Temporary Foreign Workers

Subject to Four-Year Maximum Cumulative Duration

Generally, a work permit (WP) allows an individual to work in Canada for a maximum of four years in total. This policy has been in place since April 1, 2011. If you have worked in Canada since April 1, 2011, and you plan to extend your work permit in 2013, here are a few things to keep in mind regarding this rule:

Determining What Employment Counts Toward the Four-Year Limit

All work counts: See Types A & B on Schedule A below.

All work performed in Canada since April 1, 2011 counts towards a TFW’s four-year total. This is true regardless of whether or not the work permit was exempted (as in the case of a religious worker). Work includes any volunteer or self-employment, all work done under National Occupation Code (NOC) list, and work done under implied status (wherein you have extended your work permit but have not yet received it), as well as work done while on an open work permit.

Students: Any work performed during a period in which a foreign national was authorized to study on a full-time basis in Canada is not counted toward the four-year cumulative duration total.

Exceptions: See Type C on  Schedule A below.


Treatment of Gaps in Employment

Periods not worked (outside of the expectations stipulated in the job contract) that occurred after April 1, 2011, and during the validity period of any work authorizations issued after April 1, 2011, may be excluded from the calculation of the accumulated total, provided that documentary evidence of these gaps in employment can be presented to an officer when a request for work authorization is made. To learn what constitutes acceptable documentation, refer to Schedule B belowOnly gaps in employment of one consecutive month or more will be considered. Please note that weekends, vacation, part-time work or alternative work arrangements are not considered to reduce the time worked in Canada.

Resetting the Four-Year “Clock” to Zero

A TFW who spends four consecutive years either (a) outside of Canada, or (b) in Canada but not working (for example, with legal status as a visitor or student), may apply for a work permit and can start accumulating another four years of work in Canada.

Schedule A – Clarifying What Types of Occupations Count Toward a TFW’s Total, and When the Exceptions Apply

Type A
All work performed in Canada after April 1, 2011, counts towards cumulative duration.

  • All NOCs, both Labour Market Opinion (LMO)-required and LMO-exempt occupations;
  • Open work permits, including a Post-Graduation Work Permit;
  • R186 authorizations (work permit exempt);
  • Work during implied status;
  • Internships, if the internship is not part of full-time studies as a student;
  • Unpaid work;
  • Work as a volunteer;
  • Self-employment (i.e., physicians under C10, business owners under C11).

Type B
Work done while a full-time student (for example, “co-op” programs, internships, and other employment while authorized to study full-time).

Type C
When a foreign national is applying for a work authorization, the following categories or occupations are the exceptions for which a work permit can exceed the four-year limit:

  • NOC 0 and A.  Spouses or dependents of skilled TFWs (NOC 0 and A) are also exempt from the cumulative duration considerations when seeking a work permit.
  • LMO-exempt jobs under international agreements (e.g., NAFTA, SAWP), Canadian interests, self-support, or humanitarian reasons.
  • Permanent Resident (PR) applicants who have received a positive selection decision or approval in principle in the PR category for which they have applied.
  • Provincial Nominees applying for an employer-specific work permit, as long as the nomination is valid and current.
  • In certain limited situations, no work permit is required at all; in such cases, there is therefore no need to assess the cumulative duration of work done in Canada. However, if a foreign national who does not need a work permit nevertheless chooses to apply for or request a work permit, then his or her working period will be counted towards the total of four years.

Schedule B – Documents Supporting Gaps in Employment After April 1, 2011

  • Passport entry and exit stamps;
  • Official documents indicating that the employment started and/or ended on certain dates (for example, a Record of Employment or proof of receipt of severance pay);
  • Letter from a foreign educational institution stating that the individual was attending the institution for a period of time during the work permit authorization;
  • Travel receipts (including ticket and boarding passes) demonstrating that the individual was out of the country for a period of time during the work permit authorization, other than a period of paid leave from employment (for example, sick leave or vacation leave); these documents will be compared with information regarding the period of employment to see whether the leave was covered by contract terms;
  • Proof of receipt of maternity or parental benefits;
  • Letter from physician confirming the individual was on medical leave for a certain period of time; this information will be compared with information regarding the period of employment to see whether the leave was covered by contract terms;
  • If an individual did not complete the full duration of a work permit due to poor working conditions or workplace injury, a letter supporting the issuance of a new work permit may be provided by a Province or Territory, indicating the gap in employment;
  • Individuals working under a Group of Employers (GoE) agreement may experience short periods of no work between projects; in such cases, a letter from the GoE Administrator can provide acceptable proof of such gaps.

This is general information only and you should seek legal advice on your specific situation.