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LMIA-Exempt Work Permits

Published on: September 1st, 2022
Last updated: October 13th, 2022

Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is required to apply for most Canadian work permits. Obtaining an LMIA document can be a lengthy process that some employers avoid. Fortunately, there are some types of Canadian work permits that are LMIA-exempt.

Free Assessment

For the most part, before employers in Canada can hire a foreign worker, they must get an LMIA. A positive LMIA, sometimes called a confirmation letter, proves that the employer has tried and failed to find a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to fill the position, so they need to hire a foreign national instead.

When a foreign national applies for most Canadian work permits, they need to have a copy of the positive LMIA and the LMIA number included in the application. However, there are some exceptions.

There are basically three kinds of Canadian work permits:

  1. Closed Work Permits
  2. Open Work Permits
  3. Closed LMIA-exempt Work Permits

Most Canadian work permits are closed work permits, which require a positive LMIA. A closed work permit is issued to a foreign worker to work in a specific position and for a specific employer that is listed on the LMIA.

An open work permit, on the other hand, lets foreign workers work in any position, for any employer, anywhere in Canada. Since open work permits are not restricted to an occupation or employer, they do not require an LMIA. You also do not need to have a job offer to apply for an open work permit.

Closed LMIA-exempt work permits are kind of in the middle. They allow foreign workers to work for a specific employer in a specific position, but do not require an LMIA.

Jobs exempt from an LMIA

Closed LMIA-exempt work permits authorize a foreign national to work in a specific position for a specific employer, but don’t need a positive LMIA. Usually, whether or not a closed work permit is LMIA-exempt depends on the nature of the job.

Significant benefit

This exemption can be applied if your employer is able to prove that you will bring an important social, cultural, or economic benefit to Canada. For example:

  • Technical workers, creative and performing artists, self-employed engineers, etc.
  • Intra-company transferees with specialized knowledge that will contribute to the Canadian economy through their specialized skills and experience
  • Workers under Mobilité francophone

Reciprocal employment

This exemption allows foreign workers the opportunity to work in Canada in specific industries where Canadians have similar opportunities in other countries. For example:

  • Professional athletes and coaches working with Canadian teams
  • Professors, guest lecturers, and students participating in exchange programs

Entrepreneurs & self-employed

Foreign nationals who want to work for themselves or operate their own business temporarily in Canada need to demonstrate that their business would generate significant economic, social, or cultural benefits for Canadian citizens or permanent residents to be granted a LMIA exemption.

Intra-company transferees

International companies can temporarily transfer employees to a Canadian branch without requiring an LMIA.

French-speaking skilled workers

French-speaking skilled workers who have a valid job offer in a province or territory outside of Quebec may be exempt from needing an LMIA.

International trade agreements

Some international Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) contain provisions to make it easier for businesspeople to work temporarily in the signed countries. While foreign workers covered by an applicable FTA still usually need a closed work permit, they are exempt from the LMIA requirement. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) are both examples.

International youth exchange programs

Canada also participates in some international youth exchange programs that allow young people to travel and work in Canada without requiring an LMIA. For example, the Young Professionals category of International Experience Canada for individuals with a job offer in Canada that contributes to their professional development.

Minister-designated exemptions

This exemption applies to specific situations and is at the discretion of the Minister of Immigration. For example:

  • Academics, researchers, guest lecturers and visiting professors who are sponsored through a recognized federal program
  • Medical residents and fellows, and people who have received academic awards through Canadian institutions

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