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Working Without a Work Permit or Labour Market Impact Assessment

Working Without a Work Permit or Labour Market Impact Assessment

There are exemptions to the LMIA requirement, but it takes expertise to find the right avenue.

Work Permit

To work in Canada, a person will usually need a work permit, which in many cases requires a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). However, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) do allow exemptions from this rule, which make it possible to work with a visitor visa or work permit without the LMIA requirement. 

Work permits, visitor visas, and study permits fall under the temporary resident visa (TRV) category. This category comes with a strict time limit, as an individual must leave Canada before a certain date of extension of stay, remaining in Canada as a worker, or change in conditions is not possible.

Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)

Work permits based on an LMIA require the employer to apply for a positive LMIA from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). Only when a positive confirmation is received can the potential worker apply with this document to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for the work permit itself. The LMIA application process is quite complex, and requires, besides the payment of $1,000:
  • proof of actual need
  • recruitment activities, such as Canada-wide advertising
  • comparable working conditions and wages
  • further activities depending on the position (high or low wage), such as a transition plan or targeting underrepresented groups
ESDC considers certain factors before granting a positive LMIA, one being that there is no Canadian or permanent resident to fill the position.

Due to the complexity of the process and the uncertainty of the outcome, it is advisable to look first for options to work in Canada without the LMIA requirement.

Working with a Visitor Visa

As indicated, the IRPR allows, in certain situations, work under a visitor visa with no need for a work permit. The regulation lists around 25 exemptions. Here are some of the most popular categories, along with brief explanations:
  • Business visitor: assuming remuneration and place of business is outside Canada, foreign nationals can:
    • purchase Canadian goods or services for a foreign business or government, or receive training or familiarization in respect of such goods or services
    • receive or give training within a Canadian parent or subsidiary of the corporation that employs him or her outside Canada, if any production of goods or services that results from the training is incidental
    • represent a foreign business or government to sell goods for that business or government, if the foreign national is not engaged in making sales to the general public in Canada
  • Foreign representatives with family and officers of foreign governments
  • Full-time students: on-campus work 
  • Performing artists, except for movie, TV, or radio productions: artist and members of necessary support team
  • Participants in sport events: participants and members of support team
  • Guest speakers or seminar leaders: up to 5 days
  • Clergy: preaching doctrines or providing spiritual counselling
  • Members of a foreign transportation crew
  • Implied status: Work permit holder with expired work permit who applied for extension with no decision yet
  • Holder of study permits: allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week outside campus during academic sessions if he or she is a full-time student at a designated institution and enrolled in a program with a minimum of 6 months that leads to a certificate, degree, or diploma
  • Holder of study permits who completed his/her program: if he/she applied for a work permit (post-graduate work program) but no decision has been made yet

Work Permits, LMIA Exempted

The legislation allows for a work permit without the need for an LMIA, subject to pre-requisites. 

The following list is by no means complete but focuses on the most important venues for potential foreign workers outside of Canada.
  • International Agreements and Arrangements
The most important agreements are GATS, CETA, and NAFTA
    • GATS: Has work permit provisions for professionals and intra-company transferees. For the latter, however, the intra-company transfer provisions of the Canadian legislation IRPA will be used
    • CETA: Has work permit provisions for investors, professionals/contractual service providers, and intra-company transferees/spouses. Defined business visitor and business visitors for investment purposes can work without a work permit
    • NAFTA: Has work permit provisions for investors, professionals, and intra-company transferees
  • Canadian Interests 
    • Work permits would be issued if the person applying can prove that the work would create or maintain significant social, cultural, or economic benefits or opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents 

Examples: for significant benefits programs, entrepreneurs/self-employed seeking to operate a business, intra-company transferees (executives, senior management, or specialized knowledge expert), and emergency repair personnel. 

Remember that officers will be very reluctant to provide a WP without asking for an LMIA, so benefits really must be quite significant!
    • Would create or maintain reciprocal employment of Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada in other countries
Examples: cultural agreements, the International Experience Canada (IEC) program (working holiday, international co-op, young professionals) for Canadians and foreign nationals between 18 to 35 years old, and academic exchanges (guest lecturers, elementary and secondary school teachers, and visiting professors).
    • Is designated by the Minister and related to a research program, or allows limited access to the Canadian job market for reasons of Canada’s academic institutions or competitive economy
Examples: foreign students in a program requiring less than 50% time as work for being an essential and integral part of their study, spouses or common-law partners of skilled workers or foreign students, post-graduation employment, post-doctoral fellows with a PhD, off-campus employment, medical/dental residents, and medical research fellows.
    • Is religious or charitable nature
Example: any work for a religious or charitable organization that is not in competition with a Canadian/permanent resident. 

Need of Expertise

The above is only a summary of potential avenues for working in Canada without a work permit or LMIA, and it takes expertise to find the right avenue. Also, these work permits often require a sophisticated application, especially in the category of significant benefits and intra-company transferees. Suffice it to say that a regulated, knowledgeable immigration consultant will be able to determine which approach to take and how best to prepare an application diligently with respect to existing legislation, policies, and past decision patterns. 

About the author

Gerd Damitz[CICC ID: R409487]
Amirsalam & Damitz have almost 50 years of combined experience as professional immigration consultants, and helped thousands of people to immigrate, work or study in Canada. Our reputation within our clientele and industry is impeccable.
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