How to apply for an open work permit for Canada

Applying for an Open Work Permit for Canada

The language, climate and economy are all great reasons to make a new life in the Great White North. And if you’re looking to add overseas work experience to your résumé, a Canadian Open Work Permit (OWP) may be just the ticket. Discover more about open work permits, including:

  • How much they cost. 
  • How long they last.
  • Who is eligible to apply for one. 

What is an open work permit?

An Open Work Permit (OWP) is an employment visa that lets non-Canadians work in the country. OWPs are popular because it’s fairly straightforward to apply for one. For example, you don’t need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or job offer to get an OWP. 

Sometimes, an employer may need an LMIA to show that no one resident in Canada can perform that particular role. With an OWP, however, the holder can apply and work in any occupation in Canada.

Fun fact: Canada’s nickname, the ‘Great White North’, comes from its geographical size (Great), its large amounts of snow (White) and its location (North America).

How to apply for an Open Work Permit

The best way to apply for an Open Work Permit is online, which makes it easy to apply from outside Canada. The first step is to get your documents (as shown below) prepared. 

Next, you’ll need to register for an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) account. You’re then ready to apply. Note that you can save your OWP application at any stage. The application includes several lengthy forms so remember to give yourself enough time to complete it if you’re trying to meet a deadline.

Top tip: the Government of Canada website has this helpful step-by-step guide to completing your OWP application online.

Once you’re all set, proceed to the payment page then submit your application. 

Open work permit Canada eligibility

The quickest way to find out if you’re eligible for an OWP is to fill out a Government of Canada survey. Then, depending on your circumstances, you’ll either be eligible for an OWP or an Employer-specific work permit

Usually, you’ll need to be either:

  • Participating in a post-graduate work permit program.
  • An applicant for permanent residency in Canada.
  • A spouse or common-law partner of a skilled worker, international student or Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program applicant.
  • A temporary resident permit holder.
  • A refugee, refugee claimant, protected person or family member.
  • A student unable to meet the rest of the costs of your studies.
  • A holder of an employer-specific work permit looking to change work permits.

What documents do you need to apply for an OWP?

Open Work Permit for Canada

To apply for an OWP, you’ll need to submit:

  • A valid passport or travel document.
  • Two photos of yourself and accompanying family members.
  • Marriage and birth certificates for you and any accompanying family members.
  • A complete Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union (IMM 5409) if you’re in a common-law relationship and your partner is also coming to Canada, 
  • Proof of your present immigration status in the country you’re applying from, be it as a citizen or permanent resident. 

Want more helpful Canada guides? You’ve got it. Read our articles on:

How much does a Canadian open work permit cost?

Open Work Permit applications currently cost 340 Canadian dollars (CAD) per person. The cost is divided into three categories:

  • A processing fee of 155 CAD.
  • A holder fee of 100 CAD.*
  • A biometrics (facial and fingerprint) fee of 85 CAD.*

*These fees only need to be paid once.

How long does it take to get an OWP?

Applications take around nine weeks if you’re applying within Canada. All other applications vary depending on where you’re from and your circumstances. For example, applications from the United Kingdom typically get processed in about four weeks

How long do OWPs last?

The permit is valid for a maximum of three years from the date of approval or before your passport expires, whichever comes first. However, just like permit processing times, your OWP’s validity depends on your circumstances. 

For instance, Canadian immigration services will consider how you qualify for the permit and how long you have left on your passport. 

How to renew your Open Work Permit?

You can renew your OWP at least 30 days before your current permit expires. Note that you’ll be allowed to remain in Canada if your existing permit runs out during the renewal process.  

The good news is that you can renew your OWP online. When you first receive your OWP, you’ll get an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada account which you can use to renew your permit.