Backgrounder — Four-year limit for foreign nationals working in Canada

Starting April 1, 2011, many temporary foreign workers will be subject to a four-year ‘cumulative duration’ limit on the length of time they may work in Canada.

This regulation is not retroactive – The clock starts ticking on April 1, 2011, for all TFWs, regardless of how long they have already been in Canada.

The earliest date that a foreign worker could reach the four-year cumulative duration limit is April 1, 2015.

Work permit applications that propose an end-date beyond April 1, 2015, will be assessed to ensure the foreign worker is eligible to work the full period of time.

If an employer has made a job offer to a worker who has reached or is close to reaching the four-year cumulative duration limit, the work permit application may be refused or the duration of the work permit may be limited.

TFWs are asked to keep thorough records to clearly document the time they have spent working in Canada. The worker must be able to provide to the CIC or CBSA officer documents that prove there were breaks from work during the time period covered by their previous work permit. Examples of legitimate breaks from work would include:

  • Extended unpaid leave.
  • Parental leave.
  • Periods of unemployment.

If the officer is satisfied, the cumulative duration calculation would be adjusted.

After a TFW has reached their four-year cumulative duration limit, they will not be granted another work permit in Canada for an additional four years. After that time has elapsed, the worker will again be permitted to work in Canada.

Some workers will be exempt from the cumulative duration regulation.

  • TFWs in managerial (NOC 0) or professional occupations (NOC A).
  • TFWs who have applied for permanent residence and received:
  • TFWs who are employed in Canada under an international agreement, such as NAFTA, the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, or another agreement.
  • TFWs who are exempt from the Labour Market Opinion process, including:
    • Spouses and common-law partners of international graduates participating in the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program and highly-skilled TFWs;
    • Charitable or religious workers;
    • Entrepreneurs, intra-company transferees, researchers and academics;
    • Others for purposes of self-support (refugee claimants) or humanitarian reasons (destitute students, holders of Temporary Resident Permits valid for at least six months)

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