer who offered you the job, and in the occupation of the job offer.  You cannot work for a different employer, or do a different job for the same employer unless you first obtain a new work permit.

I believe I’m eligible.  How do I apply?

You should consider getting legal advice to confirm whether you are eligible, whether this is the best option for you, and how to apply in your circumstances.  Legal advice is particularly important if there are any factors that may complicate your admissibility for a work permit, such as any criminal record, or any previous negative immigration history in Canada.

The IRCC website has information on how to file work permit applications which you should follow carefully.  Before you can file your application, the employer in Canada will need to register the job offer with Canadian immigration authorities, which can be done online and requires paying a fee.  Your application should usually include proof of a job offer from an employer in Canada, proof that you meet the requirements to work in your occupation, and proof that your employer has registered the job offer with Canadian immigration authorities.

If you are from a country whose nationals do not require a visa to travel to Canada (i.e. the US, Mexico, Chile, Korea and citizens of most EU countries), you may be able to travel to Canada and apply for your work permit at the airport or land border.  You will however require an Electronic Travel Authorization ETA) unless you are a citizen of the US.  In other cases, you will need to file an application for a work permit with a visa office before travelling to Canada, which can be done online or by mail.

This post is for informational purposes only and is neither legal advice nor a substitute for obtaining legal advice. Immigration policies and programs change frequently, and so the information in this post may have changed since it was prepared on December 16, 2017.

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Aisling Bondy, B.A., LL.B. is the Principal of Bondy Immigration Law.