1- You always need a work permit… If you really work.
The government wants employers to hire Canadians first. That’s why they ask foreign workers to get a work permit to authorize them to work legally in Canada. But what do they mean by “work”?
Basically, it’s when the foreign worker does a job a Canadian could do.
Therefore, working remotely for a business located outside Canada is generally not considered as “work” (even if you wake up at 6 am to do it). Coming to assist at a quarterly board meeting is not “work”, despite the endless talking. A US manager coming to give training to the Canadian branch of its company will not “work” – even if he’ll get generously paid.
Business visitors in Canada can also do some business development with their hands in their pockets, meaning without entering the Canadian labour market. This is not work. However, if they do more than that, they might need a Work Permit!
So always ask yourself: could the company potentially hire a Canadian to do the job? – If the answer is yes, a work permit is most likely needed.
2- Can’t hire a Canadian ? Prove it.
If you argue you can’t hire a Canadian to do the job – you have to prove it. And to do so, the government wants employers to do what we call a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
Basically, the impossibility to hire a Canadian must be proven to do the job:
- The position must be advertised in a certain way.
- All forms must be filled perfectly.
- The salary must fit within Federal prevailing wage brackets (and Provincial for Quebec).
- Oh and don’t forget to pay the government fees!
There’s quite a bit of paperwork here, so if you fall into one of the LMIA exemptions, go for it (see below).
3- The exceptions prove the rule
Frankly, if you can avoid doing an LMIA, you’re in good luck.
To do that, you basically have to show the worker can bring a significant benefit to Canada.
This will allow you to ask for a work permit in a much simpler procedure.
The lucky ones include:
- intra-company transferees,
- workers bringing a cultural or social-cultural benefit to Canada,
- emergency repair personnel,
- NAFTA professionals, etc.
There are over 50 exceptions here, each of them with very specific requirements, so make sure to verify if one applies to your situation. It can save you a lot of trouble.
4- Renew before it’s too late
A work permit bears an expiry date. Always. Working after that date can lead to trouble.
One simple trick, if you qualify for a renewal, is to ask for it before the expiration date indicated on your Work Permit. This will allow you to work while waiting for your new work permit, even if it expires, as long as you are staying physically in Canada. Once the government makes a decision on the renewal, though, it must be respected.
So whether it’s on your phone or your agenda, make sure to set up a reminder. Forced vacations are not fun.
5- Everyone deserves a second chance
So your setup reminder didn’t work. Your work permit has expired. And you forgot to ask for an extension before the expiration date.
Don’t panic, you have a second chance.
You can ask for a restoration of status within 90 days of the expiration date of your work permit. This means you’ll be allowed to stay in Canada until a decision is made. But be careful: you can’t work just yet. You’ll have to wait for your new work permit. If you leave Canada, you may be able to re-enter as a visitor, if you don’t need a visa in your passport, but you’ll still need to wait for your new work permit to work legally. If you need a visa to enter Canada, you’ll have to ask for a new one.