Work permit: COVID-19 program delivery
This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.
To respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government of Canada has issued a series of Orders in Council. The following Orders in Council have a direct impact on foreign workers:
- Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from any Country other than the United States)
- Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Mandatory Isolation)
- Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from the United States)
Like all travellers, including Canadian citizens and permanent residents, temporary workers who enter Canada as a result of an exemption will undergo the necessary health checks and must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Canada unless otherwise exempted.
- Foreign nationals requiring a work permit, whether they are visa required or not, will not be allowed to board a plane departing from any country other than the United States if they don’t have the work permit or approval letter.
- Foreign nationals will not be able to apply for a work permit at the POE (unless entering from the U.S. and allowed to do so under Order in Council: 2020-0185).
The following foreign nationals who are currently outside Canada are not subject to Canada’s travel restrictions:
Foreign nationals who hold a valid Canadian work permit (including an open work permit) as defined in section R2.
Document to present to the air carrier: The status document [IMM 1442] (the actual valid work permit document).
All foreign nationals who received a positive decision from IRCC (documented by a decision letter, port of entry letter, or letter of introduction) on a work permit application but whose work permit has not yet been issued. This includes foreign nationals who applied for an open work permit and received a positive decision.
Document to present to the air carrier: A paper copy or e-version of the letter of introduction.
Note: Work permit applicants who are currently outside Canada must confirm that their employer is not subject to mandatory closure of non-essential businesses and will be able to start their employment after the 14-day isolation period before making any travel arrangements. Workers should not proceed to Canada at this time if their employer is no longer offering them a job.
On this page
- Port of entry instructions
- Processing of work permits
- Offers of employment and LMIAs
- Agricultural workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) and the Agricultural Stream (non-SAWP)
- Changing employment
Port of entry instructions
Border services officers (BSOs) may ask if the offer is still active or the employer is still operating. If not, BSOs may refuse the work permit as the foreign national no longer meets the requirements under section R200 or is prohibited under subsection R200(3). The BSO must determine if the foreign national is otherwise admissible to enter Canada within the current travel restrictions.
If the employer is no longer offering a job, whether a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) was required or not, the foreign national may withdraw their work permit application and receive a refund if IRCC has not started processing their application.
In addition, the following work permit-exempt foreign nationals are not subject to the travel restrictions and may not be subject to the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period if they are described in the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Mandatory Isolation):
- providers of emergency services under paragraph R186(t) for the protection or preservation of life or property (includes firefighters and medical service providers)
- persons permitted to work as a student in a health field under paragraph R186(p), including as a medical elective or clinical clerk at a medical teaching institution in Canada, for the primary purpose of acquiring training, if they have written approval from the body that regulates that field
- workers in the marine transportation sector who are essential for the movement of goods by vessel under paragraph R186(s)
- persons who seek to enter Canada for the purpose of delivering, maintaining, or repairing medically necessary equipment or devices under paragraph R186(a)
- persons who seek to enter Canada for the purpose of making medical deliveries of cells, blood and blood products, tissues, organs or other body parts that are required for patient care in Canada during or within a reasonable period of time after the expiry of the Order under paragraph R186(t)
When operationally possible, we encourage officers to prioritize these work permit exemption applications as these occupations were identified as critical for health, safety and food security reasons.
Foreign nationals who are work permit exempt are still required to undergo their immigration medical examination, if required. Consult
At the point of boarding, these foreign nationals can self-identify to airlines that they are exempt from the travel restriction by presenting alternative documentation to show how they meet the criteria. This should generally include
- for emergency services providers, a letter of invitation from a relevant organization in Canada (federal, provincial or municipal government entity)
- for health care students, a letter of invitation from a relevant teaching institution
- for persons joining vessels, a letter from shipping agents
Those who are work permit exempt are required to satisfy the airline that they are exempt from the travel restrictions. Other acceptable documents may include letters of invitation and letters confirming recognition of credentials.
Processing of work permits
Applicants outside Canada can continue to submit work permit applications. Any person who is outside Canada at the time of application must apply online. This also applies to applicants who are normally allowed to apply at the port of entry as per subsection R198(1), as the exemption to the travel restrictions for foreign nationals arriving from a country other than the U.S. applies to holders of a work permit and persons approved for a work permit.
