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How to Get a Canada Work Visa & Work Permit: Requirements & Procedure

Companies in Canada that seek to hire international workers need to carefully consider Canada visa rules to work out if there is a Canada work visa/work permit that can cover their situation. Companies should also note that Quebec runs an entirely separate immigration process from the rest of Canada (not covered here). 

With a highly developed mixed-market economy, and as an access point to the North American free trade area and market, Canada is a highly sought-after location for businesses and employees alike. It is particularly attractive for US citizens interested in relocating to Canada.

Here, we examine the different types of Canada work visa, and explain the steps that need to be taken to apply for one.

What are the different types of work visa available in Canada?

There are several types of work visas available in Canada, these include the:

  • Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) work permit — a work permit that allows foreign nationals to work in Canada for a specific employer, for a specific period of time. For this kind of work visa, an employer must first obtain a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). The LMIA demonstrates that no Canadian citizens or permanent residents are available for the job. The work permit is valid only for the period of time specified on the LMIA, though it can be renewed.
  • International Mobility Program (IMP) work permit — a work permit allowing foreign nationals to work in Canada without an LMIA. The work permit is issued based on a bilateral or multilateral agreement that Canada has with other countries, such as a Free Trade Agreement or a youth mobility agreement: Or, it can be based on specific exemptions, such as the global talent stream for highly skilled workers. The permit is valid for the duration of the job offer and is renewable.
  • Open Work permit — a work permit that allows the holder to work for any employer in Canada, without the need for an LMIA. These permits are usually issued only to individuals in unique circumstances, such as spouses of skilled workers, international students, and some refugee claimants.
  • Self-Employed Worker permit — a work permit that allows foreign individuals to work for themselves in Canada. The applicant must prove that they will be able to support themselves financially in order to receive this visa
  • Startup visa – this visa allows foreign entrepreneurs to immigrate to Canada and start a business. It is designed for startup founders who can show that their business is innovative, can create jobs for Canadians, and can compete on a global scale. To secure this visa, the applicant must have a sound business idea, secure a commitment from a designated organization, and be able to demonstrate their ability to successfully run a business. It has some similarities with the UK Startup visa, a popular type of work visa in the United Kingdom.
  • Canadian Experience Class visa — a visa that allows foreign workers who have worked in Canada temporarily to apply for permanent residence. Key eligibility criteria, including working in Canada for at least a year in a skilled profession/trade, must be satisfied.

Note that, in order to be eligible for any of these visas, individuals must meet certain qualifications, language requirements and pass a health examination. Additionally, for some of the visa types, individuals may also be required to provide proof of financial support, such as a bank statement or letter of guarantee.

What is the process for applying for a work visa in Canada?

The process of applying for a work visa in Canada usually involves the following steps:

  • Determine the type of visa you seek — as described above, there are many different kinds of Canada work visa. The rules for TFWP, the IMP work permit for high-skilled workers, and the Startup Visa, for example, are quirte different. It is important to determine which visa category is most appropriate for your situation before you begin the application process.
  • Check eligibilty for the visa — each visa category has specific eligibility criteria that must be met. For example, for the TFWP, you must have a valid job offer from a Canadian employer and a LMIA from the Canadian government.
  • Prepare the required documents — depending on the visa category you are applying for, you will need to provide various documents as part of your application. This can include things like proof of your qualifications, proof of your job offer, proof of your financial status, a valid passport and police clearance certificate/criminal records check.
  • Fill out the online application form — the majority of visa applications can be completed online. This requires you to fill out an application form, provide your personal and passport details, upload the necessary documents and pay the visa fee.
  • Wait for a visa decision —once your application is submitted, It usually takes around 4-6 weeks for a decision to be made. If your application is successful, you will receive your visa in the mail.
  • Prepare for the move — once your visa is approved, you will need to prepare for your move to Canada. This may include finding accommodation, arranging for your belongings to be shipped, and making travel arrangements.
  • Registration requirements on arrival — once you arrive in Canada, you will have to register with the Canadian government, obtain a social insurance number, and open a Canadian bank account.

Canada work visas — help is at hand

With many different types of work visa/work permit available in Canada, as well as a distinct visa system in Quebec, it can be hard for employers to work out what the rules are. It is crucial that any company hiring foreign workers in Canada familiarises itself with the work visa and permit rules that apply.

Canada Business Guides


It depends on the visa. The Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process for work visas can add to the time for approval. Anywhere from one month to three months is quite normal. 

Yes, in many cases you will need sponsorship in order to obtain a work visa in Canada. The sponsor is typically the company or organization that is hiring you, and they are responsible for submitting the necessary documents and information to the Canadian government on your behalf. They will also be responsible for ensuring that you comply with all of the conditions of your visa while you are in Canada.