Work permit processing in light of visa office closures 


May 2012

Employment and Labour Bulletin

The federal government's recent decision to close the visa and immigration sections of various Canadian Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates including those in Tokyo, Berlin and Buffalo, may have a dramatic effect on processing times for Japanese, German, U.S. and other foreign nationals seeking a work permit in Canada.

Processing formerly done at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo will now take place at the Embassy in Manila. Processing which previously occurred in Berlin will now be handled out of the Embassy in Vienna. Work permit applications that were submitted in Buffalo are now to be submitted at the Consulates in New York or Los Angeles, depending on the applicant's residence. Some additional delay should be expected.

However, it is important to know that Japanese, German and U.S. citizens are exempt from the requirement of having a visa to enter Canada. As well as citizens of other visa exempt countries, they are able to apply for their work permits at any port of entry into Canada, including an international airport, pursuant to R198 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act Regulations. A list of visa exempt and visa required countries can be found at Citizenship and Immigration Canada's website

In order to gain admission at a port of entry it is important that the foreign worker have in his/her possession the documents necessary to enable the examining officer to determine the worker's eligibility for a work permit. Normally a labour market opinion (LMO) issued by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) is a pre-condition to obtaining a work permit. However, there are several LMO exemptions including intra-company transferees (with at least one year of service in the organization) with specialized knowledge or who are employed at a senior managerial or executive level, as well as professionals under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Assuming the foreign worker is visa exempt and not otherwise criminally or medically inadmissible, we recommend the worker have the following documents in his/her possession when applying for a work permit at the port of entry:

  • a valid passport
  • a labour market opinion issued by HRSDC (if the position is not LMO exempt)
  • an employer support letter detailing the employer's business, history, relationship to the foreign worker's employer abroad, a detailed description of the position in Canada and the worker's qualifications and job history
  • any other background documents needed to support the application, such as a resume and copies of degrees or diplomas, in the case of a NAFTA professional for example
  • a Use of a Representative form (IMM 5476) if the foreign worker has the assistance of a representative, such as an immigration lawyer.

There is no work permit application form used at the port of entry nor are photographs required. Of course processing fees continue to apply. Family members can be dealt with in the same fashion if accompanying the principal applicant at the initial port of entry admission or at a later date. It should also be noted that the spouse of a foreign worker who has obtained a work permit in a National Occupational Classification position at skill levels O, A or B (primarily managerial, professional, technical or skilled trades positions) may herself/himself obtain an open work permit to be employed in Canada if desired.

by David Elenbaas

Any member of our Business Immigration Group would be pleased to discuss the impact of these changes.

a cautionary note

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.

© McMillan LLP 2012