How to Bring International Employees to Canada in 2023
The Canadian government offers numerous immigration programs designed for hiring foreign workers. Every program has its differences and is well-suited for the type of foreign worker it was intended for. Below you will find a summary of the kinds of options for hiring foreign workers in Canada, and later in the article, we will discuss each option in more depth:
Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) Work Permits – This general work permit allows Canadian employers to hire international workers. You will have to obtain an LMIA to secure a work permit for your worker if your foreign worker does not fall within the exemption category. Foreign workers on LMIA work permits are generally allowed to work in Canada for up to 18 months. You can either hire high-wage LMIA workers or low-wage LMIA workers.
LMIA-Exempt Work Permits – If your foreign worker’s job description falls within the governmental exemption, you will not need to apply for the LMIA. In that case, your company will benefit from undergoing a simplified process of hiring international employees who can work in Canada for up to 24 months.
Working Without a Work Permit – Not all foreign workers need a permit to work in Canada. Several professions don’t require a work permit.
Steps for Bringing Foreign Workers to Your Business In Canada
To start the process, it is essential to know all the immigration methods available to employers. If you are a Canadian employer looking to hire foreign workers for your business, follow these 4 important steps to hiring foreign workers:
Step 1: Find out if your company requires an LMIA
Most employers need an LMIA before they can hire a temporary foreign worker. Before you start the hiring process, you must determine if you need an LMIA. In certain situations, employers are not required to apply for an LMIA but must submit an offer of employment through their Employer Portal on the IRCC website. Their foreign workers can then apply for a work permit based on an LMIA-exempt offer of employment. In some instances, foreign workers are allowed to work in Canada without a work permit.
Step 2: Apply for an LMIA or submit an LMIA-exempt offer of employment
The process for hiring foreign workers varies in length, depending on the type of job you are trying to hire for. A work permit that requires an LMIA may take anywhere from 3 months to 6 months. Meanwhile, an LMIA-exempt work permit takes anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months, assuming the foreign workers your business wishes to hire are on top of their paperwork. A position that doesn’t require a work permit could be faster since all it takes is a visa in good standing.
Step 3: The foreign worker applies for a work permit
The workers themselves must apply for a work permit. There are numerous work permits available to foreign nationals wanting to work in Canada. Choosing the most suitable one is crucial because it will significantly impact your application’s success, processing time, and even the ability of your worker to bring their family with them to Canada. On many occasions, employers and employees collaborate with an immigration lawyer to streamline the process and ensure that error-free and policy-compliant immigration application is submitted.
Step 4: You must tell the worker what to expect from their application and ensure compliance with the conditions of employment
Once your worker is in Canada working for your company, you must ensure regulatory compliance with the employment of your foreign worker. Suppose your company is ever found in breach of employment of foreign workers. In that case, you may risk the ability not only to continue to employ your current international employees but also to hire foreign workers in the future.
Labour Market Impact Assessment Explained
LMIA is short for Labour Market Impact Assessment, and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) requires it for any position that is not in an exempt category. Your company needs a positive LMIA to prove no Canadian citizen or permanent resident can fill that position. The application process is highly technical and may be complex, but in general, here are the detailed steps on how to hire foreign workers with an LMIA:
Advertise the position.
Your company must advertise the position on the Government of Canada’s Job Bank and 2 alternative sources (one national and one local at scope). Before the advertising is posted, it is essential to carefully review the draft job advertisements to ensure that all required details are included. Your company must include proof of advertisement showing where, when, and for how long the position was advertised. Your company must continue advertising on JobBank and reviewing applicants until you get a decision on your LMIA application. Please note that there may be modifications in the process based on your company’s situation.
Follow the recruitment process.
Your company must demonstrate genuine efforts to recruit Canadian citizens or permanent residents. How to do that? Follow your usual recruitment procedures (collecting resumes, screening, selecting the best candidates for the interview and interview process), but make sure to document all your efforts. Some employers produce requirement efforts reports to include with their LMIA applications, summarizing each applicant’s background and reasons for rejecting him/her for the position in question. You must keep records of your recruitment and advertising efforts for a minimum of 6 years. You will also be asked to provide the results from the recruitment efforts you undertook to fill the position.
Submit an application to ESDC.
Your LMIA application can be submitted up to six months before the expected job start date. Your application package should include the following documents:
- LMIA application form for high-wage or low-wage positions;
- Documents showing that your business: (a) has no past compliance issues; (b) can fulfill all of the terms of the job offer; (c) is providing a good or service in Canada; (d) is offering employment that is consistent with the needs of your business.
- Proof of recruitment;
- Employment contract;
- Processing fee ($1,000/per worker), if applicable.
Once you submit your LMIA application, ESDC will process your payment and issue you a letter with an LMIA file number. The LMIA processing time differs for each stream, ranging from 10 business days to several months.
Pass an interview with ESDC.
Next, you must pass a phone interview with an ESDC LMIA officer. The purpose of the conversation is to confirm the LMIA application information, review any changes that may have occurred since the submission, and discuss the recruitment campaign and its results.
Receive a decision from ESDC.
