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.
This summary contains links that may be useful for officers assessing applications from foreign nationals who wish to work as interns in Canada. The intention is to provide officers with a list of the most common scenarios under which foreign nationals apply as interns and what they require.
The term “internship” is not defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) or its Regulations. Internships constitute work, as foreign nationals are considered to be entering the Canadian labour market and to be displacing opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents. This notion applies to internships whether they are pursued in relation to a study program, in a situation where wages are not paid or when a commission is earned.
- Section 2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) defines work as “an activity for which wages are paid or commission is earned, or that competes directly with activities of Canadian citizens or permanent residents in the Canadian labour market”.
All internships are subject to the following guiding principles:
- Foreign nationals registered at foreign educational institutions (i.e., not enrolled in a Canadian designated learning institution) and wishing to come to Canada to complete an internship or undertake a position in research programs are considered temporary foreign workers under the IRPR. Examples include foreign nationals funded by research organizations such as Mitacs.
- Under the IRPA and IRPR, foreign nationals who seek authorization to work in Canada (whether or not they are remunerated) must obtain a work permit, unless they are exempt from the requirement pursuant to section R186.
- Employers of foreign nationals, including interns who are not work permit-exempt under section R186, must obtain a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), unless they are LMIA-exempt under the IRPR [R204 to 208]. Even if the employment is LMIA-exempt, employers are required to submit the offer of employment directly to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and to pay the employer compliance fee before the foreign national submits their work permit application.
While there is no specific LMIA exemption for interns, the following provides a list of the most common scenarios officers may encounter when assessing interns’ applications. The list is not exhaustive, as other situations may occur.
For specific requirements or examples, review the information provided in the links.
Note: Interns must meet the standard requirements for the LMIA exemption they are seeking, as would any other foreign national.
Work permit and LMIA required
- Foreign nationals pursuing an internship in Canada who are not work permit-exempt or LMIA-exempt need a work permit to work in Canada as interns.
- Prospective Canadian employers of foreign nationals must apply for an LMIA from ESDC before the foreign national can apply for a work permit, whether or not the internship is remunerated.
In addition, there are exemptions under the IRPR [R204-208] that may exempt a foreign national from the requirement to obtain an LMIA. Officers may encounter some of the following scenarios:
Work permit required, LMIA-exempt
LMIA exemptions for International Mobility Program workers (i.e., foreign students studying or associated with institutions abroad):
- Canadian interests: significant benefit general guidelines [R205(a) – C10]
For situations where the social, cultural or economic benefits to Canada of issuing the work permit are so clear and compelling that the importance of the LMIA can be overcome. It includes guidance for interns to foreign missions and some international organizations.
- Work related to public policy, competitiveness and economy [R205(c)(ii) – C44]
Post-doctoral fellows awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and award recipients (applies to both international students in Canada and foreign nationals associated with institutions abroad).
- Reciprocal employment: general [R205(b) – C20]
General provisions and cultural agreements; also includes some internships at foreign missions or international organizations.
- International Experience Canada (IEC) [R205(b)(i) – C21]
To facilitate youth mobility opportunities to travel and work in Canada.
- Work related to public policy, competitiveness and economy [R205(c)(ii) – C45]
Foreign medical (or dental) residents and medical research fellows.
- Work related to Canadian interests: charitable or religious work [R205(d) – C50]
Charitable or religious workers who are carrying out duties for a Canadian charitable or religious organization when the duties are of a charitable or religious nature.
Note: See also the instructions on work related to a research, educational or training program for international students as part of their course requirements in a Canadian institution.
Work permit-exempt (work without a permit – section R186)
- Business visitors – includes self-funded researchers
Foreign nationals engaged in self-funded research or observational internships (job shadowing) may fall under the business visitor category, which could include “research and design” activities for those conducting independent research or research for a foreign entity. There should be no displacement of Canadian or permanent resident workers, nor should there be any employer-employee relationship. In addition, the individual or the Canadian institution must not receive remuneration for the research.
- Health care students – paragraph R186(p)
Allows foreign students registered at foreign educational institutions outside Canada to do their clinical clerkships or short-term practicums in Canada.
Applicants destined to Quebec
Foreign nationals destined to work in Quebec under the sections R204 to R208 (LMIA exemptions) do not require a Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ).
Work permit issuance in the Global Case Management System (GCMS)
Under the Application screen, officers should enter the following:
- Case Type: as per the applicable LMIA exemption code, NES (not elsewhere specified)
Based on fields in the Offer of Employment, officers should enter the following under the Application screen:
- Province of Destination: address of physical job location
- If there is more than one location, enter the primary location in the Province of Destination field and the secondary location in the Remarks field.
- City of Destination: address of physical job location
- If there is more than one location, enter the primary location in the City of Destination field and the secondary location in the Remarks field.
- Exemption Code: as per the applicable LMIA exemption
- NOC: National Occupational Classification code
- Intended Occupation: job title
- Salary: “amount per year” as indicated wage in Canadian dollars and number of work hours
- Employer: business operating name
Note: The employer is subject to regulatory imposed conditions based on the information provided in the Offer of Employment. Therefore, any corrections to the information in the form must come from the employer.
Specifically, if the employer has made an error in the Offer of Employment, officers should not correct the information in GCMS. Instead, officers should
- refuse the application based on the foreign national not meeting the eligibility requirements, if applicable; or
- contact the employer and instruct them to submit a new Offer of Employment.
Officers must provide a rationale and details for applying LMIA exemptions. The notes should include information on how the officer was satisfied that the foreign national meets the requirements under the IRPR.
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