On December 15, 2012, Immigration Canada announced a new policy to allow for “bridging” work permits. Now, foreign nationals who are currently working in Canada and have applied for permanent residence (under certain programs) can apply for a bridging open work permit to 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 were not linked. As previously discussed (see our Bulletins  “Obtaining a Work Permit In Canada: The Labour Market Opinion Process” of January 5, 2010 and “Advertising Requirements before Hiring a Foreign Worker” of June 2, 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 start 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 was not possible to find a Canadian or a permanent resident to fill the position and therefore it was authorized to hire the foreign national. If, afterwards, the person applied for permanent residence and this application was approved in principle but not yet finalized, one still had to re-do the LMO process.

Immigration Canada finally realized that it didn’t make much sense to impose another, burdensome  LMO process when it was clear that the person would 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. Obtaining 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 expiry 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 acknowledgement of receipt of the application from Immigration Canada.

The open work permit that it is issued in these cases is valid for one year. If for any reasons the permanent residence application has not been finalized within that year, it is possible to request a subsequent open work permit.

This policy does not apply in the Province of Quebec.  It 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 program and the Federal program is that the work permit issued to Quebec applicants is not “open”. This means that it is 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 is not necessarily one year but coincides with the length of the job offer.

Canadian Immigration rules change at an extraordinary pace. Seldom do the rules get simpler. When we receive news that simplifies things, we certainly have reasons to celebrate.