120-day work permit exemption for researchers – Public policy: International Mobility Program

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

Note: Some Entry/Exit information can be accessed in GCMS by conducting a query through the application screen. Since February 26, 2019, all land entry and exit records (on all travellers, including Canadian and US citizens) and all air entry records are available. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) started to onboard air carriers between June 2020 and June 2021 to obtain air exit information. As of June 2021, all air exit information is available through a query in GCMS. Entry/exit information can be used to assess residence and to check for overstays. Data collected is point forward and not available for records that predate February 26, 2019.

In these instructions, “officer” refers to employees of both Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency.

On June 12, 2017, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), in coordination with Employment and Social Development Canada, launched the Global Skills Strategy and introduced new work permit exemptions for certain high-skilled work of a short duration.

The minister of IRCC has established a public policy under section A25.2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) that justifies granting a work permit exemption to certain highly skilled foreign nationals coming to Canada for 120 consecutive days to perform work in a publicly funded Canadian degree-granting institution (or its affiliated research institution).

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Based on public policy considerations, officers may grant a foreign national seeking to enter Canada a work permit exemption [from the requirement in paragraph R183(1)(b) and section R196 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR)] for 120 consecutive calendar days if the foreign national

  • has an offer from a publicly funded degree-granting institution (at the college or university level) or its affiliated research institution
    • The offer must
      • be for a research position
      • attest to the details of the work as being primarily research
      • state the duration of the work
  • will be working for 120 consecutive days or less
  • has not been granted an exemption under this public policy in the last 6 or 12 months
  • will be contributing significantly to the value of the research project

Note: Applicants already in Canada are not eligible to make an initial application within Canada for this exemption.

Documentary evidence

Foreign nationals must provide sufficient documentary evidence to satisfy an officer that they are eligible for this exemption.

  • Evidence includes written confirmation from the publicly funded degree-granting institution or its affiliated research institution attesting to the following:
    • the details of the work (that is, descriptions of the duties and research activities)
    • the National Occupational Classification code of the occupation
    • the period of employment (start date and end date)
  • Evidence that the foreign national has the experience and education to perform the work sought may be as follows:
    • transcripts, diplomas or certificates
    • evidence of the significant role the foreign national will play in or the value the foreign national will add to the research project

Note: Acceptable documentary evidence may also include written confirmation from an organization that coordinates the selection and hiring of researchers intending to work at the degree granting institution or its affiliated research institutions. MITACS is an example of such an organization.


When the officer reviews the application for a short-term work permit exemption, additional factors that must be considered are as follows.

Canadian publicly funded degree-granting institutions

Note: While this list is fairly complete, there may be additional Canadian publicly funded degree-granting institutions, so it should not be considered exhaustive.

Institution Province or territory
Acadia University Nova Scotia
Alberta College of Art and Design Alberta
Algoma University Ontario
Algonquin College Ontario
Ambrose University Alberta
Assiniboine Community College Manitoba
Athabasca University Alberta
Aurora College Northwest Territories
Bishop’s University Quebec
Brandon University Manitoba
British Columbia Institute of Technology British Columbia
Brock University Ontario
Burman University Alberta
Camosun College British Columbia
Canadian Mennonite University Manitoba
Cape Breton University Nova Scotia
Capilano University British Columbia
Carleton University Ontario
Cégep de Rivière-du-Loup Quebec
Centennial College Ontario
College of New Caledonia British Columbia
College of the Rockies British Columbia
Concordia University Quebec
Concordia University of Edmonton Alberta
Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning Ontario
Dalhousie Agricultural Campus of Dalhousie University Nova Scotia
Dalhousie University Nova Scotia
Douglas College British Columbia
École de technologie supérieure Quebec
École nationale d’administration publique Quebec
École Polytechnique de Montréal Quebec
Emily Carr University of Art and Design British Columbia
Fanshawe College of Applied Arts and Technology Ontario
George Brown College Ontario
Georgian College of Applied Arts and Technology Ontario
Grande Prairie Regional College Alberta
HEC Montréal Quebec
Humber College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning Ontario
Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec Quebec
Institut national de la recherche scientifique Quebec
Justice Institute of British Columbia British Columbia
The King’s University Alberta
Kwantlen Polytechnic University British Columbia
La Cité collégiale Ontario
Lakehead University Ontario
Lakeland College Alberta
Langara College British Columbia
Laurentian University Ontario
Lethbridge College Alberta
MacEwan University Alberta
McGill University Quebec
McMaster University Ontario
Medicine Hat College Alberta
Memorial University of Newfoundland Newfoundland and Labrador
Mount Allison University New Brunswick
Mount Royal University Alberta
Mount Saint Vincent University Nova Scotia
Niagara College Ontario
Nicola Valley Institute of Technology British Columbia
Nipissing University Ontario
North Island College British Columbia
Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Alberta
Northern Lights College British Columbia
Northwest Community College British Columbia
Nova Scotia Community College Nova Scotia
NSCAD University Nova Scotia
OCAD University Ontario
Okanagan College British Columbia
Olds College Alberta
Queen’s University Ontario
Red Deer College Alberta
Red River College of Applied Arts, Science and Technology Alberta
Royal Military College of Canada Ontario
Royal Roads University British Columbia
Ryerson University Ontario
Saint Mary’s University Nova Scotia
Saskatchewan Polytechnic Saskatchewan
Selkirk College British Columbia
Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology Ontario
Sheridan College Ontario
Simon Fraser University British Columbia
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Alberta
St. Francis Xavier University Nova Scotia
St. Lawrence College Ontario
St. Mary’s University Alberta
St. Thomas University New Brunswick
TELUQ Quebec
Thompson Rivers University British Columbia
Trent University Ontario
Université de Moncton New Brunswick
Université de Montréal Quebec
Université de Saint-Boniface Manitoba
Université de Sherbrooke Quebec
Université du Québec Quebec
Université du Québec à Chicoutimi Quebec
Université du Québec à Montréal Quebec
Université du Québec à Rimouski Quebec
Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Quebec
Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue Quebec
Université du Québec en Outaouais Quebec
Université Laval Quebec
Université Saint-Anne Nova Scotia
University College of the North Manitoba
University of Alberta Alberta
University of British Columbia British Columbia
University of Calgary Alberta
University of Guelph Ontario
University of King’s College Nova Scotia
University of Lethbridge Alberta
University of Manitoba Manitoba
University of New Brunswick New Brunswick
University of Northern British Columbia British Columbia
University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ontario
University of Ottawa Ontario
University of Prince Edward Island Prince Edward Island
University of Regina Saskatchewan
University of Saskatchewan Saskatchewan
University of the Fraser Valley British Columbia
University of Toronto Ontario
University of Victoria British Columbia
University of Waterloo Ontario
University of Windsor Ontario
University of Winnipeg Manitoba
Vancouver Community College British Columbia
Vancouver Island University British Columbia
Western University Ontario
Wilfrid Laurier University Ontario
York University Ontario

Affiliated research institutions

Universities and think tanks work with research institutions to produce reports and studies. Because the relationship between these parties is at arm’s length, research institutions are considered affiliates, though sometimes research bodies may operate inside universities.

For example, the University of Ottawa (a publicly funded degree-granting institution) is affiliated with certain research institutions, such as the following:

  • the Institute of Mental Health Research
  • the University of Ottawa Heart Institute
  • the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute

These institutions have a research mandate, qualified research staff and research facilities.

Foreign nationals intending to work at institutions that do not conduct research are not eligible for the 120-day work permit exemption.

Significant contribution

When assessing whether the foreign national will make a significant contribution or add value to the research project, officers may wish to consider whether

  • the applicant has demonstrated academic excellence or expertise in a field related to the particular work to be undertaken
  • the position reflects the experience and expertise of the applicant and the role they will play in the project

While most foreign nationals coming to Canada to perform research are likely to be professionals, there may be situations where undergraduate or graduate students are coming to perform research with Canadian faculty at degree-granting institutions or their affiliated research institutions. These students may also be considered under this exemption, subject to the eligibility criteria.

Departure and re-entry

Foreign nationals are allowed to exit and re-enter Canada within the consecutive 120 days from their initial entry for work under this exemption. The authorized work period begins on the date the exemption is granted and is counted consecutively, regardless of whether the person is actually working in Canada.

Any travel outside Canada after the date the exemption was granted will not extend the length of the exemption period.

Entry/exit information is available in the GCMS by conducting a query through the application screen.

Example of travelling during the exemption period: The foreign national was granted a 120-day exemption on August 1, 2023. If they travel outside Canada for two days within that 120-day period, they may resume work activities. The 120-day period is not extended by two days.

On re-entry to continue work, border service officers should ensure that the 120 consecutive days under the short-term work permit exemption have not elapsed and that the foreign national is admissible to Canada.

Multiple employers

The 120-day short-term work permit exemption applies to the foreign national and not to the employer. Each foreign national will be authorized to work without a permit under the public policy for a 120-day period every 12 months.

If the foreign national enters Canada under the 120-day work permit exemption and intends to work for more than one employer during that period, they must provide documentary evidence that they meet the eligibility criteria for both institutions. For more details, see Eligibility and Documentary evidence.

Subsequent exemptions

The following cases provide guidance for when foreign nationals may be granted the 120-day exemption, or short-term work permit exemptions if they have previously benefited from the 120-day exemption.

If a foreign national has benefited from the 120-day exemption, they may be granted one of the following:

  • a subsequent 120-day exemption if they have not been granted a short-term work permit exemption in the last 12 months
  • a 15-day exemption once 6 months have elapsed since the 120-day exemption was granted
  • a 30-day exemption once 12 months have elapsed since the 120-day exemption was granted

Maintained status

Foreign workers entering Canada under the 120-day work permit exemption for researchers do not have a work permit, so regulations governing work permit renewals do not apply. If they were admitted for 6 months at the port of entry, they can stay as visitors until the end of the period authorized for their stay, but they cannot work past the period allowed by the work permit exemption unless otherwise authorized. These foreign nationals must submit their initial work permit applications online outside of Canada.

Document issuance

Port of entry

Where the border services officer has determined that the foreign national is work permit exempt, they are requested to document the foreign national’s entry by the issuance of a visitor record [IMM 1097].

The visitor record with a notation that the holder is authorized to work without a work permit helps Service Canada issue a social insurance number (SIN).

In cases where the officer has not proactively issued a visitor record, it may be issued on request of the foreign national. The foreign national may require a visitor record with a condition authorizing work in order to apply for a SIN and be paid by their employer.

Where applicable, officers should document the exemption in the case notes in the GCMS and verify in the system whether the worker has been granted an exemption under the public policy in the last 12 months.

If the officer has concerns over the past use of this exemption, the onus will be on the foreign national to demonstrate they meet the requirements of this exemption.

Visitor record coding

The following conditions must be added in the User Remarks field in the GCMS so they are printed on the visitor record:

“authorized to work in Canada as a researcher for 120 days”

These conditions are necessary for the client in their application for a social insurance number.

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