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A Guide to Visa Types and Work Permits in Canada

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  • Andrey Vasilyev

    When moving to a huge city such as Vancouver, InterNations made it easy for me to find fellow expats and the network that I needed.

If you intend to stay long-term in Canada, you will likely need to apply for a Canadian visa. You will have a mountain of paperwork to deal with for your Canadian visa application and process. However, this section ensures that you and your family have all the information you need on Canadian visa types, requirements, and costs. We will also discuss the medical exam you will need to undergo, and Canada’s immigration point system.

The section also covers residence permits (permanent) and temporary resident visa (TRV), along with how to apply for them.

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Work Permits and Employment Based Visas

To work in Canada, expats will need a work permit and employment visa. There are only a few jobs for which you do not need a work permit.

There are two types of Canadian work permits:

  • Open work permits**:** Allow you to work for any employer in Canada.
  • Employer-specific work permits: Enable you to work for only one specific employer.

You can find all of Canada’s work permit/visa application forms online. The Canadian work visa with a work permit costsaround 155 CAD (120 USD).

Canadian Work Visa Requirements

Work permits are issued to a variety of workers including temporary workers, business people, and permanent workers. You can apply for a work permit from outside Canada, within Canada, or at point of entry. The eligibility requirements for Canada will vary depending on where you apply from.

Canada Visa Requirements for Temporary Workers

For temporary workers, there are eligibility requirements to meet when applying for a Canadian work permit. For instance, you must provide proof of the following:

  • That you plan to leave Canada when your work permit expires.
  • Of sufficient funds to return home and to take care of yourself and any family members coming with you.
  • Police clearance certificate.

You must also:

  • Be in good health (a medical exam may be required).
  • Plan to work for an eligible employer (i.e., no strip clubs, escort services, or erotic massage places).
  • Appropriate documents to enter Canada.

Requirements for a Business Visa

When it comes to business visas, Canada makes a distinction between business people and business visitors. Business people can work in Canada under the free trade agreement, meaning they fall under one of the following three agreements: Unites Sates-Mexico-Canada agreement (USMCA), Other Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), or General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

USMCA applies to US and Mexican citizens. There are four categories:

  • Business visitors: Workers who come to take part in international business without being a part of the Canadian labor market. Business visitors usually stay for a few days or weeks, but they are able to stay up to six months without a work permit.
  • Professionals: Must have a job offer in Canada to partake in one of the specific jobs set out by USMCA (e.g., engineer, accountant, computer systems analyst). These workers need a work permit.
  • Intra-company transferees: Managers and executives sent to work for the same company in Canada. These types of workers must have been working on an on-going basis for at least one year for the same employer and have a work permit.
  • Traders and investors: Must be a supervisor or executive involved in the trade of large amount of goods or services between Canada and their home country; or they or their company must have made a substantial investment in Canada. These workers must have a work permit.

FTAs are agreements between Canada and other countries such as Chile, Panama, Peru, Colombia, and Korea. It is modeled after USMCA, covering the same types of workers: business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, and traders and investors.

For more than 140 World Trade Organizations, Canada came up with GATS to make it easier for foreign workers to access the Canadian services market. The groups covered are business visitors, professionals, and intra-company transferees.

Canada Visa Requirements for Permanent Workers

Permanent workers have to be skilled and will go through the online Express Entry system. There are three types of skilled worker immigration programs with specific requirements for each:

Keep in mind that if you plan to live in Québec, they have their own Québec-selected skilled workers process.

The documents you will need for the Express Entry application include:

  • Passport or travel document
  • Language test results
  • Education credential assessment report
  • Provincial nomination (if you have one)
  • Written job offer from a Canadian employer (if you have one)
  • Police certificate
  • Medical exam
  • Proof of funds

Canada’s Immigration Point System

Canada’s point system is called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). To qualify for the Federal Skilled Worker Program, you need a score of 67 points or higher (out of 100). You are evaluated based on:

  • English or French skills (maximum 28 points)
  • Education (maximum 25 points)
  • Experience (maximum 15 points)
  • Age (maximum 12 points)
  • Arranged Employment in Canada (maximum 10 points)
  • Adaptability (maximum 10 points)

Your language skills are tested based on listening, speaking, reading, and writing ability.

To earn points under the Education requirement, you must prove you have a Canadian diploma or certificate; or have any international education assessed by a Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)-approved agency to show it is equal to a Canadian credential.

You earn points in Experience based on how many years you have spent doing full-time, paid work (at least 30 hours per week, or an equal amount of part-time experience).

Experience Points One year 9 Two to three years 11 Four to five years 13 Six or more years 15

You will also earn points based on your age.

