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 3 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 (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from the United States)
- Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Mandatory Isolation)
For more information and updates on the Orders, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website, which includes a list of COVID-19 Emergency Orders in Council in effect.
Like all travellers, temporary workers who are exempt from the travel restrictions will undergo the necessary health checks and must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada unless otherwise exempted under the Mandatory Isolation Order.
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 a valid work permit or a letter of introduction (also known as a port of entry [POE] letter).
Foreign nationals entering from countries other than the United States will not be able to apply for a work permit at the POE pursuant to subsection 198(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), since they are required to present proof to the air carrier that they have either a valid work permit or a letter of introduction, unless they are exempt from the travel restrictions under a different category such as being an immediate family member of a Canadian citizen.
Foreign nationals entering from the United States may be allowed to apply for a work permit upon entry [R198(1)] if they meet the requirements under the Order in Council on Prohibition of Entry into Canada from the United States.
Provinces and territories may have additional travel restrictions; applicants must verify with their employer or provincial or territorial authority before making travel arrangements.
For applicants who are outside Canada, a daily report is being pulled for all approved applications and a push notification letter is being sent by the Client Experience Branch advising applicants of the required documentation to present to the air carrier and the 14-day quarantine instructions.
On this page
- Temporary workers who are exempt from travel restrictions
- Work permit-exempt foreign nationals (only temporary resident visa or electronic travel authorization required) seeking to work in essential occupations
- Determining whether entry of temporary workers will be for a discretionary or optional purpose
- International Experience Canada (IEC) work permit applicants who received a letter of introduction and are outside Canada
- Processing of work permits
- Public policies
Temporary workers who are exempt from travel restrictions
The following foreign nationals who require a work permit and are currently outside Canada are not subject to Canada’s travel restrictions if travelling to Canada for a non-optional or non-discretionary purpose:
Foreign nationals who hold a valid Canadian work permit for a specific employer or foreign nationals who hold a valid open work permit and whose travel is for a non-discretionary purpose.
Document to present to the air carrier: The status document [IMM 1442] (the actual valid work permit document).
Foreign nationals who received a positive decision from IRCC (documented by a letter of introduction) on a work permit application but whose work permit has not yet been issued. The foreign national’s purpose of travel must not be discretionary or optional. Consult Determining whether entry of temporary workers will be for a discretionary or optional purpose.
Document to present to the air carrier: A paper copy or e-version of the letter of introduction.
Work-permit exempt foreign nationals seeking to work in critical occupations
There are specific foreign nationals who are work permit exempt who are also exempt from the restriction on travel. Applicants coming under these work permit exemptions must follow the instructions found in Temporary resident visas (TRVs) or Electronic travel authorization (eTA) when they apply.
Offices should prioritize the processing of these TRV or eTA applications overseas and temporary resident extension applications in Canada, as these occupations were identified as essential for health, safety and food security reasons.
The following TRV or eTA required but work permit-exempt foreign nationals are not subject to the travel restrictions and may not be subject to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period if they are described in the Order in Council on 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)
- Foreign nationals who usually qualify for an LMIA-exempt work permit under exemption code C13 may enter Canada under the paragraph R186(t) exemption if their work is related to the protection or preservation of life or property related to the COVID-19 response and maintenance of essential infrastructure or services.
- 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 under paragraph R186(t)
- persons determined by the Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) to be providing an essential service while in Canada as indicated below
The CPHO has determined that the following classes of persons are providing an essential service while in Canada and are exempt from the Order on Prohibition of Entry into Canada from any Country other than the United States. In addition, the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for asymptomatic people does not apply to those who meet this exemption criteria.
- Technicians or specialists specified by a government, manufacturer or company as required to inspect, maintain or repair equipment (does not include installation) necessary to support critical infrastructure (Energy and Utilities, Information and Communication Technologies, Finance, Health, Food, Water, Transportation, Safety, Government and Manufacturing).
- If they are inspecting, repairing or maintaining equipment as part of an existing warranty or sales agreement, they can be considered as business visitors under paragraph R186(a). They do not have to obtain a letter from the CPHO under subparagraph 3(1)(j)(ii) of the Order or a national interest exemption letter to enter Canada. If they are repairing or maintaining equipment outside of a warranty, then they need a work permit.
- Persons, including captains, deckhands, observers, inspectors, scientists, veterinarians and any other persons supporting commercial or research open water aquaculture-related activities, who enter Canada for the purpose of carrying out aquaculture-related activities, including fishing, transporting fish to and from the aquaculture facility, treating fish for pests or pathogens, repairs, provisioning of aquaculture-related vessels or aquaculture facilities or exchange of crew, and who proceed directly to an open-water facility or vessel upon entry to Canada.
