Working Temporarily in Canada

Temporary foreign workers often have a lot to offer to a Canadian employer, like a unique set of skills that can be transferred to domestic workers or the experience to lead a new project that may create jobs for Canadians.

This brochure outlines what you and your Canadian employer must do before you arrive in Canada. For additional advice, consult the Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) website or contact the Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate near you.

What you need to know

If you wish to work temporarily in Canada, you will likely require a work permit, which provides evidence that you have been authorized to work while in Canada. It is usually valid only for the specific job, employer and length of time stated on the permit. An immigration officer may issue a work permit after Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) has issued a labour market opinion confirmation letter for your job offer.

A work permit will not be issued to you to come to Canada to look for work. In addition, ESDC staff in Canada and visa officers in your home country cannot help you find a job.

If you intend to work in the province of Quebec, you may also need to get a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) from the Quebec government before a work permit can be issued. Information about the CAQ can be obtained from the Ministère de l’Immigration et des Communautés culturelles (Quebec immigration), or by contacting either a Canadian embassy abroad or a Canada Immigration Centre in Canada.

What your employer must do

Your employer must give details of your job offer to ESDC. This includes:

  • a description of the duties;
  • the wages and working conditions;
  • a statement of essential qualifications;
  • registrations or licenses that you need; and
  • your name, birth date, place of birth and address.

The employer must also show that hiring a foreign national to fill the position will result in a neutral or positive effect on the labour market in Canada.

An employment counsellor will check to determine if your offer of employment meets the prevailing wages and working conditions for the occupation concerned. The counsellor will also consider the likelihood that a suitably qualified Canadian citizen or permanent resident would be able to fill the position. If not, and the other conditions are met, ESDC will approve your job offer. They will then issue a confirmation of offer of employment and make it available to the relevant visa office serving your country.

The employer should send you:

  • a copy of ESDC labour market opinion confirmation letter for the job offer, including the file number; and
  • a detailed job offer so that you can provide it to immigration officers when applying for a work permit.

Your employer is also responsible for arranging for your worker’s compensation and medical coverage when you arrive in Canada.

Some jobs may be exempt from the need of an ESDC labour market opinion. Details concerning exemptions can be found on the CIC website.

What you must do

Once your employer has sent you the necessary documents, you can apply for a work permit at the appropriate Canadian mission abroad. (You cannot apply for a work permit while you are in Canada as a visitor.) Remember to attach copies of both your labour market opinion confirmation and the detailed job offer to your application. You will be required to pay a non-refundable processing fee. Please refer to the CIC brochure on immigration fees or ask an immigration officer for fee information.

While your application is being processed, you may be asked to go to an interview with CIC officials in your country or to send further information to CIC. Depending on your intended occupation and length of employment in Canada, you may also be requested to undergo a medical examination, which you will have to pay for yourself.

If you qualify and have all the necessary documents (including approval of your job offer by ESDC, where necessary), you will be approved for a work permit. In some cases, a temporary resident visa may also be placed on your passport. It is important to note that a work permit is not a visa to enter Canada, and the approval of your permit is not a guarantee that the immigration officer at the port of entry will admit you into the country.

If you have been authorized to work by a visa office outside of Canada, you will be given a letter that you should show to the officer upon arrival in Canada. You should also have your passport, visa (if required) and any travel documents you may be carrying (e.g., airline tickets) with you. At the port of entry, you will be issued a work permit which may specify that you can only work at a specific job for a specific period of time and for a specific employer.

When you arrive in Canada

When you arrive at the port of entry in Canada, give the confirmation file number for your offer of employment (if you have it) to an immigration officer. If you have a letter indicating that your work permit has been approved, bring it as well. The work permit itself is not a travel document. The actual work permit will be printed and provided to you at the port of entry when you enter Canada.

Some workers can apply at a port of entry

Most foreign workers must apply for a work permit outside of Canada. However, you may apply for a permit when you arrive at a port of entry in Canada if:

  • you are from the U.S., Greenland or St. Pierre and Miquelon;
  • you do not need a temporary resident visa (TRV) to visit Canada and your job does not need a labour market opinion from ESDC;
  • you will not be working as a live-in caregiver or as a seasonal agricultural worker;
  • you do not need a TRV to visit Canada, your job requires you to have an ESDC labour market opinion and it has been issued by the time you arrive.

To apply this way, the labour market opinion confirmation letter for your job offer must be available, and you must produce the offer of employment and other necessary papers when you arrive. Remember that you must find out what papers you will need before arriving in Canada. Check with a Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate.

Getting your Social Insurance Number

You must have a Social Insurance Number (SIN) in order to work in Canada or to have access to government programs and benefits.

To apply for your SIN, simply gather all the required original proof-of-identity documents and take them to the nearest Service Canada point of service. If everything is in order, you will get your SIN at the time of your visit.

Once you receive your SIN, provide the number to your employer.

Changes to your employment situation

Your work permit is not a contract between you and your employer. Your employment is subject to the same laws that apply to any employment situation in the province where you will be working. However, if your duties change or your job is to be extended, you must contact CIC right away to obtain an extension or a modification of the terms and conditions to your existing work permit before the expiry date. You can do this by submitting an application to the Case Processing Centre (CPC) in Vegreville, Alberta T9C 1X6.

If you are offered another job in Canada, you cannot start the new job without the approval of CPC-Vegreville.

You must follow the terms of your work permit while in Canada. If you do not, you may be required to leave the country.

Labour Standards

If you feel that your employer treats you unfairly, you may call or write to the nearest provincial or territorial labour standards office.

For more information

For more information on Citizenship and Immigration Canada, contact us as follows.

If you are in Canada, contact the CIC Call Centre at 1 888 242-2100. Automated telephone service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and Call Centre agents are available Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., your local time.

If you are hearing impaired and use a text telephone, you can access the TTY service Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. by calling 1-888 576-8502.

If you are outside Canada, contact the Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate responsible for your region.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1

(613) 952-5533

Planning a visit to Canada? Log on to the Canadian Tourism Commission’s website for tourism information.

© Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2005
Cat. no. Ci51-118/2005
ISBN 0-662-66719-0

Date Modified: