How to Hire Foreign Workers for Your Business in Canada in 2024

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Hiring internationally is not new for Canadian businesses: it provides access to specialized skillset that is not common in Canada but most importantly it allows to fill immediate labour gaps that many Canadian businesses struggle with.

Hiring foreign workers also addresses the high turnover rates – the work visas they get, will be specific to the Canadian business that hired and sponsored them.

To ensure your business also benefits from hiring foreign workers, we prepared this guide in easy-to-understand pieces for you to learn how to hire foreign workers and propel your business forward.

How to Bring International Employees to Canada in 2024

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 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 is a 2-step process: first, you must obtain an LMIA approval, second, your worker must apply for and obtain a Canadian work permit. Foreign workers on LMIA work permits are generally allowed to work in Canada for up to 3 years. You can either hire high-wage LMIA workers or low-wage LMIA workers.

LMIA-Exempt Work Permits – If your foreign worker’s job description and country of citizenship fall within the governmental exemption, you may be able to avoid the entire LMIA portion. Your business will benefit from undergoing a simplified process of hiring international employees who can work in Canada for up to 36 months.

Working Without a Work Permit – Not all foreign workers need a work permit to work in Canada. Depending on their occupation, the services they provide, the duration of the contract or assignment for work in Canada, some foreign workers are allowed to work without LMIA and without a work permit.

Learn How To Hire Internationally

Steps for Bringing Foreign Workers to Your Business In Canada

If you are ready to hire skilled foreign talent to Canada, diversify your team, and add a competitive edge to your business, you can expect to follow these 4 important steps throughout the entire process:

Step 1: Do you need an LMIA?

Most Canadian businesses need an LMIA before they can hire a foreign worker, unless they fall under an exemption. If the business is required to have an LMIA, the next step would be to identify which LMIA the business will need.

If the business is exempted from applying for LMIA, then the next step is to register on IRCC Employer Portal and digitally submit details of the offer online.

Step 2: Submit an LMIA or an LMIA-exempt Offer of Employment

Depending on the type of LMIA that you need, you may be able to apply for it immediately or you may need to actively recruit for the position within Canada for 4 weeks before you can apply. The processing times will also vary – it can go from 2 weeks to 3~4 months, all depending on the type of LMIA.

LMIA-exempt offer of employment can be submitted as soon as all information is entered. Once submitted, the system will generate a unique code that must be shared with the foreign worker to apply for a work visa.

In case if the job falls under a special category that doesn’t require an LMIA nor a work permit, the foreign worker must have valid travel authorization to Canada: either an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) or a TRV (Temporary Resident Visa).

Step 3: Applying for a Work Permit

The workers can apply for work permit after LMIA application is approved, or online offer of employment is submitted in the LMIA-exempt scenario.

The processing time of a work permit will depend on 3 main factors such as:

  • the foreign worker’s country of citizenship and/or residence
  • the type of LMIA that was approved
  • in case of LMIA-exempt category, the title (NOC code) of the offer

Most times the foreign workers are able to bring their family with them to Canada, which will allow their spouses and children of working age to contribute to the Canadian labour market as well.

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: Employer Compliance

Once your foreign worker arrives to Canada and starts working for your business, you need to be aware of these essential items:

  1. Maintain the same employment conditions per LMIA and job offer letter (meaning, don’t pay them a lower salary that was not agreed on, nor ask them to perform duties that are not relevant to their role)
  2. Keep records of paperwork, documents, forms, etc. for a period of 6 years
  3. Inform ESDC or IRCC in case of any changes to the employment of the foreign worker
  4. Execute commitments that were agreed on with ESDC for some LMIA applications
  5. Ensure the foreign workers are always paid a median hourly rate

If your business is ever found non-compliant, the consequences can range from a warning, a monetary penalty, to suspension and inability to hire foreign workers in the future.

LMIA Work Permits in Detail

LMIA is short for Labour Market Impact Assessment – it is a mandatory step that Canadian businesses need to complete before the foreign worker can apply for a work visa to Canada, unless the employment of the foreign worker will fall under an LMIA-exemption. This option is described further down below.

In summary, LMIA protects the Canadian labour market to ensure that priority is always given to Canadian citizens and permanent residents first. If the business can’t find a worker internally from inside Canada, only then can they proceed with an LMIA application.

