Notice – REMINDER: Four-Year Rule for Foreign Workers

April 1, 2015– The first foreign workers to reach the four-year maximum for working in Canada will do so on April 1, 2015.

As the rule was put in place in 2011, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is providing this reminder of the important details of the policy.

What is the four-year rule?

The four-year rule limits the amount of time a temporary foreign worker can work in Canada to four years.

After four years of work in Canada, a foreign national who is here, in most cases, through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program cannot work in Canada again for four more years, unless an exception applies to their situation.

With exceptions in place, the workers most affected by the four-year rule rule will be those who require a Labour Market Impact Assessment and work in occupations at the NOC B, C or D level in Employment and Social Development Canada’s National Occupational Classification.  

The goal of this rule is to encourage qualified foreign workers and their employers to use appropriate pathways to permanent residence instead of using temporary permits to extend a worker’s stay in Canada indefinitely.

It is also important that temporary foreign workers who are not transitioning to permanent residence do not remain in Canada up to the point that they lose their connection to their home country.

The four-year rule is taken into consideration each time a processing officer determines the expiration date of a work permit before issuing it. For instance, if a worker has worked in Canada for three years, an officer will only approve an extension of that work permit for one additional year.

Workers agree in their application that they are coming to Canada to work temporarily. They are expected to abide by the conditions of their work permit, including ending their employment and leaving the country when their work permit expires, unless they have another legal status in Canada.

Does all work count?

Work that a foreign national performs in Canada counts toward the four-year maximum.

The only work done in Canada that does not count towards the four-year maximum is work done while studying in Canada on a full-time basis.

What are the exceptions to the four-year rule?

There are exceptions to the four-year rule that allow some types of foreign nationals to work in Canada beyond the limit. 

A processing officer can approve a work permit application to allow foreign workers in certain situations to work more than four years in Canada, assuming all other criteria have been met.

These categories are the exceptions for which a work permit can exceed the four-year limit:

  • NOC O and A (including spouses/common-law partners of these skilled temporary foreign workers)
  • All Labour Market Impact Assessment-exempt categories (excluding spouses/common-law partners of NOC B workers)
  • Seasonal Agricultural Workers
  • Jobs that do not need a work permit
  • Permanent resident applicants who have received a positive selection decision or approval in principle
  • Provincial nominees applying for an employer-specific work permit
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