Working in Canada as an American or US citizen can provide fantastic opportunities to expand and grow your experience without going too far from home. Canada’s job market is currently booming. Industry in Canada is increasing, and due to the aging population and the high concentration of the workforce in major cities, Canada desperately needs foreign workers to fill the gaps in the labour market. As a result, Canadian employers can offer fantastic jobs in Canada to US citizens.
However, you will need a Canada work permit or visa to be allowed to live and work in Canada. Therefore, knowing how to get one and whether or not you can even qualify for one is vital to your pathway to live and work in Canada. To help, we’ve compiled a handy 5-step guide on how to apply for a Canada work permit from the US.
Before you begin your application process, you must ensure you’re eligible for a Canadian work permit, as there are strict criteria that you must fulfill.
Canada has two types of work permits. Each of these permits has specific requirements and allowances. The types of work permits are:
Open Work Permit
This allows you to work for any employer, anywhere in Canada. However, these permits are usually harder to get and generally only apply to the following cases:
- You’ve just graduated from a designated Canadian learning institution and are eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.
- You’re a student who can’t afford their education fees.
- You’ve applied for or are a family member, spouse or common-law partner of someone who has used for permanent residence in Canada or the Atlantic Immigration Program.
- You’re the spouse or common-law partner of a skilled worker or international student.
- You hold a temporary resident permit.
- You’re participating in a special program.
- You are or are a family member of a refugee or protected person.
Employer-specific Work Permit
If none of the above criteria apply to you, you’ll likely need a Closed or Employer-specific Work Permit. This permit only allows working for the specific employer who has presented you with a job offer. If you leave or are let go from your job, your work permit will expire.
Canada Work Permit Requirements
Both work permits have precise requirements. You will not qualify for a work visa if you don’t fulfil these requirements. There are three primary requirements- one for you as the applicant, one for your prospective employer and one for the actual job offer. As an applicant, you must:
- Prove you intend to leave Canada after your work permit expires
- Prove you can provide for yourself and any dependent family members
- Have no criminal record and pass a police background check
- Obey the law and commit no crime while in Canada.
- Prove you’re in good health via a medical exam
If you’re looking for an employer-specific work permit, it has to be with an approved Canadian employer. For your Canadian employer to be approved, they must get a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). An LMIA proves to Canadian authorities that the employer has tried to fill this job vacancy from the local market but has been unable to find a suitable candidate. For the job offer to be considered legitimate, it has to fulfil several primary criteria and be set out correctly.
A Canada work permit application from any country requires specific documents. They are as follows:
- Proof of Identity
- Passport or identity documents
- Two clear identity document photos
- Proof of employment in Canada
- If you’re LMIA-exempt, you must provide the documents stipulated in this article.
- If you have an LMIA, you’ll need:
- A copy of an LMIA should be given to you by your employer.
- Copy of your employment contract
- Proof you’re eligible for the job via documents like:
- A valid Canadian provincial or territorial trade certificate
- Educational credentials
- Proof of past work experience
- If you’re working in Quebec, you won’t need an LMIA, but you will need a Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ). You can find the pathway to this on the Canadian government website.
- Proof of relationship to any dependents coming with you via documents like marriage or birth certificates
- Other documents as specified by the Canadian authorities.
An important thing to keep in mind is that your documents are in English or French to make them easier for the Canadian authorities to process.
Once you’ve assembled your documents, you must fill out the following application documents:
- Application form For Work Permit Made Outside of Canada (IMM 1295)
- Document Checklist (IMM 5488)
- Family Information (IMM 5645 or IMM 5707)
- Statutory Declaration of Common-law Union (IMM 5409), if applicable
- Use of a Representative (IMM 5476), if applicable
- Authority to release personal information to a designated individual (IMM 5475), if applicable.
If you’re wondering which forms apply to you or want to ensure every form is filled out correctly, hit the button below to talk to a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant, who can help you both ensure your eligibility and start your process on the best foot.
Once you’ve gathered or received all your documents, filled out all the necessary forms and paid all the fees, it’s time to submit your application. You can submit it on the Canadian government website or via a Visa Application Center (VAC). You can find a helpful directory of VACs here.
After You Apply
Once you submit your application, you must wait for the work permit processing time. The work permit processing time for US citizens applying outside Canada is approximately 12 weeks. During that time, the Canadian government will conduct a Completion Check on your application to ensure:
- You have completed and submitted all of the required documents.
- you have paid all of the processing fees
- you’ve sent in any subsequently requested documentation
If your application is incomplete, you will be contacted as additional documents will be requested, or you may have to start the process over again. Either way, this will substantially increase the work permit processing time. This is why it can be beneficial to enlist the help of a professional like an RCIC to check your documentation before you submit your application.
US-Specific Work Permits
There are multiple pathways to start working in Canada as an American citizen. Here are two of the most popular that you may be eligible for.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
NAFTA is a trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico that was started in 1994 and provides specialized jobs in Canada for US citizens and Mexican citizens that don’t require an LMIA. People who fall under the following categories are eligible for NAFTA.
- NAFTA professionals
- NAFTA Intra-company transferees
- NAFTA Investors
- NAFTA Traders
- NAFTA Business Visitors
If you feel you may fall under one of the categories, this article will give you a breakdown of how NAFTA works and how to apply it.