Canada Work Permits: Ottawa Working Cut Processing Times

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Canada immigration news: Canada is hoping to cut down wait times and streamline operations by tackling a massive backlog of applications to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), which is slowing down the processing and issuance of work permits to foreign nationals.

In late October last year, the IRCC admitted its backlog of applications numbered close to 1.8 million, including 775,741 temporary residence applications. Those are study permits, temporary resident visas and visitor extensions – and work permits.


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The impact of that backlog on wait times for foreign nationals to get work permits is huge.

Although Canadian immigration officials have a service standard of processing a work permit within 60 days, it takes an estimated 55 weeks – more than a year – for foreign nationals in India to get a permit to work in Canada.

Mexicans Wait Only Two Weeks For Canada Work Permit

There are exceptions to the current lengthy delays which vary by country of origin. Albanians, for example, can expect a work permit in only five weeks, Belarusians in seven weeks, Poles and Americans in eight weeks and Mexicans in only two weeks.

But for many other foreign nationals, the current wait times for work permits still seem to range from 11 to 18 weeks, according to the IRCC website. That’s anywhere from 17 to 66 days beyond the service standard.

Even those foreign nationals already in Canada can expect to wait 133 days, or 19 weeks, for Canadian immigration officials to process their work permits – and that excludes the time to give and process the applicant’s biometrics.


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In her fall economic statement, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland pledged to bring that backlog under control with an $85-million investment to be spent from 2022 to 2023 to process more applications and reduce processing times in key areas affected by the pandemic.

“This will help to ensure Canada’s immigration system is well-positioned to help meet Canada’s economic and labour force goals,” Freeland’s fall economic statement noted. 

Until those measures are implemented and reduce wait times, many foreign nationals will simply have to be patient.

Many of them are growing increasingly frustrated.

On Twitter, one woman noted her husband is still unable to work more than a year after submitting his work permit application, forcing the family of five to live only her salary.

“My husband is a teacher, with a license accepted by Ontario Certified Teacher. Ten years of working internationally. He has tried everything to get a work permit but one year and four months later, even though there is still a teacher shortage, he has heard nothing from IRCC,” she tweeted.

Work permits are necessary for most foreign nationals wishing to work in Canada on a temporary basis, with some exceptions including international students who are allowed to work in a limited capacity while here on a study permit.

TFWP and IMP Main Programs Issuing Work Permits

Two of the main programs through which work permits are issued are the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP).

The TFWP offers work permits for candidates whose employers obtain a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

A positive LMIA confirms there is a need for a foreign worker to fill the job at hand and that no Canadian worker is available to do the job.

IMP work permits do not require a positive LMIA. They do require the employer to submit an employment offer under their employer portal.

Canada issues two types of work permits: employer-specific work permits and open work permits.

An employer-specific work permit includes conditions such as:

  • the name of a specific employer;
  • how long a candidate can work, and;
  • the location of a candidate’s work.

Positive LMIA Needed From Employer

Candidates applying for employer-specific work permits must have a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from their employer or an offer of employment before applying.

Open work permits allow foreign nationals to work for any employer in Canada but these are issued only in specific circumstances.

Certain occupations are exempt from the work permit requirement.

Under the TFWP, Canadian employers recruit foreign workers in response to labour market shortages.

The program includes four streams: 

  • high-skilled workers; 
  • low-skilled workers;
  • the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, and;
  • the Live-In Caregiver Program.

Foreign workers must have an approved job offer and a work permit before arriving in Canada under the TFWP.

Through the LMIA, IRCC works with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to ensure foreign workers do not take jobs for which Canadian citizens or permanent residents are available.

With a Canadian work permit, a foreign national’s family may come with him or her to Canada. All family members must complete their own application forms but they can be submitted together.

If a family member wants to work in Canada, he or she will need his or her own Canada work permit.

In certain cases, spouses or common-law partners are eligible for an open work permit. If a temporary foreign worker’s children would like to study in Canada, they need a study permit. 

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Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of immigration.ca featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.