The LMIA process can be separated into the following milestones:

  1. Which type of LMIA do you need, and does it require recruitment efforts?
  2. Initiate 4-week recruitment efforts if required
  3. Collect documents, complete the application form and submit
  4. Interview meeting with the ESDC officer
There are 5 primary LMIA types:
  • High Wage
    • For professionals from any industry who are being paid above the provincial median wage
    • Application processing times: 2~3 months after LMIA application submission
  • Low Wage
    • For professionals from any industry who are being paid below the provincial median wage
    • Application processing times: 2~3 months after LMIA application submission
  • Global Talent Stream
    • For IT, engineering, or highly unique and specialized talent
    • Application processing times: 2~3 weeks after LMIA application submission
  • Agricultural Stream
    • For professionals with an agricultural background
    • Application processing times: 3~4 weeks after LMIA application submission
  • Permanent Residence Stream
    • Used to support the foreign worker's permanent residence application in the Express Entry system
    • Application processing times: 2~4 months after LMIA application submission
If you are applying under Global Talent Stream or Agricultural Stream (until June 30, 2025), you are not required to recruit and can go ahead with the direct application for an LMIA. If you are applying under Permanent Residence Stream or High Wage or Low Wage, then you must conduct active recruitment efforts for 4 weeks before you can submit the LMIA application. ESDC has very specific recruitment requirements so make sure to check out our video where we talk about these applications processes in detail or read our in-depth material about High Wage or Low Wage LMIAs.
The recruitment process is a very essential part of the LMIA application - a single error on the posted job advertisement could get your LMIA application refused. As such it is very important to be aware of the following things:
  • Your job advertisement must include all mandatory information per ESDC requirement
  • It must be posted on the Government of Canada’s Job Bank platform
  • It also must be posted on 2~4 other alternative sources, which could be an online website, a newspaper ad, a physical post on a job board, etc.
    • In case of Low Wage LMIA, alternative sources must target underrepresented groups
    • In case of High Wage LMIA, alternative sources must target professionals from similar industries with similar backgrounds
  • Job Match must be completed on Job Bank within 30 days
    • It's a matching service that ranks applicants based on their professional compatibility with the job posting
      • Applicants with 4 stars and above must be invited to apply in context of a High Wage LMIA
      • Applicants with 2 stars and above must be invited to apply in context of a Low Wage LMIA
  • Advertisements must run for 4 weeks before LMIA application can be submitted while advertisement on Job Bank must run until the LMIA decision letter is issued
For the LMIA application you must show that you made an honest effort to hire from the local labour market. How to do that? Follow your usual recruitment procedures: collect resumes, screen applicants, select the best candidates for the interview. Make sure to document all your efforts and your notes as to why the best candidates were not suitable for the job.
LMIA applications are being submitted online through the LMIA Online Portal. To register for it, you will need to have a valid Job Bank Employer account, the same one that was used during recruitment process. If your LMIA application is exempted from mandatory recruitment, you still need to register on Job Bank so that you can log in to the LMIA Online Portal and initiate the application. The portal will allow you to initiate an application and provide you with a digital form to complete. Once done, you will be asked to upload mandatory documents such as:
  • Proof of recruitment efforts (advertisement copies and recruitment summary) as applicable based on the LMIA type.
  • Business legitimacy documents such as (as preferred by ESDC):
    • T2 Schedule 100 and Schedule 125
    • Most recent PD7A slip
    • Most recent T4 Summary of Renumeration Paid
    • Business license
Once you submit your LMIA application, the system will initiate a payment link to make the mandatory application filing fee payment of $1,000 (per position requested in the LMIA). Meaning, if you applied for 3 positions under 1 LMIA application, you will be asked to pay $7,000.
From our practice, we observed that ESDC will always schedule an interview for Global Talent Stream applicants and will resort to an email with additional questions for other streams. However, this is highly discretionary to each case and the reviewing officer – it is best to expect an interview regardless. The interview meetings are very reasonable – the ESDC officer will ask questions about the business and its main activities, why the business requires the foreign worker, what kind of recruitment efforts were conducted, what is the offer that is being made to the foreign worker, etc. All questions that are asked by ESDC officers should be easily answered as long as you have been fully aware of the entire process. For example, if it was the HR Manager who was involved in recruitment, LMIA application prep, and generally knows everything about this case, then it makes sense that the same person attends an interview call with ESDC officer as opposed to a general manager who only knows that the business is trying to get an LMIA to hire a foreign worker.
Following the interview and assuming the officer didn't ask you to provide additional documents, you can expect the decision letter to come through within 2-5 days. The decision letter will be emailed and uploaded in the LMIA online portal. 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.
Once you receive a positive LMIA decision, the foreign worker can apply for their work permit. You should also provide the worker with a signed job offer letter that clearly outlines the details of their employment such as:
  • title, duties, salary and salary payout schedules
  • working schedules and hours
  • primary location of work
  • benefits
  • paid time off
The foreign worker will apply for their work permit online with IRCC and once it is approved, they can travel to Canada and start working with your business. Get in touch with us if you need assistance with your LMIA application or a work permit application for your foreign worker.

LMIA-Exempt Work Permits Explained

Sometimes, Canadian businesses can avoid the entire LMIA if their foreign worker and/or the details of their job offer match one of the LMIA-exempt categories. In this case, the foreign worker can apply directly for a work permit and you won’t need to go through the entire LMIA process.

However, you must submit details of the job offer online through the IRCC Employer Portal – the system will issue a unique offer of employment code starting with “A” that will need to be shared with the foreign worker for their work permit application.

Below is a list of some of the most popular pathways under LMIA-exempt route for foreign workers.

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. Employees who have worked for a related company outside Canada 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 for further details.
If your business is located outside the Province of Quebec and your foreign worker speaks French, you should consider applying for the Francophone Mobility Program (Mobilité Francophone Canada). To be eligible for this program, your business and primary place of employment must be outside Quebec, you must offer a job in any occupation except agriculture, and the foreign worker must prove their French language abilities either through an IRCC -approved language test (most preferred) or education documents such as diplomas and transcripts if the majority of the program was completed in French. 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.
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:
Some countries have a special agreement with Canada to promote international youth exchange and professional employment programs, allowing young professionals under the age of 35* (for some countries under 30) to travel and work in Canada without requiring an LMIA or a job offer. The foreign worker must register and submit their profile into the pool and await the invitation to apply for a work permit. In some instances, such as Young Professionals program, a job offer will be required as it also falls under LMIA-exempt category. Each country that participates in program has a set quota every year. Once a country’s quota is full, candidates from that specific country can no longer apply that year. That’s why it is essential to check the country quotas and encourage foreign workers to submit their profile as early as possible. Here’s the complete list of participating countries in this program:
  • Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom.
Significant Benefit Work Permits are considered in unique circumstances when the employment of the foreign worker will significantly contribute to the Canadian economy through specialized skills and experience—for example, technical workers, creative and performing artists, self-employed engineers, etc.
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, it is mandatory to demonstrate that reciprocity exists - meaning that for every Canadian professional that is sent abroad, the receiving country will be able to send a professional from their country to work in Canada. 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 worker can work in Canada without a Work Permit nor LMIA. This generally applies for short-term assignments and if they are coming in the following scenarios:

  • Business Visitors
  • Athletes and team members
  • Aviation accident or incident inspector
  • Civil aviation inspector
  • Clergy
  • Convention/conference organizers
  • Crew (Air, Highway, Maritime, Rail)
  • 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
  • Religious leaders

However, depending on the country of origin, the worker may still require an entry visa to Canada.

Business Visitors

A business visitor visa is a good option for businessmen who want to explore business opportunities in Canada or for highly skilled professionals that are coming to Canada to facilitate exchange of goods, services, or knowledge. Activities that business visitors may conduct in Canada without a work permit:

  • Buying Canadian goods or services for a foreign business or government
  • Exploring and visiting businesses for sale with a business broker
  • Taking orders for goods or services from Canadian business clients
  • Attending meetings, conferences, conventions or trade fairs
  • Giving after-sales service as part of a warranty or sales agreement
  • Being trained by a Canadian parent company that you work for outside Canada
  • Training employees of a Canadian branch of a foreign company
  • Being trained by a Canadian company that has sold you equipment or services

In other words, business visitors are individuals that come to Canada for international business activities without directly entering the Canadian labour market – meaning they are not going to earn salary in Canada during their visit. The applicants under this category must show that:

  • The primary source of the worker’s compensation will remain outside of Canada
  • The principal place of employment is located outside of Canada

It is important to note that while business visitors will not need a work permit, most business visitors will require a visa to enter Canada. Contact us to understand what kind of visa you will need for this purpose.

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 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:

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 recruitment regulations on employing foreign workers in Canada, and possibly follow any other requirements in the foreign worker's home country.
There are 2 ways to hire a foreign worker to work for your company in Canada:
  • Through the LMIA process, where companies must receive approval from the ESDC before the foreign worker can apply for a work permit and work for your company.
  • LMIA-exempt route, which allows the foreign worker to apply for a work permit directly without needing an LMIA.
See the table below for more info:
LMIA and Work PermitNo LMIA – Work Permit OnlyNo LMIA, No Work Permit
Most jobs in Canada require LMIAIntra-company transfereesBusiness visitors
High-wage workersEntrepreneurs and self-employed individualsAthletes and team members
Low-wage workersHighly skilled professionalsAviation accident or incident inspector
Occupations in high demandCitizens of the USA, Mexico, Chile, Peru, South Korea, Columbia, Panama, Australia, Singapore, New ZealandCivil aviation inspector
Citizens of most of the European Union countriesClergy
French-speaking foreign workersConvention/conference organizers
Religious workers Crew (air, highway, maritime, rail)
AcademicsEmergency 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
Religious leaders (not to be confused with Religious workers)
It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 12 months to bring a foreign worker to Canada. This will be largely dependant on whether you require an LMIA and which work permit your worker will be applying under. An experienced immigration lawyer can make a huge difference in processing time, which means you are likely to have your worker ready for when you need them to start their job.
No, Canadian employers do not sponsor foreign workers to come to work in Canada for them. This is a big misconception in the immigration sphere. Canadian employers can give job offers to foreign workers and apply for an LMIA, but in no way they sponsor those employees.

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Lucia Lu
Lucia Lu
I cannot say enough good things about Sobirovs Law Firm’s exceptional team. My work permit application was quite complex and underwent numerous tests, including a rejection from the first attempt. Feruza developed a tailored strategy that contributed to the best chance of success in the resubmission, and her entire team presented my case with unparalleled expertise and genuine care. I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to Maggie, a phenomenal consultant who supported me in every step of the application, took the time to understand my unique situation and answered all my questions patiently. Her in-depth knowledge of the work permit program, proficiency in preparing my application and professional communication were reassuring and truly remarkable. Thanks to your team’s extraordinary work, I can now pursue my business goals in Canada with peace of mind. I am grateful for your hard work and the compassionate support you provided throughout this journey. You have my highest recommendation without any reservations.
Nomin Dunburee
Nomin Dunburee
I had the pleasure of collaborating with the highly skilled professionals at Sobirovs to achieve my goals. Feruza's extensive expertise was invaluable, as she guided me through the most suitable pathway for my business immigration. I am profoundly grateful for choosing Sobirovs and highly recommend their exceptional services!
Bimal Banik
Bimal Banik
I really appreciate Sovirovs professional services ,I am truly happy and satisfied with their team work .I wish them all the best
Amirov Temur
Amirov Temur
I am happy with the help I got from Sobirov Law Firm. They were always there for me : answering my questions and giving me support through the visa application process and with general immigration related questions. They made everything easier and were quick to respond whenever I needed them. I would recommend Sobirov Law Firm to anyone needing visa assistance for Canada. I trusted them, and did not regret! Thanks for all your help! I hope for further cooperation with you.
Yuri l
Yuri l
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Ms. Feruza Djamalova, Ms. Judy Le and the entire team of Sobirovs Law Firm for their highly professional and excellent work in the complicated process of obtaining approval of our application for the business immigration program. I had several previous refusals over the course of 5 years. At that point, I contacted Sobirovs Law Firm. Their knowledge, competence, and perseverance turned my application into a success! My case was dealt by Feruza and Judy and I sincerely appreciate what an incredible job they have done and how much they have helped us. I believe they have a special gift and talent for assisting their clients. I want to particularly thank Judy for her patience and attention to detail in our case and also for thanks to her diligence, skill and attention to detail. I highly recommend Sobirovs Law Firm to anyone who wants to move to Canada using Business Immigration Programs and is looking for an immigration law firm capable of making a dream come true. They are highly professional and specialized in this field. I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks for their support.
Syed Namdaar Ali
Syed Namdaar Ali
My experience with Sobirov's was very rewarding. Starting from LMIA to Work permit it was a smooth sail. The entire team especially Yulia prepared my case painstakingly. They guided me on every little detail. Special thanks to Feroza, Farukh, Madina and the entire team for making this happen.
Bhrushank Ved
Bhrushank Ved
I had an amazing experience with the Sobirovs in applying for my C11 Work Permit. Feruza, Maggie, Judy and Yulia planned every step of the way and made the process a breeze. Benjamin was also quite knowledgeable and assisted me with the business plan for my application. I recommend Sobirovs team if you plan to expand your existing business or start a new business in Canada. Highly recommended!
Senol Ercetin
Senol Ercetin
Dear Sobirovs Team, I would like to thank you (Yulia, Faruk, Feruza, Madina) for taking care of us closely in obtaining the necessary work permits for the establishment of the Canadian branch of our company and the necessary visas for our family. You have carried out a flawless process. With sincere regards
Rakesh Shrivastava
Rakesh Shrivastava
I had a great experience working with the Sobirov Law Firm. The entire team was professional, prompt, and meticulous in their approach. We started working with them on LMIA under GTS of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The time it took from creation of an Incorporation to submission and approval of our application was around 8 weeks. Work Permit approval took another 2 weeks. They also helped us get shared office space since it was a new experience for us. They guided us in finding a payroll service provider and a realtor to help with the relocation of the foreign employee. My sincere thanks to Feruza Djamalova and Rakhmad Sobirov (Attorneys), and Yulia Kan (Team Lead).

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