- If they are working on a foreign-owned vessel, they can be considered as crew under paragraph R186(s). They do not have to obtain a letter from the CPHO under subparagraph 3(1)(j)(ii) of the Order or a national interest exemption letter to enter Canada. In all other situations, they need a work permit.
No other foreign nationals who are work permit exempt under section R186 are allowed to travel to Canada at this time from a country other than the United States, unless they hold a national interest exemption letter.
Foreign nationals who are work permit exempt must still undergo their immigration medical examination, if required, and cannot be exempt. For information on medical examination requirements, consult Who must submit to an immigration medical exam.
Documentary evidence to be presented by work permit-exempt applicants to air carriers
At the point of boarding, 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
- for persons who are among the class of persons determined by the CPHO to provide an essential service while in Canada, evidence that they fall under one of the classes stated above
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.
Determining whether entry of temporary workers will be for a discretionary or optional purpose
There are overarching exceptions to the travel ban exemptions. These exceptions include a prohibition on travel for an optional or discretionary purpose.
The emergency orders under the Quarantine Act do not allow people to travel to Canada for optional or discretionary reasons, such as for tourism, recreation or entertainment.
- Before making any travel arrangements, if the foreign national has received a letter of introduction, the foreign national should confirm with their prospective employer that
- the work location or organization is not subject to mandatory closure of non-essential businesses; if the business is closed, workers should not proceed to Canada at this time
- if the business is open, they will be able to start their employment after the 14-day quarantine period
- The temporary worker is expected to have planned how the 14-day quarantine will take place (where they will stay, who will provide them with groceries, medication, etc.).
- If temporary workers do not meet the above conditions, they may not be allowed to enter Canada at the POE even if the airline allowed them to board the aircraft.
- Temporary workers (including citizens of the United States and other countries) coming to Canada to work from the United States may be able to apply at the POE for a work permit, so long as they are visa exempt and otherwise eligible to apply at the POE under the IRPR. The employer in this case should still be operating. Otherwise, the temporary workers may be turned back.
The following are scenarios regarding foreign nationals who hold a valid work permit or received a letter of introduction from IRCC on their work permit application and are seeking entry at a Canadian POE.
Non-optional or non-discretionary travel for a temporary worker may include
- A foreign national has a valid work permit and ordinarily resides in Canada. Whether the foreign national’s employment still exists or if they are currently laid off is not determinative in this case. What is determinative is that the foreign national’s primary residence is in Canada (suggesting their travel is not optional).
- A foreign national has a letter of introduction for an open work permit, holds a valid job offer and will be able to work once they enter Canada.
- A foreign national has a letter of introduction for an employer-specific work permit, holds a valid job offer and will be able to work once they enter Canada.
Optional or discretionary travel for a temporary worker may include
- A foreign national has a letter of introduction for an employer-specific work permit, but the business of their prospective employer is closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- A foreign national has a letter of introduction for an open work permit, has not secured a job contract and is simply planning to search for work opportunities in Canada.
Accompanying family members of temporary workers
There are exemptions from the travel restrictions for immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents. However, immediate family members of temporary workers need written authorization from IRCC to reunite or travel with the work permit holder. (See Uniting with immediate family members for more information.)
Officers must ensure that accompanying family members’ travel is not considered optional or discretionary to allow them entry to Canada. In a situation where immediate family members of the temporary worker are ordinarily residents of Canada, a border services officer may allow entry as the purpose of travel would not be optional. In a situation where the temporary worker is coming to do work that is essential for the Canadian economy, border services officers may examine the motivations for travel of any dependents at this time, particularly as schools are not open.
For example, for family members who are joining a spouse or parent while they are working in an essential job in Canada on a work permit, the purpose of the trip may not be discretionary if the whole family is relocating to Canada. The exemption from travel restrictions likely would apply if this is a relocation move. Child care may also be a consideration. For example, the spouse of the essential worker may be required to move to Canada to care for their children, given that schools are closed.
The Orders also exempt foreign nationals whose travel to Canada is authorized in writing by an officer designated under subsection 6(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) for the purpose of reuniting immediate family members (for example, a temporary worker is in Canada but their spouse and children went home to visit family and now cannot come back).
If the family is not processed as a group, the dependent family members will have to self-identify with IRCC to obtain written authorization from IRCC. Foreign nationals who present themselves at check-in for a flight to Canada without the appropriate authorization letter will not be boarded.
For guidance on required documentation, consult Family reunification.