To benefit from the exemption to the travel restriction when arriving from a country other than the U.S., the foreign national must have their letter of introduction beforehand if they are travelling by air. Foreign nationals who are presenting themselves at a land border may still apply upon entry as per subsection R198(1) and insofar as they are not prohibited from entering Canada on the basis of the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from the United States).
For applicants who are outside Canada, a daily report will be pulled for all approved applications and a push notification letter will be sent by the Client Experience Branch advising applicants of the required documentation to present to the air carrier and the 14-day self-isolation instructions.
Applicants can also continue to submit applications to extend or to change conditions on their work permits from within Canada. More instructions to follow.
Certain applicants may still apply using paper applications if they meet one of the exemptions from the mandatory e-application requirement. They must clearly write “COVID-19” on the envelope.
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) will prioritize the processing of LMIAs for the following National Occupational Classification (NOC) codes. Where operationally possible, we encourage officers to prioritize work permit applications for these NOCs, in addition to health-related occupations, as these occupations have been identified as essential and critical for Canada. A daily report will be pulled by Operations Planning and Performance Branch (OPPB) and distributed to the International Network and Centralized Network.
- NOC 6331 – Butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers – retail and wholesale
- NOC 7511 – Transport truck drivers
- NOC 8252 – Agricultural service contractors, farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
- NOC 8431 – General farm workers
- NOC 8432 – Nursery and greenhouse workers
- NOC 8611 – Harvesting labourers
- NOC 9463 – Fish and seafood plant workers
- NOC 9617 – Labourers in food, beverage and associated products processing
- NOC 9618 – Labourers in fish and seafood processing
- NOC 9462 – Industrial butchers and meat cutters, poultry preparers and related workers
Note: Certain foreign nationals who are licensed health care professionals and who can demonstrate their employment in Canada may be required to obtain a work permit prior to their entry, if they do not qualify for a work permit exemption under section R186. Those who are travelling by air from somewhere other than the U.S. would have to apply abroad for a work permit and await approval. Officers are encouraged to provide priority processing for these applicants.
Offers of employment and LMIAs
Given the current exceptional circumstances, we may see an increase in the suspension of LMIAs and the withdrawal of offers of employment in the employer portal. Officers are reminded to verify that the offer has not been withdrawn and that the LMIA has not been suspended before finalizing the work permit application. For more details, consult:
- Employer-specific work permits with LMIA exemptions
- LMIA validity and suspension, and duration of employment
For LMIA-required work permit applications, officers are reminded to review the IRCC notes in the LMIA under the Employment Details tab to make sure that there has been no change to the name of the foreign national in the LMIA for which the officer is assessing the application. Workers such as truck drivers are expected to arrive in Canada and be able to perform the job. Most training facilities are likely not in operation at the moment. In addition, ESDC will issue LMIAs with a 9-month validity as opposed to 6 months to provide more flexibility.
Agricultural workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) and the Agricultural Stream (non-SAWP)
Specific instructions have been developed for agricultural workers given their importance in our labour market to ensure Canadian food security. The following guidance has been drafted to facilitate the processing of agriculture-related work permit applications as well as the workers’ arrival in Canada.
Existing and new applications
Given that missions abroad are currently down to essential staff only, the Rapid Response Operations Centre (RROC) will provide support for the processing of online applications. All new applications will be processed in cooperation with the responsible office. Standard operating procedures have been established between each mission and the RROC, taking into consideration office- and caseload-specific factors.
Employers and agricultural stakeholders have started to organize chartered flights in order to bring workers to Canada given the current limited availability of commercial flights. This practice is expected to continue while flight options remain restricted during the pandemic.
Once admitted to Canada, workers must quarantine for 14 days before they start working. For more details, see ESDC’s page:
Immigration medical examinations
Follow regular guidance on who must submit to an immigration medical exam.
A temporary public policy has been issued on the exemption from certain requirements when a temporary worker is changing employment.
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