Following the interview, the officer will decide, usually within 3-5 days. Your decision will be emailed or mailed to you. If you wish to receive your decision by email, indicate that to the ESDC officer during the interview. Your foreign worker can start the work permit application process if the decision is positive. If the decision is negative, and you believe that it is unreasonable, you may be able to ask a Program Manager to review that decision for correctness. Contact us if you need help with it.
Assist the foreign worker in applying for a Work Permit.
Once you receive a positive decision, the foreign workers you intend to hire can apply for work permits using the LMIA approval letter and Annex A. You should also provide the worker with a signed employment contract and a Letter of Support for the Visa Office to support your worker’s work permit application.
Sometimes, your business is exempt from the advertising and recruitment requirements. These cases are based on occupations such as owner-operator, highest-demand occupations, and short-term positions. ESDC exempts these cases based on their potential impact on the labour market in the long term.
ESDC averages anywhere from 3 to 6 months to reach an LMIA decision unless your company position falls in one of the expedited streams. These streams include highest-demand occupations, highest-paid occupations, and shortest-duration occupations. Using one of these grounds, ESDC can return an LMIA decision in 10 days.
Incomplete LMIA applications are not processed or returned. This process can cause your company delays, affecting your workforce. Your business should seek professional help to ensure this does not happen with your LMIA application.
Get in touch with us if you need assistance with your LMIA application.
LMIA-Exempt Work Permits Explained
Sometimes, the LMIA-exempt work permits offer a more straightforward process, so employers in Canada should consider if their company is eligible to hire foreign workers without the need to go through the lengthy and demanding LMIA process.
Here is a list of some of the most popular immigration programs that allow employers to hire foreign workers without the need to apply for an LMIA first.
Intra-Company Transferees (ICT)
Multinational companies can temporarily transfer employees to their Canadian locations without requiring an LMIA. The ICT work permit category can be a good option if your company requires skilled talent from your other affiliate companies abroad. Only employees who have worked for the company for at least 1 year full-time and hold specialized knowledge or an executive or managerial position may qualify under this program. ICT Specialized Knowledge worker must possess “knowledge at an advanced level of expertise” and “proprietary knowledge of the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques or management.” See IRCC’s guidance below for further details.
Francophone Skilled Workers
If your business is located outside the Province of Quebec and your foreign worker communicates fluently in French, you should consider applying for the Francophone Mobility Program (Mobilité Francophone Canada). To be eligible for this program, your business and your foreign worker must meet the following requirements:
- The foreign worker is fluent in French at CLB 7 level (Canadian Language Benchmark). Test d’évaluation de français (TEF) or Test de connaissance du français (TCF) may be required, if the worker is from a country where French is not the official language.
- The foreign national’s employment is located in a province or territory other than Quebec.
- The job offer is in a skilled occupation (NOC 0, A or B), and the foreign worker is qualified to perform the position’s duties.
French is the official language in 29 countries, which puts it in second place behind English. The 29 countries are, in alphabetical order: Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, the Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, France, Haiti, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Monaco, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo and Vanuatu.
International Trade Agreements
Canada is a signatory to several international Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that contain provisions to make it easier for skilled professionals to work temporarily in Canada. Most FTAs allow 4 categories of foreign workers to work in Canada without needing to apply for an LMIA: business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, and traders and investors.
If your foreign worker is a national of the following countries, you may be eligible to apply for an LMIA-exempt work permit:
- USA and Mexico using the CUSMA, the new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA);
- Chile using the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA);
- Peru using the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement (CPFTA);
- Colombia using the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA);
- South Korea using the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA);
- Nationals of EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom using the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA);
- Panama using the Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement;
- Australia, New Zealand, and Japan using the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)
- A national of any WTO-member country for specific occupations using the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS);
International Experience & Youth Exchange Programs
Canada also participates in international youth exchange and professional employment programs that allow young professionals under the age of 35* (for some countries under 30) to travel and work in Canada without requiring an LMIA.
If your foreign worker is under 35 and a national of the participating country, you may choose to support his/her application under the Young Professionals program. However, remember that this program operates on an Expression of Interest/Invitation to Apply model. Your foreign worker must first create an IEC profile and receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) from the IRCC before he/she may apply.
Each country that participates in the International Experience Canada program has a quota available every year. Once a country’s quota is full, candidates from that specific country can no longer apply that year. Usually, registrations open in December for the following year and positions for some countries may be filled within a few hours after the opening. That’s why it is essential to check the country quotas and encourage foreign workers to register a profile as early as possible.
Here’s the complete list of participating countries in the International Experience Canada (IEC) work permit program:
- Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Kingdom.
Significant Benefit Work Permits
Significant Benefit Work Permits are often seen as a last resort, particularly for individuals with no choice but to request such a work permit due to circumstances outside their control. To benefit from this program, your company must prove that a foreign worker will bring an important social, cultural, or economic benefit to Canada. This program may be an excellent option to bring workers with highly specialized knowledge that will contribute to the Canadian economy through specialized skills and experience—for example, technical workers, creative and performing artists, self-employed engineers, etc. Also, remember that this work permit is typically issued for shorter durations.
