Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Foreign workers

We recognize that the travel restrictions will have an impact on many people who can’t travel to Canada right now. These restrictions stop most non-essentialFootnote 1 (discretionary) travel to Canada.

International Experience Canada

The information on this page applies to International Experience Canada (IEC) but, participants and applicants should also find out how COVID-19 is affecting IEC.

If you’re outside Canada

Travel restrictions and exemptions for temporary workers

As a temporary worker, you’re exempt from travel restrictions if you’re coming for an essential (non-discretionary) purpose.

Certain people who can work without a permit may also be exempt from travel restrictions.

Essential (non-discretionary) travel for a temporary worker

Essential refers to travel for reasons that are non-discretionary and non-optional. 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.

As a worker, your travel is essential (non-discretionary) if you’re in either of these situations:

Non-essential (discretionary) travel for a temporary worker

Your travel is non-essential (discretionary) if you’re in either of these situations:

  • You have a letter of introduction for an employer-specific work permit but your employer has closed their business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • You have a letter of introduction for an open work permit, but you don’t have a job contract and are planning to find a job once you arrive in Canada.

Work without a work permit

If you’re coming from the US to work without a work permit and you’re coming for an essential (non-discretionary) Footnote 1 purpose, you’re exempt from the travel restrictions.

If you’re coming from a country other than the US to work without a work permit, then you’re exempt from the travel restrictions only if you belong to one of the following job categories:

Applying for a visitor visa or electronic travel authorization (eTA)

Even if you can work without a work permit, you may still need a visitor visa or eTA to enter Canada.

We’ve temporarily changed how to apply for a visitor visa or eTA to ensure that your application is processed.

How to apply for a visitor visa or eTA

When you travel to Canada

You need to show airline staff that you’re exempt from the travel restrictions. To do this, show the following documents to airline personnel when you’re boarding your flight:

If you haven’t applied for a work permit yet

Due to the impacts of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), we can’t

We’re prioritizing some applications, including

To keep processing applications from people who are exempt from the travel restrictions, we’re temporarily changing how you can apply to visit, work or study in Canada.

You must apply online when you apply for a

If you're a Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program applicant, you can apply on paper if you can't apply online.

Most people can’t apply at a port of entry (POE)

You should only apply for a work permit at a Canadian port of entry during this time if you meet these 3 conditions:

Completing your application

Office closures or service changes due to COVID-19 may affect how you complete some steps in the application process. Find out how COVID-19 has affected

If you’ve been approved for a work permit

When you travel, show the following documents to show that you’re exempt from the travel restrictions:

Health requirements for travellers to Canada

If you’re already in Canada

If you’re already in Canada, in most cases, you must apply online to extend your work permit or get a new work permit.

If you can’t apply online because of a disability or because there is a problem with the online application, you can apply on paper.

COVID-19: Changes to biometrics requirement for in-Canada temporary residence applicants

As a temporary measure, if you’re in Canada and applying to work, study or stay temporarily in Canada, you do not need to give your biometrics. Learn more about the exemption.

If your work permit hasn’t expired

Most workers have 2 options:

  1. If you want to continue working, you may be able to extend your work permit if you’re eligible.
  2. If you’re no longer working, you can apply to change your status to visitor, as long as your work permit has not expired.

When you apply, make sure you include a note explaining why you need to extend your stay in Canada. You must stop working if you change your status from a worker to a visitor.

If you change jobs or employers

If you have an employer-specific work permit and you want to change jobs or employers, you must apply for a new work permit from inside Canada. International Experience Canada (IEC) participants must first check that they can change employers with an IEC work permit.

However, you don’t need to wait until your work permit application is approved to start your new job or work for a new employer. You just need an email from IRCC that says you have permission to change jobs.

As always, open work permit holders can change employers at any time.

Who’s eligible:
How to apply

To change jobs or employers, follow these steps:

Step 1: Apply for your work permit

Apply for a new work permit from inside Canada.

Most people must apply online.

If you can’t apply online because of a disability or because there is a problem with the online application, you can apply on paper.

Step 2: Fill out the IRCC Web form

After you apply, fill out the IRCC Web form.

When you fill out the Your enquiry section, you must copy the text below that applies to your situation. Make sure you fill out the sections in square brackets, including the

If you applied on paper and don’t know your application number, include your courier tracking number. This will ensure we can find your application.

If you have other questions, you need to fill out a new IRCC Web form.

Message that work permit holders changing jobs or employers need to paste into the Web form

Priority Code PPCHANGEWORK2020: I am requesting consideration under the Temporary public policy to exempt foreign nationals in Canada from certain requirements when changing employment during the coronavirus pandemic and request that the applicable exemptions be granted until the decision is made on my work permit application or it is withdrawn.

I attest that: I hold/held a work permit valid until [date] for employer [name] / in occupation [job title] and I have received new job offer for [new employer name] / [new occupation job title].

I have submitted my application for a work permit online or I submitted my application by paper and the postal/courier tracking number is [number].

I intend to work for the [new employer name] / [new occupation job title] specified in the afore-mentioned work permit application.

I understand that providing false, misleading or incorrect information is a violation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and may result in enforcement measures against me.

Message that workers who have been work permit exempt need to paste into the Web form

Priority Code PPCHANGEWORK2020: I am requesting consideration under the Temporary public policy to exempt foreign nationals in Canada from certain requirements when changing employment during the coronavirus pandemic and request that the applicable exemptions be granted until the decision is made on my work permit application or it is withdrawn.

I attest that: I am/was authorized to work without a work permit for employer [name] / in occupation [job title] until [date] and I have received a new job offer for [new employer name] / [new occupation job title].

I have submitted my application for a work permit online or I submitted my application by paper and the postal/ Courier tracking number is number.

I intend to work for the [new employer name] / [new occupation job title] specified in the afore-mentioned work permit.

I understand that providing false, misleading or incorrect information is a violation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and may result in enforcement measures against me.

Step 3: Wait for our email

Wait for us to send you an email. It will confirm that you can start your new job or work for your new employer while we process your application.

If you applied online for your work permit, the email should arrive in about 10 business days. If you applied on paper, it may take longer.

If you followed the instructions to apply for a work permit from outside Canada

Once you get your port of entry letter of introduction, you can request your work permit without leaving Canada.

If you’re a visitor who needs a work permit

We’re temporarily allowing visitors to apply online for a work permit from inside Canada.

If your status as a worker has expired

You may be able to restore your status.

Updates and related links

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