Age Points Under 18 18-35 12 36 11 37 10 38 9 39 8 40 7 41 6 42 5 43 4 44 3 45 2 46 1 47 or older 0

If you have a permanent, full-time job offer from a Canadian employer before you arrive in Canada, you qualify to earn points in the Arranged Employment in Canada category.

If you have a spouse or common-law partner moving to Canada with you, they can earn points for Adaptability too. This category covers any past study or work in Canada.

Canadian Family Visas

For temporary workers, family can come along if they meet the requirements for temporary residents, can prove to customs they will only stay for the interim period, have no criminal record, and are able to get a temporary resident visa if they are from one of the countries that require a visa to enter Canada.

Dependent children, spouses, and common-law partners can come with permanent workers to Canada if they aren’t inadmissible to Canada, and the worker is able to meet the requirements for sponsoring their family.

Each member of the family needs to apply separately. Their form and documents required may include:

  • Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union form
  • Passports
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage or divorce certificates
  • National ID cards
  • Military service documents
  • Other civil documents

Any spouses or dependent children wishing to work in Canada will need to apply for their own work permit. They can apply from within the country.

Medical Exam

For more information on what to expect during your medical exam, read our relocating section of our guide.

For your appointment, make sure you bring:

  • Proper ID (with photograph and signature)
  • Eyeglasses or contact lenses (if applicable)
  • Medical reports or tests for any previous or existing medical conditions
  • Medical Report form (IMM 1017E) (may be sent to you as part of your visa and work permit application process)
  • List of current medications
  • Four recent photographs

Your medical exam is valid for twelve months.

Self-Employment Visas

Canada has a self-employment visa program. To be considered, the worker must be able to prove they have relevant artistic or athletic experience allowing them to be self-employed. They must also be able to make a significant contribution to cultural and sporting life in Canada.

If you are a self-employed worker moving to Québec, keep in mind that they have their own business immigration program.

Canada Self-Employment Visas: Eligibility Requirements

You will need to have:

  • at least 100,000 CAD (74,300 USD) in assets;
  • at least two years of self-employment experience or have taken part in cultural activities or athletics at a world-class level;
  • a medical exam:
  • a police certificate;
  • proof of sufficient funds to support yourself and family in Canada;
  • biometrics (fingerprints and photo).

Applicants are also assessed on their experience, education, age, language abilities, and adaptability. For a detailed list of the supporting documents you will need, refer to this document checklist by the Canadian Government. If you are missing any required document, your application will be sent back and not be processed.

Canada Self-employment Visa Costs, Application Form, and Process.

You can fill out the application form online. You will then be prompted to pay the application fee, which is also done online. The cost to apply for the program the fees start at 2,075 CAD (1,580 USD).

Then, you have to print the application package and mail it to:

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Self-employed Class Centralized Intake Office P.O. Box 7200 Sydney, NS B1P 0E9 Canada

If you are moving to Québec, mail to:

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Q Business Class Centralized Intake Office P.O. Box 7100 Sydney, NS B1P 0E8 Canada

If you are sending your application by mail courier, send to:

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Self-employed Class / Q Business Class (depending on location) Centralized Intake Office 49 Dorchester Street Sydney, NS B1P 5Z2 Canada

The processing time for the application is about 23 months (including the time required to give biometrics).

About the process to Apply for a Canadian Self Employed Visa

The Canadian Self-employed Persons Program enables workers to move to Canada permanently as a self-employed person.

If you’re interested, you must:

  • have relevant experience in cultural activities or athletics; and,
  • make a significant contribution to the cultural or athletic life in Canada.

The Importance of Relevant Experience

Bear in mind that a key requirement is to have relevant experience. What does this mean?

Your experience is considered relevant if you have, within a period of five years before the date of your application:

  • taken part in cultural activities or athletics at a world-class level or
  • been a self-employed person in cultural activities or athletics

Residency Permits: Temporary and Permanent

If you are wondering how to apply for a temporary residence visa (TRV) or even how to become a Canadian permanent resident, this subsection gives an overview of how to do so.

How to Get a Temporary Resident Visa in Canada

The application for a temporary resident visa (also known as a visitor visa) is found online on the Government of Canada website. Applications are completed, submitted, and paid for online. This type of visa is issued for people coming to visit Canada, including people coming to do business, and must be obtained before arrival into Canada. Any family members coming along are also required to fill out and submit their own application for a TRV.

Requirements and Fees for Canadian Visa

Some of the conditions in order to be issued your TRV are:

  • Proof that you will leave at the end of your stay.
  • Proof of sufficient finances.
  • No intention to work or study unless authorized.
  • No criminal record.
  • Not a risk to Canadian security.
  • Medical exam (if required).
  • Biometrics (if required).

The fee to apply for the TRV is 100 CAD (75 USD) plus biometrics if needed, which costs 85 CAD (65 USD).