This exemption allows foreign workers to work in Canada in specific industries where Canadians have similar options in other countries. For example, professional athletes and coaches working with the Canadian team, professors, guest lecturers, and students participating in exchange programs.
Multinational corporations can also take advantage of the reciprocal employment type of work permit. To qualify, the Employer must demonstrate that reciprocity exists. It can be demonstrated by an employment contract (if it provides evidence of reciprocity), an HR Global Mobility Policy, and/or other documents that show that Canadian foreign workers benefit from the ability to travel abroad within the company.
Contact us for advice on whether your company can use this process.
Working Without A Work Permit Explained
In several situations, your foreign talent can work in Canada without securing a Work Permit. However, depending on the country of origin, the worker may still require an entry visa to Canada to enter Canada temporarily.
Foreign nationals may perform work in Canada without a work permit in the following scenarios:
- Business Visitors
- Athletes and team members
- Aviation accident or incident inspector
- Civil aviation inspector
- Convention organizers
- Emergency service providers
- Examiners and evaluators
- Expert witnesses or investigators
- Foreign government officers
- Foreign representatives and family members of foreign representatives
- Health care students
- Judges, referees and similar officials
- Military personnel
- News reporters, media crews
- Performing artists
- Public speakers
A business visitor is someone who comes to Canada for international business activities (looking for ways to grow business, invest or develop new business relationships) but without directly entering the Canadian labour market. For business visitors in Canada, the applicants must show the following:
- The primary source of the worker’s compensation will remain outside of Canada
- The principal place of employment is located outside of Canada
Activities that business visitors may conduct in Canada without a work permit:
- Giving after-sales service (managing, not doing hands-on labour)
- Undergoing training or training employees of a Canadian branch of a foreign company
- Buying Canadian goods or services for a foreign business or government
- Taking orders for goods or services
- Going to meetings, conferences, conventions or trade fairs
After Sales Service
After-sales service providers may come to Canada to repair, service, set up, test or supervise work on specialized commercial or industrial equipment purchased or leased outside Canada.
Such services must be detailed in the related service contracts negotiated as part of the original sales, lease or rental agreement, or they must be an extension of the original agreement. Individuals coming to Canada to train users or maintenance staff in the operation of specialized equipment may also qualify under this category.
Athletes and Team Members
Professional or amateur athletes may travel to Canada to participate in sports activities or events in Canada either individually or as part of a team. IRCC gives the following examples of individuals who may be eligible under this exemption:
- amateur players on Canadian teams (includes major junior level and lower level teams)
- foreign pet owners entering their animals in a show (e.g. dog handlers)
- jockeys racing horses from foreign-based stables
- racing car drivers
- individuals attending professional team tryouts
- foreign coaches and trainers of foreign athletes
- other essential team members participating in events in Canada
Sobirovs Law Firm Is Here To Help
Determining which criteria your company needs to meet to hire foreign workers is challenging and can be daunting when you have to run your Canadian business. A half dozen different types of work permits have differing requirements. Unless your company hires a specific category of individuals, you should plan on going through the LMIA process until other legal advice is received.
Hiring foreign workers for your company in Canada can be complex and nuanced. Sobirovs Law Firm is here to help with years of experience across all aspects of this business. We can help you decide which options are best for your business and take you through the process with minimal hassles. Please book a consultation with us to learn more about your options.
The contents of this page should not be used as legal advice. Please seek assistance from a registered attorney if you are considering hiring foreign workers.
Frequently Asked Questions About International Recruitment
Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions:
Can I hire foreign workers?
Generally, any Canadian employer is allowed to hire international workers. So if you own a company and want to recruit from abroad, you can do so. One thing to remember is that you must comply with the regulations on employing foreign workers in Canada.
How can a Canadian employer hire foreign workers?
There are 3 ways to hire a foreign employee:
- The first is through the LMIA process, where companies must receive approval from the ESDC before bringing an international recruit on board.
- The second option is through the LMIA-exempt route, which is much simpler, and at times you will be able to bring your worker to Canada in a matter of weeks.
- Lastly, the third option is for your worker to come to Canada without a work permit; however, this is an exceptional case, and you must be careful when doing so.
See the table below for more info:
|LMIA and Work Permit||No LMIA – Work Permit Only||No LMIA, No Work Permit|
|Most jobs in Canada require LMIA||Intra-company transferees||Business visitors|
|High-wage workers||Entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals||Athletes and team members|
|Low-wage workers||Highly skilled professionals||Aviation accident or incident inspector|
|Occupations in high demand||Citizens of the USA, Mexico, Chile, Peru, South Korea, Columbia, Panama, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand||Civil aviation inspector|
|Citizens of most of the European Union countries||Clergy|
|French-speaking foreign workers||Convention organizers|
|Religious Workers and||Crew|
|Academics||Emergency service providers|
|Examiners and evaluators|
|Expert witnesses or investigators|
|Foreign government officers|
|Foreign representatives and family members of foreign representatives|
|Health care students|
|Judges, referees and similar officials|
|News reporters, media crews|