An open work permit is intended to give foreign workers the freedom and flexibility to work in Canada. These permits may be linked to a particular employer, occupation, or organisation. Foreign nationals who wish to work in Canada must also obtain a work permit. Open work permits allow for freedom of movement in Canada, whether between workplaces, occupations, or locations.
There are several ways to qualify for an open work permit. Here are a few of the more notable examples:
International Student Graduates
In 2021, the majority of LMIA-exempt work permits were issued to international student graduates who qualified for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).
International students who complete a full-time study programme of at least two years in length may be eligible to work in Canada for up to three years after graduation. Study programmes that are longer than eight months but less than two years in length may be eligible for a PGWP that corresponds to the length of their programme.
International students must be enrolled in a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada to be eligible. As a result of the pandemic, IRCC has allowed for some flexibility in the eligibility criteria.
Foreign nationals with reciprocal agreements
International Experience Canada (IEC) is a programme that allows foreign youth from more than 30 countries to work in Canada.
A Working Holiday visa may be available to young people between the ages of 18 and 35. Participants are not required to have a job offer but must meet the criteria to be eligible for the IEC.
The IEC generally requires candidates to have $2,500 CAD in expenses, not be accompanied by dependents, and be admissible to Canada, among other requirements.
Canadian spouses and common-law partners
Canada provides open work permit options to Canadian spouses, temporary foreign workers, and international students.
Spouses of Canadian citizens and permanent residents who apply under inland sponsorship and live in Canada with their partners may be eligible for a Spousal Open Work Permit.
Temporary Foreign Employees
Spouses of temporary foreign workers may be able to obtain an open work permit as well. The temporary foreign worker must meet certain eligibility requirements, such as having a work permit that is valid for six months after receiving the open spousal work permit, among others.
The foreign worker must also meet one of four requirements:
Working in an occupation with a National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill level of 0, A, or B; Working in any occupation when accepted into an Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP) stream;
Working in any occupation and holding a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) nomination, or Working in any occupation and holding a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ).
Finally, spouses of international students may be able to obtain an open work permit if they can demonstrate to the government that they are in a genuine relationship with the international student and that the international student is enrolled in an eligible programme.
Applicants for permanent residency
Bridging Open Work Permits (BOWPs) allow people who have applied for permanent residence to stay in Canada while their application is being processed.
A BOWP is available for the following immigration programmes:
Agri-Food Pilot Program, Federal Skilled Worker Program, Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Trades Program, Provincial Nominee Program, Quebec Skilled Workers
If a foreign national’s temporary status expires before their permanent residence application is processed, the BOWP ensures that they do not have to leave their jobs or the country. It also means that employers are not required to obtain an LMIA-based work permit in order to retain their foreign employees.