How to Get Permanent Residency in Canada

The application process to get a Canadian permanent resident visa varies. You can apply from within or outside of Canada. Usually, permanent residents have resided as temporary residents first (sometimes as workers) before they apply for permanent residency.

There are many benefits to permanent residency in Canada. As a Canadian permanent resident, you:

  • will have access to the country’s health care system and coverage;
  • can legally live, work, and study anywhere in Canada;
  • can later apply for citizenship after a certain period of time;
  • will be protected under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The only thing a permanent residents cannot do is vote. For this right, they have to become citizens. To find out if you are eligible to apply for Canadian permanent residency, the Government of Canada website has a handy tool called Come to Canada, which prompts you to answer a series of questions about your individual circumstance and situation. Based on your answers, it will suggest a list of programs that you may be eligible for.

Canadian permanent resident applications are online.

There are more than 60 Canadian immigration programs that can lead to permanent residency. They can be divided into three main classes:

  • Economic – operates using the Express Entry.
  • Family – sponsorship through a family member who is already a Canadian permanent resident or citizen.
  • Business – investment-based immigration programs offering permanent residency. Also, for the self-employed, experienced entrepreneurs, and start-up businesses.

Economic-Based Permanent Residency 

If you fall under this category, you are a skilled worker who will submit their self-assessed profile online (valid for one year). You will then be entered into a pool where you will get a score using a Comprehensive Ranking System (Canada’s point system) based on different categories of assessment (see above). Those with the highest scores will be invited to apply for permanent residency.

If you receive an official invite, you will have a limited amount of time to complete your application, which includes health and security checks.

Family Visa and the Canadian Spouse Visa Process

For any permanent resident or citizen of Canada wishing to bring along their non-Canadian partner, be aware that spouses or common-law partners fall under the family visa sponsorship category. It is essential to keep in mind that there is no Canadian fiancé visa process or sponsorship – instead, aim to qualify as a marital or common-law partner.

Canadian permanent residents or citizens can sponsor the following family members:

  • Spouse
  • Common law partner
  • Dependent child
  • Orphaned brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, granddaughters, or grandsons who are under the age of 18 and not married or in a common-law relationship
  • Accompanying relatives of the above (e.g., spouse, partner, or dependent children)

If You Are a Sponsor

Some of the requirements to be a sponsor are:

  • Minimum 18 years of age.
  • Must not receive social assistance (other than disability-specific).
  • Can cover basic needs for person sponsored.
  • Biometrics may be required.

Some of the documents required from the sponsor are:

  • Photocopy of permanent residence card or Canadian citizenship card or certificate (both sides).
  • Letter from an employer in Canada (including salary details, regular working hours, etc.).
  • ID, travel documents, and passport.
  • Civil status documents.

If You Are Being Sponsored

Some of the requirements of the person being sponsored are:

  • Certified translations of all documents in English or French.
  • Proof of relationship to the sponsor.
  • Police certificate.
  • Medical exam.
  • Biometrics may be required.

Keep in mind that if you are sponsor living in Québec, requirements may differ slightly. It is best to contact the Québec Ministry of Immigration for information.

Business Visa

The final class operates under federal or provincial immigration programs. Most provincial immigration programs require a two-step process, starting with a work permit first (see above). You will also usually need a medical exam, police certificates, and certified translation of all documents when applying.

The Provincial Nominee Entrepreneur Program is also under this category. In this category, applicants are nominated by a province if they meet the program requirements (varies based on province). Typically though, they all require a minimum net worth of 350,000 CAD (263,300 USD) with enough managerial experience. Some of the programs also require a minimum deposit, which is then returned to the applicant once the business is established.

Health and criminal checks are a standard part of this process too. Participating provinces include:

British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Yukon, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and North West Territories.

Québec has its own Immigrant Investor Program, Entrepreneur Program, and Self-Employed Program, which falls under Business class.

Canadian Permanent Residence Visa Requirements

Once you have obtained your permanent residence visa for Canada, there are specific requirements you must maintain to keep your status. The residency requirement states that for every five years you must live two of those years in Canada. Otherwise, you risk losing your permanent residency status in Canada. If you do lose it, you can appeal within 60 days.

Canadian Permanent Resident Fees

  • Business immigration for QuĂ©bec business immigration, self-employed workers, and start-up visas: 1,540 CAD (1,160 USD)
  • Economic immigration (Express Entry): 1,040 CAD (785 USD)
  • Spouse, parent, or grandparent sponsorship: 1,040 CAD (785 USD)
  • Dependent child sponsorship: 50 CAD (38 USD)
  • Permanent resident card: 50 CAD (38 USD)
  • Biometrics: 85 CAD (65 USD) or 170 CAD (125 USD) for families of two or more applying at the same time

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