General information: Work without a permit – 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.

Foreign nationals may work in Canada without a work permit if their activity is described in paragraphs 186(a) to 186(x) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) or under the Global Skills Strategy public policy for short-term work and 120-day work for researchers.

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Foreign nationals overseas (temporary resident visa or electronic travel authorization required)

All foreign nationals are required to indicate the purpose of their entry to Canada at a primary inspection line (PIL), at a primary inspection kiosk (PIK) or to a border services officer. When their intention is to work, they must clearly indicate this during their examination on their entry to Canada.

Temporary resident visa (TRV) required

Foreign nationals who are required to obtain a temporary resident visa (TRV) and are seeking entry to Canada to work under the authority of R186 should have included all supporting documentation in their TRV application to assist the officer in determining if the activity is defined in R186.

Officers should review the “Purpose of your visit” and “Other” fields on the Global Case Management System (GCMS) IMM screen to determine if the foreign national is requesting to work in Canada under a work permit exemption category. If a foreign national meets the requirements of the regulations and is admissible, the processing officer may issue a TRV.  

If the applicant does not meet the requirements, the application should be refused as per normal procedures for TRV applications.

Electronic travel authorization (eTA) required

For foreign nationals requiring an electronic travel authorization (eTA), there is no place in the eTA application to indicate the trip’s purpose. Therefore, the onus is on the foreign national to declare their purpose at the time of entry to Canada.

The foreign national should provide documentation when seeking entry to satisfy the border services officer at the port of entry that they meet the requirements of the applicable paragraph of R186.

Foreign nationals at the port of entry

Visitor records

Generally, the issuance of a visitor record on entry is at the discretion of border services officers.

For further instructions see POE issuance.

Social insurance number

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 assists in the issuance of a social insurance number by Service Canada, if required.

The following statements must be added in the “User Remarks” field in GCMS so that they are printed on the visitor record:

Foreign nationals in Canada

Extension of stay and authority to work without a permit

Temporary residents currently working in Canada without a permit under the authority of R186, may extend their status as a temporary resident in Canada by submitting an online application using the form Application to Change Conditions, Extend my Stay or Remain in Canada as a Visitor or Temporary Resident Permit Holder [IMM 5708E (PDF, 592 KB)].

Additional information on the instructions provided to applicants can be found on the public web page Extend your stay in Canada.

Foreign nationals who are in Canada and seeking to extend their temporary resident status, change their conditions or change their authorization to study or work (if eligible) must submit the pertinent application by electronic means, unless otherwise specified.

For more information, see Programs exempt from the in-Canada mandatory electronic application (e-application) requirement for temporary residents.

Maintained status

A foreign national who is authorized to work without a permit by R186 may apply to extend their period of authorized stay before it ends under R181. If they have done so, their period of authorized stay as a temporary resident is extended by law until a decision is made [R183(5)].

Such a person is considered to have maintained status as a temporary resident during the processing period. Work permit exempt foreign nationals may continue to work without a work permit under the same paragraph they were working under prior to their application for extension.

For more information on maintained status see Temporary residents: Maintained status during processing (previously called implied status).

Foreign nationals applying for a work permit after entry

Foreign nationals currently working in Canada without a permit under the authority of R186, except those who are business visitors as per R186(a) and R187, can apply for a permit after entry as per section R199.

When reviewing if the foreign national meets the requirements of R199, officers should also be assessing if the foreign national’s situation meets the eligibility of the R186 paragraph they are working under.

Officers are reminded that there is no regulatory requirement for an application to be submitted for foreign nationals to begin work in Canada under R186. This means that foreign nationals may not have had their activities previously assessed as described in R186.

Important: When processing applications for extension of status, the officer should always assess if the foreign national continues to meet the eligibility requirements for the specific R186 paragraph.

For example, a foreign national may enter Canada for a family visit and then begin working as the pastor in the local congregation without a previous assessment by the border services officer or an IRCC officer. In this situation, the officer processing the extension application should ensure that the work the foreign national is doing actually meets the requirements of paragraph R186(l). If the work does not meet the requirements of the regulations, then the foreign national was working without authorization.

For further information, see Persons who may apply from within Canada.

Imposing conditions when work permit exempt

Although there is no work permit issued to those who are authorized to work by section R186, mandatory conditions are still automatically imposed by law under section R183. The conditions specified in R185(b) may still be imposed by officers.

To ensure the foreign national is aware of the mandatory conditions imposed on them or to impose conditions under R185, an officer may issue a visitor record with the conditions listed.

For more information on what conditions may be imposed please see Conditions and validity period on work permits.

Spouses or common-law partners of work permit exempt foreign nationals

Spouses or common-law partners of skilled people coming to Canada as temporary workers may obtain an open work permit if they meet the requirements.

A dependent spouse or common-law partner is eligible to apply for an open work permit under paragraph R205(c) (labour market impact assessment [LMIA] exemption code C41) if the principal foreign worker

For further instruction, see Spouses or common-law partners of skilled workers [C41].

Note: There is no work permit or LMIA-exemption for dependent children of principal foreign nationals authorized to work without a work permit by Regulation.

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