Northern Exposure

Obtaining a Work Permit in Canada: The Labour Market Opinion Process

By Ingrid Anton and Isabelle Dongier

As we mentioned in a November article, most foreign workers require a work permit to legally work in Canada. And to get a work permit for a foreign worker, the prospective Canadian employer must first obtain a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (also referred to as Service Canada). Although some workers may benefit from an LMO exemption, this article focuses on LMOs – what are they, who needs one, and how they’re obtained.

What is a Labour Market Opinion?
A positive LMO confirms that the employment of a foreign individual in Canada won’t have a negative impact on the Canadian labor market – the foreign worker won’t be taking work away from Canadians. The LMO is not a work permit. It’s a prerequisite to obtaining a work permit.

How to get a Labour Market Opinion
In order to obtain an LMO, an employer must:

  • fill in the required forms;
  • provide proof that it has made reasonable but unsuccessful efforts to recruit for the position in Canada or to promote an existing employee. This includes advertising on the government job bank website. To prove this, employers should keep careful records of:
    • where and when the posting has been advertised;
    • the contents of the ad;
    • how many people were interviewed;
    • why candidates were turned down, etc., including when a recruitment agency assists with the search;
  • offer wages consistent with the prevailing wage rate for the relevant region; and
  • when a labor dispute is in progress in the Canadian company, demonstrate that employing a foreigner isn’t likely to adversely affect the settlement of the dispute. As a general rule, the favorable recommendation of the union also will be required before an LMO is granted.

Application process
It’s very important to begin the application process well in advance of the foreign worker’s intended arrival date in Canada. The application is paper-intensive and can take some time to prepare. As well, Service Canada’s processing times are not short – they can take up to a few months. And there’s another hurdle for workers destined for Québec. There, the LMO process is done jointly with the Québec Immigration Department. So a Québec Certificate of Acceptance must also be obtained.

After the LMO – obtaining the work permit
Once the LMO has been issued, the next step is to obtain the work permit itself.

Where a visa isn’t required – such is the case for citizens from the United States and most countries of Western Europe – the employee may simply travel to Canada and obtain a work permit after attending an admission interview at an airport or land border crossing. At the admission interview, the employee presents a copy of the LMO, the Québec certificate (if applicable), and a letter of support from his or her prospective Canadian employer.

Where a visa is required, the work permit application must be submitted to the Canadian Consulate or embassy responsible for the candidate’s country of origin. Not surprisingly, this process is much longer, so be sure to allow extra time. In addition to the administrative procedure itself, the employee must undergo an immigration medical examination and in most cases provide criminal checks. The employee may not travel to Canada until the work permit has been approved. The permit will be issued upon arrival.

Some exemptions may apply
Obtaining an LMO can be a complex and lengthy process. Fortunately, there are a number of exemptions that allow an employee to obtain a work permit in Canada through a simpler, streamlined, and much faster process. These exemptions apply to:

  • some employees being transferred from a foreign company to a Canadian affiliate company;
  • young workers who qualify for a youth exchange program;
  • recent university graduates; and
  • certain professionals, such as engineers and management consultants, who qualify under NAFTA.

Stay tuned for future installments in which we will discuss these exemptions in detail.

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