Northern Exposure

Bridging work permits for those awaiting permanent residence in Canada – finally!

By Gilda Villaran

Immigration Canada announced a new policy on December 15, 2012, that allows for bridging work permits. Foreign nationals who are currently working in Canada and have applied for permanent residence (under certain programs) can now apply for such a permit. This will allow them to stay and work until their permanent residence application is finalized.

This new policy eases the process of extending work permits in these situations. Before, the temporary files and the permanent files of the applicant weren’t linked. As previously discussed (see “Obtaining a work permit in Canada: The Labour Market Opinion process” of January 4, 2010, and “Advertising Requirements Before Hiring Foreign Worker” of May 31, 2010), if the person had a work permit based on a Labour Market Opinion (LMO), in order to renew or extend the permit, the employer had to redo the whole procedure for obtaining a new LMO if the current work permit was about to expire.

That meant that the employer had to prove that it had conducted recruitment efforts complying with the rules established by Human Resources and Skilled Development Canada. The employer needed to show that it wasn’t possible to find a Canadian or a permanent resident to fill the position and therefore it was authorized to hire the foreign national. If, afterward, the person applied for permanent residence and this application was approved in principle but not yet finalized, the employer still had to redo the LMO process.

Immigration Canada finally realized that it didn’t make much sense to impose another burdensome LMO process, especially when it was clear that the person would likely become a permanent resident in the next few weeks or months.

Starting December 15, 2012, it became possible for those foreign workers currently in Canada who have submitted an application for permanent residence (either under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Canadian Experience Class, the Provincial Nominee Program, or the Federal Skilled Trades Program) to apply for a bridging open work permit. An open work permit allows employees to continue working for the same employer or to freely change employers.

Besides being currently in Canada and having valid status on a work permit, in order to be eligible for a bridging work permit, it is necessary:

  • To apply within four months before the expiration of the current work permit; and
  • To have received a positive eligibility decision on the permanent residence application.

The meaning of “positive eligibility decision” is understood differently depending on the program under which the permanent residence application is made. In some of the programs it suffices to have received an acknowledgment of receipt of the application from Immigration Canada.

The open work permit that is issued in these cases is valid for one year. If for any reason the permanent residence application hasn’t been finalized within that year, it’s possible to request a subsequent open work permit.

This policy doesn’t apply in the province of Quebec, which has its own equivalent rules issued six months earlier. More precisely, on June 1, 2012, a similar policy was issued for those who had already been selected by the province of Quebec as permanent residents (received a Quebec Selection Certificate).

The basic difference between the Quebec and federal programs is that the work permit issued to Quebec applicants is not “open,” meaning it’s necessary that the person has received a job offer from an employer based in the province of Quebec. Also, in Quebec, the duration of the work permit isn’t necessarily one year but coincides with the length of the job offer.

Canadian Immigration rules change at a fast pace. Seldom do the rules get simpler. When changes simplify things for foreign workers currently in Canada, we certainly have reasons to celebrate.