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  • Andrew Carvajal

Government offers foreign workers flexibility to change jobs while awaiting work permit approval

In order to accommodate the rapidly changing job market that has resulted from the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Canadian government announced on May 12 a temporary policy that will allow foreign workers on closed work permits the possibility to change jobs while their new permit is processing.

Under existing rules, when a foreign worker wants to change the conditions of their work permit (including their employer or position within a company), they need to apply for a new work permit and wait for it to be issued before starting their new job.

Given that a number of employees are being laid off due to the impact of COVID-19 in some industries, while there are other sectors with urgent and ongoing labour needs, the government has announced that effective immediately, a worker who is already in Canada and has secured a new job offer, can start working in their new job, even while their work permit application is being processed. Applications will be pre-screened within 10 business days and applicants will receive an email confirmation from IRCC advising that that they can start the new job while the application continues to be processed.

It is important to note that most job offers and work permit applications to change the conditions of employment continue to be subject to the prior approval of a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), unless the position and the employee fit an exemption to that. The temporary policy introduced today has not change the eligibility for work permits under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program.

The new policy does not impact foreign workers who currently hold an open work permit and can continue to work for any employer while their new permit is processing (subject to any restrictions listed in the permit). The policy does apply to individuals switching from an authorization to work without a work permit (i.e. under section 186 of the Immigration and Refuge Protection Regulations) to a work permit, as long as they are applying within Canada and are not a business visitor or working under the work permit exemption of the Global Skills Strategy.

The text of IRCC's Program Delivery Instructions regarding these changes is reproduced below [1]:

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.

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.

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

Who’s eligible

  • work permit holders

  • workers who can work without a work permit (this does not include business visitors or short-term workers under the Global Skills Strategy)

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

  • dates

  • name(s) of employer(s)

  • title of your job

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.

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.

Further IRCC guidelines were also made available here.


Andrew Carvajal is a Toronto lawyer, partner and Head of Economic Immigration at Desloges Law Group. He specializes in immigration law, administrative law and professional discipline litigation.

Twitter: @CarvajalLaw

#COVID19, #workers, #IRCC, #WP


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