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Open Work Permit under International Mobility Program(Canadian Interest)

The International Mobility Program (IMP) in Canada offers open work permits, allowing foreign nationals to work for any employer without a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This program supports Canada’s economic and cultural growth by offering foreign workers a broader employment choice. Under the IMP, open work permits are issued under various exemption codes targeting Canada’s economic and academic competitiveness. Several provisions cover family members of foreign nationals in high-skilled or low-skilled occupations, post-doctoral fellows, academic awardees, and foreign medical residents.

  1.  Family members of foreign nationals authorized to work in high-skilled occupations 
  2. Family members of foreign nationals authorized to work in low skilled occupations 
  3. Family members of economic class
    permanent residents or provincial nominees 
  4. Spouses and common-law partners of study permit holders 
  5. Post-doctoral fellows awarded a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
  6. Academic Award recipients for research work 
  7. Foreign medical or dental residents and medical research fellows

1. Family members of foreign nationals authorized to work in high-skilled occupations [ C41 and C46 ]

Family members of skilled worker (principle foreign national) may apply for an open work permit without a job offer under LMIA exemption code C41 and C46. It includes spouses, common-law partners, dependent children of the principal foreign worker or their spouse, and grandchildren. The principle foreign national in a couple is the first one to receive a work permit or authorization to work in Canada. When applying for a family member’s open work permit, this individual remains the principal worker. They can’t switch to a spousal open work permit based on their spouse’s work permit. For example, if a primary foreign national with a LMIA-based work permit has a spouse with an open work permit for low-skilled work, the principal cannot leave their job to obtain a high-skilled spousal work permit using their spouse’s permit.

Family members of Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) applicants may apply for their own work permits together, but their eligibility depends on the status of the principal applicant’s PGWP. If the PGWP applicant is working under Regulation 186(w) without a formal work permit, their family members are not eligible for an open work permit. The processing of a family member’s application begins after the PGWP application assessment. The most important thing to remember is that if the family member applies for an open work permit separately and their application is reviewed before the principal applicant’s PGWP is approved or issued, the application will be refused.

Eligibility requirements for OWP under C41 and C46

  • The principal foreign national must have a work permit (employer-specific or open) or provisional approval (e.g., letter of introduction) or authorization to work without a permit under section R186, except under R186(f, v, w).
  • The principal foreign national must hold a work permit or be provisionally approved (a letter of introduction was issued) for at least 6 months following receipt of the family member’s open work permit (OWP).
  • The principal foreign national must be employed or will be employed in a high-skilled occupation (TEER 0, 1,2 or 3)
  • The principal foreign national must live or plan to live in Canada while employed. For CSQ holders and provincial nominees, they must be physically residing or plan to reside in the province of nomination or selection.
  • The principal foreign national must be in a genuine relationship with the applicant as a spouse or common-law partner or be the parent of the applicant who is a dependent child.
  • Applicants who are in Canada at the time of submission must hold a valid temporary resident status or be eligible to restore their status.

2. Family members of foreign nationals authorized to work in low skilled occupations [ C47 and C48 ]

Family members of principal foreign nationals who are or will be employed in low-skilled occupation (TEER 4 or 5) may apply for an open work permit without a job offer under LMIA exemption code C47 and C48. It includes spouses, common-law partners, dependent children of the principal foreign worker or their spouse, and grandchildren. The principle foreign national in a couple is the first one to receive a work permit or authorization to work in Canada. When applying for a family member’s open work permit, this individual remains the principal worker. They can’t switch to a spousal open work permit based on their spouse’s work permit. For example, if a primary foreign national with a LMIA-based work permit has a spouse with an open work permit for low-skilled work, the principal cannot leave their job to obtain a high-skilled spousal work permit using their spouse’s permit.

