Regulated or certified occupations – Processing of work permit applications

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

A number of professions in Canada are regulated, to protect the public. Many jobs in Canada require the worker to have a licence or certificate of qualification before they can begin work. Jobs that require a licence or certificate of qualification are called regulated occupations. Workers require specified education and experience before they can obtain a licence to work in most regulated occupations. Many professions are not regulated but will still have professional associations that grant certifications.

As part of the assessment of an application to work in Canada, officers must be satisfied that the foreign national will be able to perform the work sought. If the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the foreign national is unable to perform the work, the officer is prohibited from issuing a work permit under paragraph R200(3)(a).

In addition to ensuring that the foreign national has the education, training, experience, language skills and physical ability to perform the work, the officer has to be satisfied that the worker has or can obtain the certification or licensing required for their occupation in Canada before beginning to work in this country.

To work in a regulated profession or trade and use a reserved title, the worker must obtain a licence or a certificate of qualification from the appropriate regulatory (licensing) body. Regulatory (licensing) bodies may have an overarching national association, but licensing requirements are usually provincially based. Each regulatory body has its own procedures and requirements to register. Employers and prospective workers are responsible for verifying the requirements to obtain a licence or certificate of qualification for a regulated occupation with the appropriate regulatory body.

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For the purpose of issuing a work permit, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officers or Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers need to ensure the worker has the required education, certification, training or licensing to practise in a regulated occupation in Canada. If the applicant is not in Canada and unable to go through the process to meet the requirements to practise their occupation or trade, IRCC or the CBSA will assess whether the applicant, on a balance of probabilities, is more likely than not to qualify, or has taken steps toward obtaining the required certification or licensing after arrival in Canada, before issuing a work permit.

Note: Possessing a licence from a regulatory (licensing) body and being registered with a regulatory body are equivalents. A licence is the registration.

Determining if occupation is regulated

A regulated occupation is an occupation that is controlled by provincial or territorial and sometimes federal law. The provinces or territories may designate a professional or regulatory body to govern the occupation. The professional or regulatory body has the authority to set entry requirements and standards of practice that lead to a certification or licensure [for example regulated professions (e.g., nursing) and skilled trades (e.g., plumbing)].

Employers hiring a foreign worker in regulated occupations in Canada should ensure that arrangements are made with the appropriate professional or regulatory body for the certification or licensing of the foreign worker prior to submitting an offer of employment to IRCC or an LMIA request to ESDC/Service Canada.

In regulated occupations, the law requires workers to obtain a certificate or licence to use the reserved title for the occupation or obtain the exclusive right to practise the occupation. These regulations are intended to protect the health and safety of Canadians by ensuring that professionals meet the required qualifications, standards of practice and competency.

There are 2 types of regulation:

  1. Exclusive professions or Exclusive right to practise: In the case of an exclusive profession, only members of the order can engage in the profession’s activities and make use of the title allowed to them by law. The law defines, among other things, the professional activities strictly reserved for the members of each regulatory body. These occupations require a licence as proof of the worker’s approval to use the title and work in the occupation.

    For example: dentists, veterinarians, lawyers and architects.

  2. Reserved title: A profession where only members of a regulatory body can make use of specific titles and abbreviations allowed by law. Individuals who are not members of that regulatory body may practise the occupation, but they may not use any of these titles or allow others to believe (by using a similar title or abbreviation) that they are members of a regulatory body.

    For example: certified general accountant. Others can practise accountancy but cannot call themselves a certified accountant without being a member of the provincial regulatory body.

Officers can determine if an occupation is regulated by taking the following steps:

Applicant has certification or licence

If the foreign national has previously been in Canada with an authorization to work and had obtained the required certification or licence, an officer can review the document and determine if they are satisfied that the individual is still able to perform the work sought.

Applicant does not have certification or licence

If a determination has been made that an occupation is regulated, the processing officer must be satisfied that the foreign national has obtained the required licence or can obtain it within a reasonably short period after entry to Canada. Since the expectation is that the worker should be able to perform the work sought immediately on arrival, a reasonable period would be within 4 months (i.e., qualifying after a maximum of one semester of studies).

