Rules to enter Canada during the pandemic for work
People looking to work in Canada temporarily may still be able to do so despite COVID-19 related travel restrictions. This applies to all types of work and is not exclusive to health care or other essential work.
The Canadian border is only closed to what the government considers “non-essential” travel. Those who are exempt from the travel restrictions include Canadians, permanent residents, their families, international students and temporary foreign workers, among others.
In order to enter Canada during the pandemic for work, you will need to have a letter of introduction for a work permit and a valid immigration medical exam. You must also be able to work after you complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine period. In addition, you will need to have a job offer, unless you will be working with a spouse or common-law partner open work permit.
If you do not have a job offer, your immigration medical exam has expired, or your employer closed their business due to COVID-19, you may be refused entry to Canada.
What types of work permits are available?
Work permits in Canada can be divided into two categories:
- Work permits that require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA),
- Work permits that do not require an LMIA.
An LMIA is a document which demonstrates that the employer is hiring a foreign worker because there is no Canadian available for the job. The employer is responsible for getting the LMIA. In most cases, your work permit will require the document.
However, under certain circumstances, you may not need to get an LMIA as part of your application. You may be eligible for an LMIA-exempt work permit if:
- You can demonstrate that you will significantly benefit Canada socially or culturally;
- You are part of a reciprocal employment agreement, such as the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) or an international exchange program such as the International Experience Canada (IEC);
- You intend to carry out charitable or religious work;
- You are an entrepreneur or a self-employed person looking to start or run a business in Canada;
- You are transferring within your company;
- You are a dependent of a foreign worker in Canada;
- You speak French and intend to live outside Quebec;
- You are an academic (such as visiting professor or guest lecturer);
- You have been nominated by a province to work in Canada.
How do I apply for a work permit?
If you have a job offer and wish to apply for a work permit in Canada, the first step is for your employer to get an LMIA from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). The LMIA needs to be neutral or positive. The employer will give you the LMIA approval letter, as you will need it to apply for your work permit. This step can be ignored if the work permit is LMIA-exempt.
If the job is in Quebec, you will need to get a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) by applying for it through Quebec’s immigration ministry.
The next step is for the employer to formally make the temporary job offer.
At this point, you are ready to submit your application. You will need your LMIA approval letter, your job offer letter, and the CAQ if you are Quebec-bound.
If successful, you will be issued your work permit.
Do I need a job offer to get a work permit?
In most cases, you will need to have a job offer before applying for a work permit. However, it depends whether you have a closed or open work permit.
Closed work permits include employer-specific work permits, which tie you to one employer. Occupation-specific work permits, such as those under caregiver programs, tie you to a certain occupation, but allow you to change employers.
Open work permits allow you to work for any employer in Canada. You will not need a job offer to get this type of work permit, however there are only certain cases where you can apply.
International students who graduate from a Canadian designated learning institution may be eligible to apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP). This open work permit allows graduates to stay in Canada and work for any employer. It is valid for up to three years.
In addition, those who have applied for permanent residence and are in Canada may get a Bridging Open Work Permit, along with their dependents.
Spouses or children of temporary foreign workers or international student are also eligible to work in Canada with an open work permit, as well as refugees, asylum seekers and protected persons.
Source: CIC – Citizenship and Immigration Canada
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