Eligibility requirements for OWP under C47 and C48

  • The principal foreign national must have a work permit (employer-specific or open) or provisional approval (e.g., letter of introduction) or authorization to work without a permit under section R186, except under R186(f, v, w).
  • The principal foreign national must hold a work permit or be provisionally approved (a letter of introduction was issued) for at least 6 months following receipt of the family member’s open work permit (OWP).
  • The principal foreign national must be employed or will be employed in a low-skilled occupation (TEER 4 or 5)
  • Principal foreign national must hold a work permit not issued under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, agricultural stream, or low-wage stream of the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Exception: Families of principal applicants under the Agri-Food Pilot may apply for an open work permit under C47/C48 if the principal applicant holds or is approved for an LMIA-based work permit in the agriculture or lower wage stream. The principal applicant has received a letter from IRCC acknowledging receipt of their permanent residence application.
  • The principal foreign national must be in a genuine relationship with the applicant as a spouse or common-law partner or be the parent of the applicant who is a dependent child.
  • Applicants who are in Canada at the time of submission must hold a valid temporary resident status or be eligible to restore their status.

3. Family members of economic class permanent residents or provincial nominees [ C49 ]

Family members of economic class permanent residents or provincial nominees (principle foreign national) may apply for an open work permit without a job offer under LMIA exemption code C49. It includes spouses, common-law partners, dependent children of the principal foreign worker or their spouse, and grandchildren. If the principal foreign national holds or is approved for an open work permit because they qualify for an economic class and they haven’t applied for permanent residence yet, their family members may apply for an open work permit. They may be eligible under administrative codes C41/C46 (family members of high-skilled workers) or C47/C48 (family members of low-skilled workers).

Eligibility requirements for OWP under C49

  • The principal foreign national must have applied for permanent residency in the economic class.
  • The principal foreign national must have a work permit (employer-specific or open) or provisional approval (e.g., letter of introduction) or authorization to work without a permit under section R186, except under R186(f, v, w).
  • The principal foreign national must hold a work permit or be provisionally approved (a letter of introduction was issued) for at least 6 months following receipt of the family member’s open work permit (OWP).
  • The principal foreign national must be employed or will be employed in a high-skilled occupation (TEER 0, 1,2 or 3)
  • The principal foreign national must live or plan to live in Canada while employed. For CSQ holders and provincial nominees, they must be physically residing or plan to reside in the province of nomination or selection.
  • The principal foreign national must be in a genuine relationship with the applicant as a spouse or common-law partner or be the parent of the applicant who is a dependent child.
  • The family member must be included in the permanent resident application as an accompanying dependent.
  • Applicants who are in Canada at the time of submission must hold a valid temporary resident status or be eligible to restore their status.

4. Spouses or common-law partners of full-time students [ C42 ]

Spouses or common-law partners of international students may apply for an open work permit. A dependent spouse or common-law partner is eligible to apply for an open work permit under Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exemption code C42. 

The principal foreign national is the first in a couple to obtain a study or work permit. When deciding if the spouse can get an open work permit, the first person to obtain the permit remains the “principal” in the couple. If the principal foreign national is a study permit holder, and the spouse gets an open work permit under certain codes, like C42, the principal national can’t quit studying and obtain a work permit in a different category, like C41, based on their spouse’s permit and job.

Eligibility requirements for OWP under C42

  • Student must hold a valid study permit or have received provisional approval for a study permit (if applying outside Canada).
  • Student must be enrolled full-time at a designated learning institution (DLI) or intend to enroll full-time. 
  • Student must be accepted by or enrolled in a post-graduation work permit-eligible study program and institution.
    It is important to note that only spouses and common law partners of study permit holders studying at PGWP-eligible institutions can apply for an open work permit. Dependent children cannot apply for an open work permit. Family members of study permit holders studying at non-PGWP eligible institutions or in non-PGWP eligible programs are not eligible under this category.
  • Student must be residing physically or plan to reside physically in Canada while studying.

5. Post-doctoral fellows awarded a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) [C42]

The foreign national who has completed or is in the process of completing a PhD may apply for an open work permit. 

Eligibility requirements for OWP under C44

  • The foreign national must have completed, or be in the process of completing, a PhD. 
  • The foreign national must hold a time-limited position in a field related to the one in which they earned, or are pursuing, their PhD.
  • A foreign national must receive a stipend or salary to compensate for periods of teaching, advanced study, or research. 
  • The selection of foreign nationals must be based on academic excellence.