Lack of the required licence or certification should not be an immediate refusal of a work permit application, as there are some occupations where the testing can only be completed, or licensing can only be obtained, while the worker is physically in Canada.

In addition, there are some occupations such as architects, surveyors, etc. where a candidate’s work can be reviewed, approved and signed-off by a registered (licensed) professional until the foreign national passes licensing requirements.

When reviewing the application, officers can use one of the following guidelines if the worker does not have the licence or certification:

  1. Training or testing is part of the employment offer: If the employer states in the job offer they (employer) will fund the training or testing and pay a wage during this period, the employee must show that they are scheduled for the required training or testing and have the capacity to complete it in a reasonably short period after entry and that they have the language skills to succeed in their training.
  2. Use of lower-level occupation: A worker may be applying to enter Canada in a lower-level occupation and then complete their training or testing after arrival so that they later meet the requirements of the intended level of work, at which point they will apply for a new work permit in the higher-level occupation.

An officer must be satisfied that the worker will be able to perform the work sought as per paragraph R200(3)(a). If the worker does not have a required licence or cannot obtain it within a reasonable period of time, the officer may refuse the work permit. When this happens, officers should follow the process in the instructions: Record your decision to write their refusal notes.

Training or testing as part of the employment offer

If the foreign national does not hold the required licence or certification, the officer should determine if there is a viable plan between the employer and the foreign national for obtaining it.

The officer should ensure that the offer of employment reflects:

This information will assist the officer in determining if the foreign national will be able to perform the work sought in Canada immediately on arrival or in a reasonably short period thereafter.

Example: Long-haul truck drivers are required in most provinces to complete a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) before they can obtain their licence to drive trucks. This MELT is only available in Canada and can be costly. The LMIA or the worker should provide information on when training is scheduled, where it will take place, who will pay for the cost of training and if the worker will receive wages during the training period.


If the processing officer is satisfied that the foreign national is likely able to obtain the licence or certificate of qualification required, and all other requirements are met, they may approve the application and impose a condition under subparagraph R185(b)(iv).

Condition to be imposed: To ensure that any training is completed prior to the initiation of the work activity, officers should impose the following condition by writing it in the User Remarks field of the work permit:

Pursuant to R185(b)(iv) the authorized period of work begins when the appropriate federal or provincial/territorial certification/licence is received or by [DATE]

The [DATE] should be the length of time the training or certification will take. A reasonable period of time would be the length of any required courses plus a couple of weeks, but generally not longer than 4 months (i.e., a semester).

The duration of the work permit should never be longer than what is stated in the LMIA or LMIA-exempt offer of employment, regardless of length of the training. See Conditions and validity period on work permits for further instruction.


If the officer is not satisfied that the applicant has the language skills to succeed, that the training is available and will take place within a reasonable period of time after entry, or that funds are not available to pay for training, then they have reasonable grounds to believe that the foreign national will be unable to perform the work sought [paragraph R200(3)(a)]. If an officer is not satisfied that the foreign national will be able to perform the work sought, they are prohibited from issuing a work permit. The application should be refused.

Offer of employment for a lower-level occupation

In some cases, employers will provide a job offer for an occupation in a lower-skill-level category (usually lower paid) in order to provide the foreign national with the time in Canada to obtain the licence or the Canadian experience needed to meet the licensing requirements.

Within the NOC there are 9 broad occupational categories, and each category is divided into skill levels. Some regulated occupations require Canadian work experience, or training and testing, which are only available in Canada.

Some examples of this are registered nurses, dentists and veterinarians.

In some regulated occupations, the employer may provide an initial job offer at the lower-skill-level occupation (e.g., personal support worker) or a similar field which would not require a licence, in order for the foreign national to have sufficient time to gain the experience, upgrade their knowledge or pass any testing required to be licensed or registered in Canada.

Once the requirements are met and the foreign national is licensed, a new job offer for the higher-occupational level may be provided, and a new work permit will be required.

For example: a foreign national initially enters Canada as a veterinary technician. Once the required testing is complete and the appropriate professional or regulatory body has provided a certification or licence to the foreign worker for registration in Canada, they can apply for a new work permit based on a job offer as a veterinarian.

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