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Visas & Work Permits in Canada

The Guide to Visa Types and Work Permit Requirements

Before you pack your bags and book your ticket to Canada, there is some paperwork you need to take care of regarding your visa. Depending on your reason for moving to Canada, you may need to apply for one of Canada’s visa types. This could be a work permit visa for skilled workers or even self-employment visa. This section will also cover residence permits (both temporary and permanent).

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More than likely, if you intend for your expat adventure in Canada to be for a considerable amount of time, you will probably need to apply for a Canadian visa. Although dealing with all of the paperwork regarding the Canadian visa application and the process can be quite nerve-wracking and overwhelming, this section ensures that you and your family have all the information you need on Canadian visa requirements, Canadian visa costs, the medical exam for Canadian immigration, 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.

Work Permits and Employment Based Visas

For most work in Canada, foreigners 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 work permits: open work permits and employer-specific work permits. Open work permits allow you to work for any employer in Canada while employer-specific permits enable you to work for only one specific employer.

All of Canada’s work permit/visa application forms can be found and filled out online. The Canadian work visa cost is 155 CAD (117 USD) for a work permit.

Canadian Work Visa Requirements

Work permits are issued for a variety of workers including temporary workers, business people, and permanent workers. There are a few different ways to apply for a work permit, and the eligibility requirements vary for each: outside of Canada, within Canada, or at the point of entry.

Visa Requirements for Temporary Workers

In general though, for temporary workers, here are the eligibility requirements for all temporary workers when applying for a Canadian work permit:

  • Proof that you plan to leave Canada upon expiration of your work permit.
  • Proof of sufficient funds to return home and take care of yourself and any family members coming with you.
  • Police clearance certificate.
  • Not be a danger to Canada’s security.
  • 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.

Visa Requirements for Business People

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: USMCA (formerly NAFTA), 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 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 in the last three years for the same employer and have a work permit.
  • Traders and investors: Must be a supervisor or executive involved in planning a large amount of trade in goods or services between Canada and their home country; or have a substantial investment in Canada by them or their company. 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 GATSto make it easier for foreign workers to access the Canadian services market. The groups covered are business visitors, professionals, and intra-company transferees.

Visa Requirements for Permanent Workers

Permanent workers have to be skilled workers 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 on living in Québec, they have their own Québec-selected skilled workers process.

Potential 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

Understanding Canada’s 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). It evaluates you 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 0
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 arriving 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.

Family Visas

For temporary workers, family can come with them so long as they meet the requirements for temporary residents to Canada, can prove to customs they will only stay for the interim period, have no criminal record, and 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 so long as 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

For any spouses or dependent children wishing to work in Canada, they will need to apply for their own work permit. They can apply from within Canada.

Medical Exam

If you require a medical exam for your visa application and work permit, please refer to the relocating section of our guide for more information on what to expect during your medical exam along with other Canadian immigration health requirements.

For your appointment, make sure to bring with you:

  • 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 good for twelve months.

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Self-Employment Visas

Canada has a self-employment program which allows for self-employed workers. They will need a self-employed visa. 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.

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

Self-Employment Visas: Eligibility Requirements

  • Have at least 100,000 CAD (74,267 USD) in assets
  • Have at least two years of self-employment experience or have taken part in cultural activities or athletics at a world-class level
  • Medical exam
  • 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, click here. Make sure you triple check this list and ensure you have every form required. If you are missing any required document, your application will be sent back and not be processed.

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 is 1,540 CAD (1,143 USD).

Afterward, you will print the application package and mail your application to:

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

If you are moving to Québec, mail to:

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

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

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

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

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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 residence, this subsection gives an overview of how to do so.

How to Get a Temporary Resident Visa

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

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
  • Not intend to work or study unless authorized
  • No criminal record
  • Not be a risk to Canadian security
  • Medical exam (if required)
  • Biometrics (if required)

The fee to apply for the TRV is 100 CAD (74 USD) plus biometrics if needed which cost 85 CAD (63 USD).

How to Get Permanent Residency in Canada

The process can be quick for some and longer for others and can be applied for within or outside of Canada. Usually, permanent residents have resided as temporary residents first (sometimes as workers) before applying 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 resident cannot do is vote. For this right, they have to become a citizen.

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 based on your individual circumstance and situation. Based on the answers you give, it will even suggest a list of programs that you may be eligible for.

Canadian permanent resident applications can be found online.

How to Obtain Permanent Residency in Canada

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.

You must decide which category best fits you before applying.

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 their non-Canadian partner to Canada, bear in mind 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.


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) and you will usually need a medical exam, police certificates, and certified translation of all documents when applying.

The Provincial Nominee Entrepreneur Programs 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 (263,305 USD) with enough managerial experience. Some of the programs also require a minimum deposit, which is then returned to the applicant once the business has been 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
  • North West Territories

Keep in mind that if planning on residing in Québec, they have their own Immigrant Investor Program, Entrepreneur Program, and Self-Employed Program which fall under Business class.

Canadian Permanent Residence Visa Requirements

Once you have obtained your permanent residence visa, there are specific requirements you must maintain to keep your status in Canada. 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 your permanent residency status, you can appeal within 60 days.

Canadian Permanent Resident Fees

  • Business immigration for Québec business immigration, self-employed workers, and start-up visas: 1,540 CAD (1,159 USD)
  • Economic immigration (Express Entry): 1,040 CAD (782 USD)
  • Spouse, parent, or grandparent sponsorship: 1,040 CAD (782 USD)
  • Dependent child sponsorship: 50 CAD (38 USD)
  • Permanent resident card: 50 CAD (38 USD)
  • Biometrics: 85 CAD (64 USD) or 170 CAD (123 USD) for families of two or more applying at the same time

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: August 12, 2020

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