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What is the Difference Between an Open Work Permit and a Closed Work Permit?

The type of work permit you have can often determine your earning potential and, subsequently, your living experience in Canada. This does not mean that any one kind of work permit is better than the others. But, some work permits are better suited to specific profiles. And hence, you need to finish your research on the types of work permits issued in Canada, how to get them, and what to do once you have the work permit issued under your name.

Key Difference: Open Work Permits and Closed Work Permits

There are several legal definitions and interpretations surrounding this subject matter. Although there are many types of work permits, if they had to be divided into two broad categories, you would come across open and closed work permits.

1. Open Work Permits

If you have been granted an Open Work Permit, you can work for any employer for as many hours as you want at any location in Canada. Let’s assume you graduated from a post-secondary Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Ontario and have an employment opportunity in Alberta. The Open Work Permit would allow you to relocate and work for any employer regardless of location. Moreover, under the Open Work Permit, you might also be eligible to work over and above the conventional hours.

Any form of constraint on your employment hours will come only from the side of your employer. For instance, international students are subject to the 20-hour weekly work limit. Open Work Permit holders, on the other hand, can work as many hours as they want.

2. How to Get an Open Work Permit?

As the example stated above showed, one of the most common ways to get an Open Work Permit is to finish post-secondary studies at a Designated Learning Institution in Canada. There are several other channels to apply for an Open Work Permit in Canada. Some of them are:

  • Your spouse/common-law partners have a study permit or a work permit. Even if your spouse, common-law partner, or parents have a closed work permit, you might be eligible for an Open Work Permit.
  • You have a TR permit with six or more months available to you.
  • You have already applied for a PR or refugee protection program and are located in Canada at the time of the application.
  • You do not need a work permit to be employed in Canada. However, you are changing your job to a different industry, and the new job will require a work permit.
  • You work as a trader, an investor, or an intra-company transferee based on CUSMA policies.

Just because you are eligible for the Open Work Permit does not mean you will get it. Besides these basic requirements, Open Work Permit laws consider different factors like your country of origin, formal education, and full-time work experience. You might have to consider alternative routes to get your Open Work Permit based on these factors.

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3. Closed Work Permits

Closed Work Permits are diametrically opposite to Open Work Permits. Closed Work Permits allow you to work for a recognized employer, in one location, and for a fixed period. Why would someone want such a restricted work permit? Sometimes, this is the only work permit an applicant is eligible for. And, despite the restrictions, the closed work permit allows the applicant to apply for spousal sponsorship and invite a married partner or common-law partner on an Open Work Permit.

4. How to Get a Closed Work Permit?

As counterintuitive as it may sound, closed work permits require more legwork from your and your employers’ end. You will need an employment letter, a valid employment contract, and a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) that shows why the company needs your services for the particular period designated in the employment contract.

The process of getting an LMIA that supports your Closed Work Permit is commonly referred to as employer sponsorship in immigration terminology.

Best Practices for Work Permit Applications

There are many routes to apply for both the work permit types. Instead of going through every route, you should focus on the following best practices that ensure you are in a healthy position no matter what type of work permit you get at the end of your process.

  • Avoid working with ineligible employers. IRCC and the government of Canada have recognized certain employers who are not eligible to either apply for an LMIA or sponsor an employee. Make sure you conduct your due diligence before signing the dotted line with your employer.
  • Avoid industries that include escort services or erotic dancing. These industries are not included in the conventional work permit laws.
  • Ensure the right fit between your job requirements and the work permit. Instead of getting an Open Work Permit, focus on getting the right work permit to help you perform your job and make you eligible for your PR application. Both open and closed work permits help you accumulate Canadian experience and make you eligible for the Express Entry Program. Hence, focus on the right fit in line with your profile.

In Summary

Work permits can be tricky to navigate. If your entire focus is on getting an Open Work Permit, you might lose out on the chance to work at a great job or sponsor your spouse for an Open Work Permit. This is not to say that one work permit route is better than the other. The only focus point should be determining the right fit between your immediate & long-term needs, your profile, and the work permit you are eligible for.

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