International Experience Canada (IEC) work permit applicants who received a letter of introduction and are outside Canada
Effective May 8, 2020, and until further notice, the only International Experience Canada (IEC) candidates who border services officers should allow entry to Canada are those who received a letter of introduction and have an offer of employment with an employer who is still operating during the COVID-19 outbreak (because they are allowed to do so under provincial restrictions).
The applicant must still meet all admissibility requirements under the immigration legislation. This would apply to foreign youth in the 3 IEC categories:
- Working Holiday
- Young Professionals
- International Co-op (Internship)
Processing of work permits
Note: Work permit applicants eligible for the Urgent referrals process for work permits should continue to be processed on a priority basis, where operationally feasible.
Foreign nationals outside of Canada can continue to submit work permit applications, although they are required to be submitted electronically in accordance with the Ministerial Instructions.
Due to the travel restrictions, foreign nationals who are normally allowed to apply at the port of entry as per subsection R198(1) can no longer do so as the exemption to the travel restrictions for foreign nationals arriving from a country other than the U.S. applies only to holders of a work permit or those approved for a work permit in advance of arrival.
Foreign nationals who are presenting themselves at a land border may still apply upon entry as per subsection R198(1) as long as their travel is not optional or discretionary and they are not restricted under the Orders.
Foreign nationals can also continue to submit applications to extend or to change conditions on their work permits from within Canada.
Certain in-Canada 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.
Requests for additional information on open applications
Until further notice, processing offices should request any required additional documents in Canada and abroad, including police certificates, biometric enrolments, passports and medical examinations. Offices should allow extra time for response as follows:
- When additional documentation is required to make a decision on the application, processing officers should send a request letter and allow 90 days for the applicant to respond.
- If a request for additional documentation was previously sent but the applicant was unable to comply within the deadline, processing officers should bring forward the application and allow an additional 90 days for the applicant to respond. Officers do not need to send another request letter.
- Until further notice, applicants will not be refused for non-compliance.
Prioritizing work permit processing for essential occupations
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) will prioritize the processing of Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) for the following National Occupational Classification (NOC) codes related to agricultural, agri-food and truck driving occupations. Where operationally possible, offices are encouraged 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 is being pulled by the Operations Planning and Performance Branch (OPPB) and distributed to the International and Centralized Networks to ensure the following NOC codes related to work permit applications are prioritized.
- 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
It is expected that most licensed health professionals will come under the work permit exemption for providers of emergency services for short assignments. However, in the event that licensed health professionals seek to enter Canada on a work permit, they will be required to apply abroad and wait for approval.
Those who are travelling by air from somewhere other than the U.S. will have to present a letter of introduction to the air carrier to board the flight unless they already have a valid work permit in their possession.
OPPB will also pull a list of the following NOC codes for health-related work permit applications to ensure they are prioritized:
- NOC 3011 – Nursing co-ordinators and supervisors
- NOC 3012 – Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses
- NOC 3111 – Specialist physicians
- NOC 3112 – General practitioners and family physicians
- NOC 3124 – Allied primary health practitioners
- NOC 3125 – Other professional occupations in health diagnosing and treating
- NOC 3131 – Pharmacists
- NOC 3211 – Medical laboratory technologists
- NOC 3212 – Medical laboratory technicians and pathologists’ assistants
- NOC 3214 – Respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists
- NOC 3215 – Medical radiation technologists
- NOC 3217 – Cardiology technologists and electrophysiological diagnostic technologists, n.e.c.
- NOC 3233 – Licensed practical nurses
- NOC 3234 – Paramedical occupations
- NOC 3413 – Nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates
- NOC 4411 – Home child care providers (LMIA-required in-Canada applicants)
- NOC 4412 – Home support workers, excluding housekeepers (LMIA-required in-Canada applicants)
Note: While applications in certain sectors are being prioritized based on NOC codes, this does not preclude an officer from prioritizing a case (should all processing requirements be met and operational capacity allow) where there is a demonstrated urgent need for the worker in Canada and the worker would be fulfilling an essential job during the pandemic.
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 ESDC Comments field 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 to 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 migration offices 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 migration office. Standard operating procedures have been established between each migration office and the RROC, taking into consideration office- and caseload-specific factors.
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.
- Public policy on exemptions to work permit conditions when changing employment: COVID-19 program delivery
Out-of-status foreign nationals in Canada
A temporary public policy has been issued exempting certain foreign nationals in Canada from certain requirements when they have fallen out of status.
- Public policy exempting certain out-of-status foreign nationals in Canada from immigration requirements
Visitors applying for a work permit
A temporary public policy has been issued exempting temporary residents with valid status from meeting the requirements to apply in Canada for a work permit.
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