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Work without a Work Permit

Most foreign nationals wishing to work in Canada require a work permit, which is a legal document authorizing a foreign national to engage in employment and receive compensation from a Canadian employer. However, in certain unique circumstances, a foreign national may work in Canada without a work permit.

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Types of jobs in Canada that DO NOT require a Work Permit

The following types of jobs may not require a work permit for foreign nationals to engage in Canadian employment. It should be noted simple inclusion on this list does not mean that a person will be eligible for a work permit exemption. In order to qualify for a work permit exemption, a person’s job must be on this list and they must meet the additional exemption criteria for their specific job as outlined on the International Mobility Program webpage.

  If a foreign national in employed in one of the positions or scenarios listed above, they may be eligible for a work permit exemption.

Athlete or coach

If you are a foreign national who is a member of a foreign athletic team who is competing in Canada, you may be exempt from requiring a work permit. This provision covers athletes, coaches, and other members of foreign teams. If you are a part of a Canadian team, you will require a work permit.

Aviation accident or incident investigator

If you are accredited as an agent or adviser to investigate aviation accidents and/or other incidents you may be exempt from requiring a work permit to carry out such investigative work in Canada. To qualify for the exemption, the investigation must be under Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act.

Business visitor

Business Visitors are foreign nationals who travel to Canada to undertake business activities but do not enter the Canadian labour market. If you meet the definition of a business visitor, you may be exempt from requiring a Canadian work permit.

Note: There is a significant difference between a business visitor and a business person, ensure that you meet the definition to qualify for the exemption.

Civil aviation inspector

If you are employed to check the flight operations and cabin safety of international flights through Canada, you may qualify for a work permit exemption.

Clergy

If you are a foreign national who is an ordained minister, a lay person, or a member of a religious order, you may qualify for a work permit exemption to undertake religious work in Canada. Your duties in Canada may include the following: preaching doctrine, leading worship, and/or giving spiritual counselling.

Convention organizer

If you organize or run international conventions or international meetings you may qualify for a work permit exemption. Please note that this exemption only applies to organizers, those providing hands-on services (audio-visual services, for example) during such conventions must have the appropriate work authorization.

Crew member

If you are a foreign national who is a truck driver, bus driver, shipping or airline worker, you may qualify for a work permit exemption. To qualify for the exemption, your employment must meet two conditions:

  • You must be working on vehicles which are owned and registered by enterprises outside of Canada which are used to transport cargo and/or passengers internationally; and
  • Your work must be related to the operation of the vehicles and/or the serving of passengers.

Emergency service provider

If you are a foreign national who will be working in Canada to provide services during an emergency, you may qualify for a work permit exemption. Your services must be to help preserve life and/or property in Canada. Emergencies include both natural disasters, like fires or floods, as well as industrial accidents which threaten the environment.

Examiner and evaluator

If you are a foreign national who is a professor or academic expert, you may be eligible for a work permit exemption to undertake certain types of activities in Canada. These activities include the evaluation and/or supervision of academic projects, research proposals, and theses. You may be employed by a Canadian educational institution or a Canadian research group.

Expert witness or investigator

If you are working in Canada to provide evidence before a regulatory body, a tribunal, or a court of law, you may be eligible for a work permit exemption.

Family member of foreign representative

If you are the spouse or child or a foreign representative, you may be eligible for a Canadian work permit exemptions. In order to qualify, you must meet the following conditions:

  • You must be accredited by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) including a GAC counterfoil in your passport.
  • You must have a letter of no objection issued by GAC. This letter is normally only issued if a reciprocal employment agreement exists between Canada and another country.

Foreign government officer or representative

You may qualify for a work permit exemption if you meet any of the three following conditions:

  • You are an employee of a foreign government working under an exchange agreement which allows officials to work in governments in your country and in Canada.
  • You are a foreign diplomat or official representative of another country.
  • You are a foreign diplomat or official representative of the United Nations.

Employees of other governments must obtain an official letter if they will be employed in Canada for longer than 3 months.

