There is a difference between a charitable worker, who needs a work permit, and a volunteer worker, who is work-permit exempt. The difference is based on the definition of “work” and entry into the labour market. A volunteer worker, whose activity is incidental to their main purpose for entering Canada and does not meet the definition of work, does not require a work permit (e.g., being a Big Brother or Big Sister to a child, being on the telephone line at a rape crisis centre, canvassing for donations). A charitable worker usually takes a position involving an activity that meets the definition of work and requires a work permit because they are participating in a competitive activity or are being paid wages (e.g., group home worker, carpenter for Habitat for Humanity).
Paragraph 205(d) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) applies to foreign nationals whose work in Canada will be of a charitable or religious nature, regardless of whether a wage is received. Simply being employed by a Canadian religious or charitable organization is not sufficient to meet the requirements for this Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exemption. For example, an administrator or office manager’s work in a charitable organization is generally not of a charitable nature. Similarly, the primary work of a cook for a religious camp or of an accountant for a religious organization is not of a religious nature.
Charitable purposes are the relief of poverty, advancement of education or certain other purposes that benefit the community.
While being a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)-registered charity is not a requirement, if an organization is registered, it may be an indication that the type of work performed on behalf of that organization is indeed charitable in nature. For non-profit organizations and other organizations that are not registered with the CRA, officers may request additional information from the prospective employer to determine if the work is of a charitable nature.
Factors to consider
Officers should consider the following factors in determining whether a person will be engaging in charitable work:
- whether the work performed by the individual will help relieve poverty, advance education or meet specific community needs—for example,
- cooking at homeless shelters,
- being a teacher’s assistant supplied by a charitable organization to a school because funds are not available for the school to hire;
- whether the organization or institution employing the foreign worker will receive direct remuneration for the services rendered by the foreign worker (employers are considered to be receiving direct remuneration if they are paid or receive a benefit for the specific duties performed by the foreign national, such as a charitable organization receiving a payment for painting public buildings and hiring a foreign national to do the painting);
- whether the work goes above and beyond normal work in the labour market, whether the foreign national is remunerated in some manner or not—for example, work for
- organizations that gather volunteer workers to paint or repair low-income housing, provided the work would not otherwise be done (i.e., if the recipients of this work are not able to hire a professional or do the work themselves);
- L’Arche, which relies on people to live full time in a group home with people who have developmental disabilities (workers in the homes are remunerated, but they are committed to taking care of the people who have developmental disabilities on an almost 24-hour basis); and
- community organizations in a position that does not represent a real employment opportunity for Canadians or permanent residents.
Though it is not mandatory, work of a religious nature normally entails a requirement for the foreign national to be part of or share the beliefs of the particular religious community where they will work, or to have the ability to teach or share other religious beliefs, as required by the employer.
The primary duties of the temporary worker should reflect a particular religious objective, such as providing religious instruction or promoting a particular faith. The work should involve advancing the spiritual teachings of a religious faith as well as maintaining the doctrines and spiritual observances on which those teachings are based.
Missionaries who will devote their time to missionary service for their religious organization or proselytizing may enter Canada to work without a permit, pursuant to paragraph R186(l). However, they may choose to request a work permit under paragraph R205(d) instead of entering as a visitor. They should be attached to a congregation in Canada, and this type of work should be a usual congregational activity (e.g., a Mormon missionary sent by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
See Authorization to work without a work permit – Clergy for guidance on determining the genuineness of a job offer in the clergy.
Processing the work permit
LMIA exemption code: C50
LMIA-exempt number: The offer of employment number (LMIA-exempt) is required.
Fees: The employer compliance fee and work permit processing fee may be required.
- The work permit fee exemption code is E02 if the foreign national is unremunerated. To be fee-exempt, the foreign national cannot receive remuneration other than a stipend for living expenses, which should be, if monetary, below the prevailing minimum wage. Otherwise, the foreign national should receive only non-monetary benefits (e.g., accommodation and health care).
- The employer compliance fee exemption code is EC1 if code E02 is used for the work permit.
Duration: The work permit should be issued for the period specified in the offer of employment.
If there is no offer of employment information provided, as per section R209.11, the work permit should be refused, as per the instructions in Employer-specific work permits with Labour Market Impact Assessment exemptions.
- Date Modified: