In general there are two main ways to secure a work permit - either by confirmation or by exemption.
Canada, like most nations, has a 'Canadian first' approach when it comes to deciding if a foreigner can work in Canada. In order to secure a work permit an Employer must first show that they have a job opening that cannot be filled by a Canadian. The Employer must have a job offer, a job description, some information about the Employer and prove that no Canadian applicant exists that can fill the advertised job opening with some exceptions.
The assessment, of whether the Canadian Employer has tried to look hard enough in the Canadian labour market, is conducted by Human Resources and Development Canada's (HRDC) (also known as Service Canada) Foreign Worker Unit (FWU). Each FWU looks after a region of Canada and assesses the Employer's request for a foreign worker based on a variety of criteria.
Once the HRDC-FWU assesses that no Canadian worker can be found for the job opening, it issues a 'letter of confirmation'. This letter of confirmation is then included with a work permit application and submitted to a Canadian Consulate/Embassy/Visa processing centre outside Canada. The Visa Officer who assesses the work permit application always has the final discretion to approve or reject a request for a work permit. In most instances, a letter of confirmation from HRDC's FWU will result in the work permit being approved. This letter of confirmation is referred to as a postive 'labour market opinion' (LMO).
An exemption allows for a work permit to be issued without a letter of confirmation from HRDC's FWU. Many work permits are issued on the basis of two types of exemptions - international treaties.
NAFTA - The main international treaty under which foreign worker's enter Canada is the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA provides a variety of ways in which citizens of the USA and Mexico can work in Canada
GATS - There are also other international treaties that provide exemptions for foreign workers such as the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS).
For a full explanation of how work permits are issued, visit the CIC website at
In Depth Policy Manuals
For further in depth information you may also wish to refer to the following Policy Manuals used by CIC
Application Forms and Guides
- For the required application forms for the Applicant, visit the CIC site at:
- For the required application process for the Employer to seek an HRDC-FWU letter of confirmation visit the HRDC site at: