Thursday, November 22, 2007

Licensing and Working in Canada: Work Permits, Permanent Resident Status, and Arranged Employment

Persons seeking to live and work in Canada may do so primarily via either of two options. The first is to seek a temporary resident visa such as a Canadian work permit; the other is to seek permanent resident status in Canada.

Canadian Work Permits

A work permit is a visa of a fixed duration which allows an individual to engage in employment in Canada. Such a permit is generally based on a job offer from a Canadian employer, or on a specific intended business activity. Accordingly, the work permit issued to the individual is specific to an employer and a position of employment. The visa has a fixed validity, generally of one year, and can most often be renewed from within Canada.

The advantage of a Canadian work permit for a foreign worker is the time frame in which it is issued. Such permits can be issued within anywhere from a single hour at a Canadian port of entry to several weeks at visa offices abroad, depending on a number of factors. This compares very favourably with the delays associated with a permanent resident application, which can take between 12 and 48 months, or even longer.

The disadvantage of a work permit is that it is inherently temporary in nature. In the case that the individual did not have an intention to remain beyond several years, this may not be an issue, but those who wish to reside permanently in Canada will need to consider the permanent resident route. A work permit does not itself lead to permanent status or citizenship in Canada.

Permanent Resident Status

A permanent resident visa is sought via a Canadian visa office abroad. Successful candidates are awarded a visa which allows them to live in Canada for so long as they fulfill the requirements of residency. These requirements entail residing physically in Canada for a period of no less than two years out of any given five year period, although certain exceptions may apply.

Possession of permanent resident status has certain rights and responsibilities. They include:

  • equality rights
  • democratic rights
  • legal rights
  • mobility rights
  • language rights
  • freedom of religion
  • freedom of expression
  • freedom of assembly and association

Canadians are also expected to:

  • obey Canada's laws
  • respect the rights and freedoms of others
  • respect Canada's linguistic duality and multicultural heritage.

Permanent resident status does not have any expiration. An individual may continue to live and work in Canada indefinitely with such status. It also allows that individual to seek Canadian citizenship, typically after residing in Canada for a period of three years. Canadian citizens have the right to apply for a Canadian passport and to return to Canada at any time after traveling or living abroad.

Arranged Employment

Applicants who meet the requirements of Canada's Skilled Worker Selection Criteria are not required to have pre-arranged employment in Canada prior to applying. Having an advance job offer, however, can have its benefits. For those who do not qualify under the selection system, arranged employment may lend enough points to meet the current pass mark. For those who do already qualify, pre-arranged employment can have the effect of expediting the application process.

Arranged Employment, as a selection factor, awards points in the case that a Canadian employer satisfies Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) that a bona-fide offer of skilled employment exists for a candidate upon becoming a permanent resident of Canada.

For those with a job off in advance, there is also the possibility of pursuing a Canadian work permit first, and then a permanent resident visa. This offers the advantages of both categories; the expedience of a temporary visa, and the long term validity of a permanent resident visa.

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