Four-year maximum – Work in Canada

Most people can come to Canada to work for a maximum of four years. If you are currently working or plan to work in Canada, you should keep track of the total time you have worked and plan to work in Canada. After you have worked temporarily for four years in Canada, you will not be eligible to work in Canada again until another period of four years has passed.

Before you are eligible to work again in Canada, you will need to spend four consecutive years either:

  • outside of Canada; or
  • in Canada but not working (i.e. with legal status as a visitor or student).

At that point, you can apply for a work permit and you can start another four years of working in Canada.

This is known as the ‘cumulative duration’ rule.

Find out if and how the four-year maximum affects you.

Applying to extend your work permit

You will be allowed to extend your work permit for a period of time that adds up to – but does not exceed – the maximum of four years of work in Canada.

All work you do in Canada counts toward your four-year maximum, including all:


When you work in one of the occupations or categories listed below, the time you work in Canada is still counted toward your four-year maximum.

It is only when you apply for a work permit that these exceptions become relevant. An officer may issue a work permit to you if you have a job offer in one of these occupations/categories, even if you have already worked in Canada for four years.

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

  • NOC O and A (including spouses/dependants of these skilled temporary foreign workers)
  • LMIA-exempt jobs under
    • International agreements
    • Canadian interests
    • Self-support
    • Humanitarian reasons
  • 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

Any work done while studying in Canada on a full-time basis does not count toward your four-year maximum.

Gaps in employment

During the time that your work permit is valid, you should keep track of any periods of one month or more when you do not work. These gaps in employment may be considered in the calculation of your four-year maximum, as long as you provide proof of these gaps when you apply for your next work permit.

Some examples of acceptable gaps in employment are:

  • Periods of time spent outside of Canada
  • Periods of medical leave spent in Canada, if this period is not covered by the employment contract/agreement
  • Periods of unemployment in Canada
  • Maternity/parental leave spent in Canada

Some examples of proof documents are:

  • Passport entry and exit stamps
  • Official documents indicating that the job started and/or ended on certain dates; for example, a Record of Employment or proof of receipt of severance pay
  • Letter from a foreign educational institution stating that you were attending their institution for a period of time during the work permit authorization;
  • Travel receipts, including tickets and boarding passes showing that you were out of the country for a period of time during the work permit authorization, other than a period of paid leave (e.g. sick leave, vacation leave) from your job
  • Proof of receipt of maternity/parental benefits
  • Letter from a doctor confirming you were on medical leave for a certain period of time

Also in this topic

Find out if you are eligible

Come to Canada
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