Canada announced that it is extending until February 28, 2022, a coronavirus-related measure allowing visitors to obtain work permits. Since August 24, 2020, temporary residents who are in Canada with valid visitor status have been able to apply for an employer-specific work permit from within Canada. This is a temporary regulatory change as normally foreign workers who are in Canada on a visitor’s visa cannot change status without leaving the country. When it was introduced, the measure was intended to help employers who were having difficulty finding workers and to allow visitors facing visa status challenges due to the pandemic to enter the labor market. With limited air travel worldwide, some visitors were unable to leave the country, and some foreign workers had to change their status to “visitor” because their work permits had expired and they could not apply for new ones due to lack of employment. Initially, the policy allowed all visitors who arrived in Canada before August 24 and were still in Canada with valid temporary resident status to apply for a work permit. Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has since expanded the eligibility criteria to include all visitors, regardless of when they arrived in Canada.
This extension will benefit visitors who have been able to come to Canada despite travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus. Since August, travel restrictions have begun to ease, with the border reopening to U.S. citizens and, as of September 7, 2021, to all fully vaccinated international travelers.
While Canada is in a better position than many countries, it continues to face significant economic and social impacts from the pandemic. As a result, the country is redoubling its efforts to strengthen its workforce by enabling people already in the country as well as new immigrants to help drive economic recovery and strengthen the Canadian labour market.
According to the latest labour market figures, there were a total of 815,800 job openings in June — the highest rate of job openings since Statistics Canada began collecting data in October 2020. In the coming months, the labour shortage could continue to worsen, according to a recent RBC report.
To be eligible for an employer-specific work permit, those with visitor status must:
- be in Canada with valid temporary resident status as a visitor, which includes maintained status, at the time of they submit the work permit application;
- have submitted an employer-specific work permit application;
- remain in Canada with a valid status;
- submit the application no later than February 28, 2022.
The policy also allows foreign nationals who meet the above criteria and who have held a valid Canadian work permit in the previous 12 months to apply for interim work authorization for their new employer while their application is pending. In order to apply for interim work authorization, applicants must:
- have valid temporary status when they submit their application and remain in Canada with status;
- intend to work for their employer and in the occupation specified on their work permit application;
- complete an RICC Web form.