Open Work Permit

Because of the freedom they provide, open work permits are in high demand. Unlike most work permits, which are attached to a specific business, an open work permit allows a foreign national to work for any employer in Canada and to move about at their leisure. This guide lays out the rules and regulations for this popular type of work permit.

What is an Open Work Permit and how does it work?


Most foreign nationals need a work permit to work in Canada. There are 2 types of work permits, employer-specific and open. An open work permit is one that is not tied to a specific employer. You will not require either a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada, or confirmation that an employer has submitted a job offer and paid the employer compliance fee through the Employer Portal when applying for this type of work permit because it is not job-specific.

Eligibility for Open Work Permit


There are a number of categories of people who may be eligible for an open work permit. Here’s a breakdown.

You could be eligible if you:

  • Are a student who has completed their studies at a designated learning institution and is eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program
  • Are a student who can't afford to pay for your studies any longer (destitute student)
  • Hold an employer-specific work permit and are being abused or at danger of being abused in Canada because of your job
  • Have made an application for permanent residence in Canada
  • Are a dependent of someone who applied for permanent residence
  • Are the spouse or common-law partner of a skilled worker or international student
  • Are a refugee, refugee claimant, protected person or their family member
  • Are under an unenforceable removal order
  • Are a temporary resident permit holder
  • Are a young worker participating in special programs through International Experience Canada (IEC)
  • To be eligible in each of these instances, you must meet additional criteria.

    Open Work Permit Processing Time

    The processing period for any work permit is entirely dependent on the completion of your application and the office where you apply. This is a popular category and many people apply. In general terms, though, the open work permit application will take the Canadian government roughly four to five months to process. To make sure yours go smoothly, you should ensure that all your documents are in order, and your contact information is current so that you can know about any updates. The Canadian government also shows the status of your application if you’ve applied online. Simply use the login information you received when you applied first and check at any point in the process.

    Open Work Permit Extension

    If your work permit is due to expire or you need to amend the terms on it, you must apply to renew it or change the conditions. Apply for a work permit extension at least 30 days before your existing permit expires.

    You should also check your passport's expiration date. Your work permit will not be extended beyond the expiration date of your passport; you must also make sure your passport does not expire before the permit's requested end date.

    If you apply to extend or change the conditions of your work permit before it expires, you’re legally allowed to stay in Canada while the government processes your application.

    Spouse work permit

    Your spouse can work under an open work permit if you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. There are just two things to remember. First, the eligibility is dependent on your spouse's immigration status. Your spouse or common-law partner can work in Canada without any extra paperwork if they are a permanent resident. If your spouse or common-law partner is in Canada on a temporary residence (visitor) visa and wants to work, they must apply for a work permit.

    There are further requirements if they want to apply for that work permit from inside Canada. They can apply if:

  • they have a temporary resident permit that is valid for six months or more; or
  • they have applied for permanent residence under the Spouse or Common-law Partner in Canada – archived class; or
  • they are eligible to apply for a work permit supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) – an authorization from Employment and Social Development Canada an employer needs to hire a foreign worker; or
  • they are eligible to apply for a work permit based on an exemption from the LMIA process.
  • Here are the documents required for them to apply.

    Spouse open work permit document checklist

  • Copy of marriage certificate or common-law declaration (and an official translation, if not in English or French)
  • Proof of funds
  • Copy of spouse/partner's passport (include bio-data page plus any pages with stamps, visas or markings)
  • Other Work Permits in Canada