If you are in Canada on a visitor visa and you suddenly decide it would be a good idea to apply to work in Canada, you will have to leave the country and apply for a work permit from a Canadian visa office abroad.
If you are in Canada on a visitor visa and you suddenly decide it would be a good idea to apply to work in Canada, you will have to leave the country and apply for a work permit from a Canadian visa office abroad. In general, it’s not possible to transform your visit to Canada into a temporary work permit without leaving the country. You have to apply at a visa office in your home country (or an office that represents your home country in the case of smaller countries without a visa office) and then, if successful, be issued both a temporary work permit and another temporary residence visa.
However, there are specific cases where you can apply for a work permit from within Canada. This is not the same as converting a visitor visa into a work permit in one simple step, but it does open up the possibility of a pathway from a being a visitor to eventually becoming a temporary worker or even a permanent resident.
Let’s see how.
You can apply for a work permit from inside Canada if:
- You (or your spouse or parents) have a valid study permit.
- You have graduated from a program at one of the following:
- A Canadian university
- A community college in Canada
- CEGEP (a community college in Quebec)
- A publicly funded trade or technical school
- Some other eligible school.
- You (or your spouse or parents) have a valid work permit.
- You already have a work permit but wish to apply for a new work permit for a different job.
- You have a temporary resident permit that is valid for 6 months or longer.
- You are already in Canada and have applied for permanent residence from inside Canada, and you have passed through several stages of approval in your application that eventually allows you to apply for a work permit.
- You are in Canada and have already made a claim or will make a claim for refugee protection.
- You’ve been recognized as a convention refugee or a protected person by the IRB (Immigration Refugee Board of Canada).
- You are allowed to work in Canada without a work permit but now you need a work permit because you wish to change jobs to one that requires a permit
- You are one of the following people:
- A trader
- An investor
- An intra-company transferee or professional under USMCA
Who Can Apply for a Work Permit From Within Canada
These cases fall into 5 principal categories:
People who already have a study or work permit:
In this case you’ve already obtained a permit and gone through the process, so you have the right in certain circumstances to apply for either a new work permit or a work permit instead of a study permit. This also applies to recent graduates from an eligible Canadian post-secondary educational institution. So, for example, if you are on a visitor visa, you would have to:
- leave Canada to apply for a study permit at a visa office abroad,
- then return to Canada and complete your program of study
- then apply for a work permit once you have graduated or while you are studying.
People who have a TRP that is valid for 6 or more months.
As we have explained at IMMIgroup, a TRP is permit for people who are inadmissible to Canada but are allowed to remain on a temporary basis because their need to travel to Canada outweighs any risks their inadmissibility might present to Canadians and to Canada in general.
So, for example if your inadmissibility is due to a minor oversight on your part (forgetting to do something in the time required for example) and you have been granted a TRP for 6 or more months you can apply for a temporary work permit. That would involve several steps:
- apply for a TRP at visa application centre abroad or at your Port of Entry in Canada, ensuring you have gathered all the necessary documents for the application
- obtain a TRP for period of at least 6 months (remember a TRP can be cancelled by immigration officials at any time)
- apply for a work permit from within Canada.
People who have applied for Permanent Resident status as protected persons or as protected temporary residents.
You may not apply for permanent residence from inside Canada if you are:
- You are a convention refugee in another country which means you could live there without fear of persecution.
- A citizen, national, or resident of another country where you could live without fear of persecution
So, you must have claimed protected person status and been accepted as one by authorities in Canada. So, the steps you would have to follow to get a work permit could, for example, be:
- Arrive in Canada on a visitor visa
- Claim protected person status and be accepted as such
- Apply for PR status from within Canada
- Once your PR application is underway, apply for a work permit.
People who have been working in Canada in an occupation that does not require a work permit.
Go here to see a list of these occupations (they include jobs like: athletes, coaches, business visitors, expert witnesses, performing artists, public speakers, short-term researchers, news reporters and crews, or crew members of flights).
Suppose you then have the opportunity to work at another, perhaps related job, which does require a work permit. You can then apply from within Canada. For example, if your short-term research work leads to an offer as a full-time researcher in Canada, you could apply from within Canada. So the steps you have to take in this case would be:
- Arrive to work in Canada in as a short-term researcher who does not need a work permit
- Be offered a full-time, longer-term job in research by your employer in Canada
- Apply from within Canada for a work permit and visitor visa.
People who are business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, or investors under one of several trade agreements Canada has signed.
These people (who must be from one of the countries listed below with which Canada has a trade agreement) can enter and work on a temporary basis without a work permit. The trade agreements that permit this are:
- For citizens of Canada, U.S., or Mexico
- Only business visitors do not require a work permit
- Traders, investors, and professionals require a work permit although they are exempt from LMIA requirements.
- Canada-Chile FTA
- For citizens of Canada or Chile
- Like NAFTA only business visitors can enter without a work permit but the following business visitors from Chile are not covered by the trade agreement and cannot enter without a work permit
- Harvester owners
- Transportation operators
- Canadian and American brokers
- Tour bus operators.
- Canada-Peru FTA
- For citizens of Canada and Peru and for Permanent Residents of Canada and Peru
- Business Visitors have some modifications. Go here for details.
- Canada-Colombia FTA: For citizens of Canada and Colombia. It contains the same features as the Canada-Peru agreement.
- Canada-Korea FTA
- For citizens of Canada and Korea
- Business visitors are treated similar to NAFTA. Go here for more details.
- CETA (Canada European Free Trade Agreement)
- For citizens of Canada and the EU
- Go here for more information.
As you can see, in every one of these cases, getting a work permit from within Canada is either a multi-step process or can only be done by leaving the country and applying at a visa office abroad. Your best bet, if you think you might be interested in working in Canada, is to apply before travelling. Trying to do it from within Canada will almost always take longer and may involve having to leave Canada anyway.
Riley Haas has been a leading expert since 2011 on immigration matters, with hundreds of publications online. Published author of three books about political philosophy, the Beatles and the Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively. BA from Bishop’s University, MA from McMaster University. You follow Riley on Substack https://rileyhaas.substack.com.