How-To: Work in Canada without a Work Permit


As a general rule, foreign nationals interested in working in Canada require a work permit for any economic activity in Canada.  Often, employers are required to commit to a lengthy process proving that they are unable to hire a Canadian for the position before a work permit for that job will be granted to the foreign employee.

Fortunately, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) provides ways to get around this work permit requirement!  The Canadian governments lists a number of scenarios where foreign nationals do not need a work permit in order to be eligible to work in Canada, simplifying the process for these individuals.

The primary reason Canadian immigration policy allows for these exemptions is due to the irreplaceable nature of the foreign nationals holding these types of positions.  The types of occupations on the work permit exempt list are generally work that is required in Canadian or will be beneficial to Canadians.

Typically, work permit exempt jobs fall under one of the following categories: they either require unique skills and abilities, or the employer is also not Canadian.  The former refers to individuals whose skills and presence in their domain cannot be replicated by any Canadian or whose work has been significantly branded in the international market.  The latter refers to the employee-employer relationship taking place entirely outside of Canada, in which all of the employee’s directives and compensation come from their employer who is based outside of Canada.

The first category includes performing artists, athletes or coaches competing in Canada, foreign representatives and government officials, expert witnesses or investigators, clergy members, and public speakers.  These positions are typically filled by individuals whose specialized skill cannot be replaced in the international scene.  For example, athletes Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps would not be required to obtain a work permit to compete in Canada, and diplomats or members of the United Nations are also work permit exempt because there are no Canadian equivalents for their occupations.

The Non-Canadian Employer category refers to positions in which workers are given work by their local employers, and are only entering Canada as a means of fulfilling that work.  These occupations include business visitors in Canada that are not part of the Canadian labour market, crew members, such as truck drivers, bus drivers, shipping or airline workers, whose main work involves the international transportation of passengers or cargo, news reporters, film and media crews, and military personnel.

While a work permit may not be required for individuals who are in an occupations on the exemption list, it is important to keep in mind depending on the person’s country of origin, a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) requirement may still apply.

For more information regarding work permit exemptions and to find out if you’re eligible to work in Canada without a work permit, check out FWCanada’s Work Permit Exemptions page.  Be sure to consult this page to learn all about the guidelines for individuals who are working in Canada without a work permit.

FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration, follow FWCanada on FacebookTwitter, and Linkedin.

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