Employers and human resources managers in Canada need to ensure that foreign workers always maintain valid status to work in Canada. To that end, work permit renewals should be filed in a timely manner in order to get a new work permit back from the Case Processing Centre (CPC) in Vegreville, Alberta prior to the end date of the employee's current work permit. Given that current processing times are in excess of 60 days (and we note that processing times for extensions are often longer than that) best practices dictate filing extension applications well in advance of the end date.

But what if the new work permit is not received prior to the end date of the current work permit?

As long as the extension application was submitted to the CPC prior to the expiry of the current document, the foreign employee may continue to work under the terms and conditions of the expired work permit until a decision on the extension application is received. This is referred to as having "implied status".

However, what happens to this implied status if the foreign employee leaves Canada after the expiry of the work permit but before a decision on the extension has been reached? Immigration Canada recently issued a bulletin clarifying this situation. A foreign worker loses implied status if they travel outside Canada during this period. This means that the foreign worker cannot work upon their return to Canada, unless they can apply for and are granted a new work permit at the port of entry.

A foreign employee who leaves Canada in these circumstances can re-enter Canada as a temporary resident but only if they are from a visitor visa exempt country or if they have a multiple entry visa. If they are allowed back in as a visitor, they may not resume work in Canada until their application for renewal has been granted by the CPC.

Alternatively, in certain circumstances, a border officer may grant a new work permit to the foreign employee upon re-entry to Canada, if the Regulations allow. Employees seeking a new work permit in these circumstances must be provided with an application package to support the request, and should also be given proof that an extension application had been filed at CPC Vegreville. CPC Vegreville does not record extension applications upon receipt. Therefore, there will be no computer record available to the border officer to confirm whether or not an extension application was filed in a timely manner.

Depending on the background of the foreign national and the circumstances of the situation, it may be necessary to postpone business travel outside Canada until the new work permit is received from CPC Vegreville.

We suggest that legal advice be obtained to assess situations where foreign national workers on implied status may be required to travel outside Canada, and to prepare an application package to support the re-entry of such personnel.