Health care student

If you are a foreign national who is studying in a healthcare field in Canada and wishes to undertake employment as part of a training program, you may be eligible for a work permit exemption. In order to qualify for the exemption, you must meet the four following conditions:

  • You must be participating in clinical clerkships.
  • The main goal of your employment is for training purposes.
  • You must have written approval from the provincial regulatory body which regulates your profession (please note that not all provinces require this).
  • Your training must last less than 4 months.

If you do not meet all of these conditions, you will require a work permit.

Judge, referee or similar official

If you are a foreign national travelling to Canada to judge or be an official at an international amateur competition, you may qualify for a work permit exemption. These following types of events are eligible for this exemption:

  • Music and dance festivals.
  • Animal shows.
  • Agricultural contests.

Military personnel

If you are a member of the armed forces of another country you may be eligible for a work permit exemption in Canada. To qualify for this exemption, you must have movement orders stating that you are entering Canada under the Visiting Forces Act.

News reporter or film and media crew

If you are a foreign national working in Canada as a news reporter or on a film and media crew, you may qualify for a work permit exemption. To qualify you must meet one of the following conditions:

  • You must be a news reporter or a member of a news reporter’s crew.
  • You must be a member of a film or media crew who will not enter the Canadian labour market.
  • You must be a journalist who works for a print, radio, television, or web-based publication which is not Canadian.
  • You must be a resident correspondent.
  • You must be a manager or clerical staff member of an event of less than 6 months duration.

Producer or staff member working on advertisements

If you are entering Canada to work on a foreign-financed commercial/advertising shoot for television, magazines, or other media, you may qualify for a work permit exemption. In order to qualify, you must have one of the following roles:

  • Film producer
  • Actor
  • Director
  • Technician
  • Other essential personnel

This exemption only applies to short term employment, usually lasting no more than 2 weeks.

Performing artist

Certain foreign performing artists are eligible to work in Canada without a work permit. In order to qualify for this exemption, the foreign national must meet several requirements:

  • You are the foreign artist or the artist’s key support staff.
  • You will perform in Canada for a limited period of time.
  • You will not be hired for ongoing Canadian employment by the group which contracted you.
  • You will not be involved in creating a broadcast for television, radio, or film.

Public speaker

If you are a foreign national who is a guest speaker, a commercial speaker, or a seminar leader you may qualify for a work permit exemption. Only speakers at events lasting no longer than 5 days are eligible for this exemption.

Short-term highly-skilled worker

High-skilled workers may be eligible to work in Canada for short-term periods provided that a certain amount of time passes between each exemption. Under the terms for the short-term work permit exemption, foreign nationals working at NOC Skill Level 0 or A may be exempt from requiring a work permit for a short period of work in Canada.   Under the conditions for the short-term work permit exemption, the worker must be coming:  

  • To perform work for 15 consecutive calendar days or less and six months have passed since the first day of work under the previous use of this exemption; or
  • To perform work for 30 calendar days or less and 12 months have passed since the first day of work under the previous use of this exemption

  As the short-term work permit exemption is designed to facilitate the work of foreign nationals residing outside of Canada, those residing within Canada are not eligible to apply for this exemption.

Short-term researcher

Some foreign nationals travelling to Canada to undertake short-term research may be eligible for a work permit exemption. This exemption only applies if the researcher meets the following conditions:

  • Must be undertaking research at a public degree-granting institution or affiliated research institution
  • Must be working for 120 or fewer consecutive days
  • Must not have utilized this exemption within the previous 12 months.

Student working off-campus

Full-time international students do not require a work permit to work off-campus during their studies. Full-time international students are eligible to work up to 20 hours per week during study periods and to work full-time during regularly scheduled academic holidays and breaks.

Student working on-campus

If you are a full-time international student in Canada, you do not require a work permit to work on-campus where you study. Full-time international students are eligible to work up to 20 hours per week during study periods and to work full-time during regularly scheduled academic holidays and breaks.

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