6. Academic Award recipients for research work [ C52 ]

Foreign nationals receiving an “academic award” may qualify for an open work permit. An academic award is one that involves research work, including remuneration, and is offered by a Canadian academic institution. Awards funded by Canadian institutions are primarily given based on merit and academic excellence, following a competitive evaluation process. Applicants bear responsibility for providing relevant information, including eligibility criteria, participation method (nomination or self-submission), and selection criteria. It is important that award recipients’ primary motivation is not recruitment or commercial gain, with exceptions such as the Global Affairs Canada (GAC) award programs, where study permit qualifications do not apply.

Awards funded by foreign institutions offer opportunities for academic research award recipients from their home countries or institutions. Canadian institutions may invite individuals to engage in research activities in Canada, potentially exempting them from study permit requirements. In the case of self-funded research projects, some foreign nationals may meet the criteria for business visitor, allowing them to work in Canada without a work permit.

Eligibility requirements for OWP under C52

  • Foreign nationals must be the direct recipient of the award involving work and remuneration.
  • Foreign nationals must be affiliated with or registered with a credible academic or educational institution or agency in their country of citizenship or residence.
  • Foreign nationals must demonstrate academic excellence or expertise in a field related to the project to be undertaken.
  • Foreign nationals must be offered a position by a credible Canadian academic or educational institution or agency, or a closely affiliated organization: 
  • The employer must not be a commercial enterprise.
  • The position offered to a foreign national must reflect their experience and expertise and ensure they will play an active role in the development of a Canadian research project.

7. Foreign medical or dental residents and medical research fellows [C45]

Foreign nationals who are accepted into medical or dental residency programs in Canada, as well as medical research fellowships, who are not funded by public sources, may be eligible for a work permit. A foreign medical resident is an individual with a medical degree equivalent to a Canadian Medical Doctorate (MD) who comes to Canada to complete a residency at a Canadian hospital or clinical institution.

Eligibility requirements for OWP under C45

  • The foreign national must hold a medical degree equivalent to a Canadian Medical Doctorate (e.g., MD, DDS, DMD).
  • A foreign national must be coming to Canada as part of their medical training to complete a residency at a Canadian hospital or clinical setting (medical and dental residents) or to advance clinical or medical research by pursuing a fellowship in a highly specific field.
  • Foreign nationals must be offered a residency position in Canada that is not publicly funded.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)about International Mobility Program (IMP)

The IMP is an immigration program in Canada that allows foreign nationals to work in Canada via open work permits. This program eliminates the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), streamlining the immigration process for eligible candidates.

Open work permits under the IMP offer foreign workers the flexibility to be employed by any Canadian employer. Unlike traditional employer-specific permits, these open work permits do not restrict the holder to one specific employer or job in Canada.

The IMP features various exemption codes for different worker categories and their families. These codes include C41, C46 for high-skilled workers, C47, C48 for low-skilled workers, and other specific codes for roles like post-doctoral fellows and foreign medical residents.

Family members of principal foreign workers in high-skilled occupations (classified under TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3) can apply for open work permits under the IMP, specifically under codes C41 and C46. Eligible family members include spouses, common-law partners, and dependent children.

Yes, family members of individuals employed in low-skilled occupations (TEER 4 or 5) are eligible to apply for open work permits under the IMP, under codes C47 and C48.

Under the IMP, family members of economic class permanent residents or provincial nominees can apply for open work permits. This is applicable if the principal foreign national has applied for permanent residency and meets other specified criteria.

Spouses or common-law partners of full-time international students can apply for an open work permit (OWP) within the IMP framework. Eligibility depends on the student fulfilling certain criteria related to their study program and institution.

Post-doctoral fellows who have completed or are completing a PhD and have a time-limited position in a related field are eligible to apply for an open work permit under code C44 of the IMP.

Medical or dental residents and research fellows with a degree equivalent to a Canadian Medical Doctorate, who have a residency or fellowship position in Canada (excluding publicly funded positions), can apply for open work permits under code C45 of the IMP.

The LMIA is a document typically required by Canadian employers to hire foreign workers. However, the IMP exempts eligible foreign workers from needing an LMIA, simplifying and expediting the work permit process.