You can come to Canada with an open work permit and connect directly with Canadian employers
Posted on - Jul 06, 2021

By Catherine Sas Q.C. and Victor Ing

Catherine Sas Q.C.

Victor Ing

One of the challenges that prospective immigrants to Canada face is to secure employment in Canada prior to applying for permanent residence. In the Express Entry (EE) program’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scoring criteria, after education and language proficiency, the factor that garners the most point is Canadian work experience. How does one qualify for a job in Canada from abroad? It is indeed challenging for prospective workers abroad to obtain a work permit in Canada without first being offered a position by a Canadian employer. The exception to this proviso is the Working Holiday Visa (WHV) which allows a person to come to Canada with an open work permit and connect directly with Canadian employers after arrival.

The WHV is one category of permits under the International Experience Class (IEC). The IEC offers three distinct categories of work permits – the WHV as well as the Young Professional (YP) and International Co-op (IC) – however both of these categories are employer specific. Most WHV permit holders transition to a YP or IC permit after first coming to Canada and establishing a relationship with an employer who seeks to maintain their employment in Canada. The IEC is a program that allows for the exchange of young people to travel and gain work experience abroad and is based upon agreements between member nations. Currently, Canada has agreements with 36 countries to allow for the entry of young workers. Each agreement is different in terms of the age bracket for eligible workers as well as the type and duration of work permit.

For a list of the participant countries please click here.

Many young people who come to Canada on IEC visas seek to live in Canada and ultimately apply for permanent residence. In our immigration practice we see situations where individuals have compromised their ability to qualify for permanent residence simply for not understanding the rules of the game! The IEC program is designed to allow young people to apply for and obtain their permits on their own and can be misleading to potential applicants who don’t understand other key aspects of Canada’s immigration program. Here are some tips to ensure that you will be able to qualify for permanent residence to Canada at the end of your IEC permit!

Learn about Express Entry and how it applies to you.

Canada’s immigration program is challenging and not meant to welcome everyone. If living in Canada is your ultimate goal, then you need to understand whether or how you will qualify. There are things that can be done to enhance your chances. Education, language proficiency, and Canadian work experience are all crucial. You may need to continue to work in Canada in order to gain further work experience or improve your English and/or French. After the relatively easy process for obtaining a work permit that the IEC provides, you may have to grapple with a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) work permit or a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) application, both of which require supportive Canadian employers. Alternatively, you may choose to study in Canada with a view to obtaining a post graduation work permit. You need to fully understand these various processes and the sooner the better.

Sas & Ing Blog: Express Entry for Beginners – Understanding Canada’s Immigration Selection System

Seek out legal advice and do so early!

There is no question that legal advice can be costly. The but the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” fits perfectly in this scenario. After arriving in Canada, if your goal is to be able to obtain permanent residence, consult with an immigration professional early on to learn how to achieve your dream. A good immigration professional determines whether you will likely qualify for permanent residence at the end of your work permit or will let you know the steps that you will need to take and over what time frame. You will likely be provided with several options and you will need the time to pursue them or become eligible for them. At our immigration office we are routinely consulted by individuals who only have a few weeks or sometime days of valid status in Canada and this leaves us with few options to assist them in remaining in Canada, let alone qualifying for permanent residence.

Never, ever work without authorization.

Your status in Canada is your responsibility. It is not an excuse to say that you forgot that your work permit was expiring. And if it expires, it is also not acceptable to work without a permit – even if you are “volunteering”, or working without being paid. If everyone else at your place of work is being paid, then you are still entering the Canadian labour market, paycheck or no paycheck. The consequences of working without a permit is that an officer is prohibited from issuing another work permit for a period of six months and, in most circumstances, you will need to depart Canada during this period of time.

The IEC is an attractive option for young people to come and travel in Canada and gain valuable work experience. It is also a very straightforward application process that most young people complete on their own and don’t get the benefit of learning other essential immigration principles. Seek out immigration advice and seek it out early to secure your pathway to Canadian permanent residence.


Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 30 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 9 consecutive years.

Victor Ing is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada, and provides a full range of immigration services.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

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