You’ve probably seen the expression “open work permit” and “closed work permit” when looking for an option to work in Canada. Not quite sure what they mean? We have all the info you need to make the decision that’s right for you!
What are open and closed work permits, exactly?
A closed work permit is a work permit that is issued to work in A SPECIFIC POSITION FOR A SPECIFIC EMPLOYER in Canada. You must find an employer before applying for the work permit. The name of your employer and how long you can work will be specified on your work permit when issued. Once in Canada, you won’t be able to work for another employer or in another position unless you apply for another work permit.
An open work permit is a work permit that is not job-specific, which means you can work for ANY EMPLOYER in Canada. You can look for a job before travelling to Canada or you can wait until you arrive (in which case, you will be able to network and be more proactive). You can change employers, change jobs, move to another city or province whenever you feel like it. Note that some open work permits may tie you to a specific province.
Open and closed work permits at a glance
|Open work permit
|Closed work permit
|Do I need to find an employer before applying for my work permit?
|Am I tied to a specific employer?
|Can my spouse or common-law partner apply for an open work permit to come with me?
|Yes, if certain requirements are met*
|Yes, if certain requirements are met*
* Your spouse or common-law partner may be eligible to apply for an open work permit if you (the work permit holder) you are working in an occupation under the National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill type 0, A or B. IEC permit holders (Working Holiday, Young Professionals and International Co-op—Internship) should read IEC Canada – Spouse or Common-Law Partner Open Work Permit 101 for more info.
Examples of open and closed work permits
The following permits are closed work permits:
- General temporary work permits issued under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
- Young Professionals work permits
- International Co-op—Internship work permits
- Mobilité francophone work permits (in French)
- Work permits for CSQ holders (in Quebec) who hold a work permit that will expire soon
Fewer open work permits options are available:
- Working Holiday work permits
- Open work permit for spouses or common-law partners of a work permit holder working in a skilled position OR studying in a Canadian post-secondary school
- Post-graduation work permits (if you graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution)
- Bridging open work permit for permanent residence applicants
- Open work permit pilot program for permanent residence applicants in the spouse or common-law partner in Canada class
Getting an open work permit can be tricky
An open work permit is way more flexible than a closed work permit because you can change employers. However, this kind of work permit is difficult to get—in a way, it’s a “perk” given under certain circumstances.
- Considering applying for a Working Holiday work permit? Your country of citizenship must have signed a bilateral agreement with Canada, and you’ll need a bit of luck too since applicants who meet all requirements are randomly drawn from a pool (demand exceeds supply!).
- The open work permits for spouses of common-law partners of students or skilled workers are an option Canada offers to avoid deterring foreign students and skilled workers, who probably want their loved one to come along.
- Post-graduation work permits are awarded to new grads who have completed their education in Canada so that they can use their new skills in the professional world.
- Bridging open work permits for permanent residence applicants is a way to retain potential immigrants who may otherwise go home and give up on their immigration project.
- The open work permit pilot program for permanent residence applicants in the spouse or common-law partner in Canada class is a way for couples to keep on living together while the application is processed.
As you can see, you can’t just apply for an open work permit because it’s more convenient or easier for you—specific conditions must be met. Open work permits are the holy grail but they are more an exception than the rule.
Read Who can apply for an open work permit? for more info.