Canadian Immigration Pathway: Work, then Immigrate

In the Work + Immigration pathway, applicants will need to first obtain a work permit, land in Canada and then acquire some Canadian work experience. After that, they can apply for immigration.

This pathway is typically for applicants who have a Canadian job offer already, operates a Canadian business, or are eligible for an open work permit. Typically applicants are not yet qualified for any direct immigration applications, such as Express Entry, because they have a low score, no Canadian work permit, or no Canadian job offer.

How long is it going to take?
1-5 years*
*Estimated timeline
  • Apply for a work permit1-12 months

    The timeline depends on which depends on the type of work permit applied and which country the applicant is from.

  • Acquire Canadian work experience6 months - 3 years

    The timeline depends on which depends on the type of work permit applied and which country the applicant is from.

  • Apply for immigration7-8 months

    The timeline depends on which depends on the type of work permit applied and which country the applicant is from.

Considering these timeframes, the whole journey to citizenship will take years.

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What is the process?

Get a work permit

Getting a work permit is the first step, and in fact the more difficult step. Canada offers two types of work permits that authorize foreigners to work in Canada: Employer-specific Work Permits (also known as closed work permits) and Open Work Permits.

Most applicants try to obtain an employer-specific work permit, as open work permits are only issued under limited and special circumstances.

Employer-specific Work Permits

Some of the most common closed work permits include:

  • LMIA-supported work permits, which requires applicants to have a Canadian employer to help them apply for a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). An overwhelming majority of Canadian work permits issued each year are under this category. Because it requires an additional LMIA application, the processing time is typically longer than other options. In recent years, Global Talent Stream, which is a substream of LMIA, became popular as it allows extremely fast government processing for Tech workers, or Tech companies that have government sponsorships.
  • Trade agreement work permits, such as the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) which allows US and Mexico citizens to apply for an employer-specific work permit if they have a Canadian job offer. Applicants can even apply for this work permit at Port of Entry (POE), making it the fastest work permit to obtain.
  • Intra-company transferee work permits, which requires the applicant to be a senior manager or a worker with very specialized knowledge at a company with a branch outside Canada.
  • Significant benefit work permits, which requires the applicant to show that they will bring significant economic, cultural or technological benefits to Canadian society. This work permit typically involves starting, purchasing and/or running a business
  • Reciprocal employment work permits, which requires the applicant and its employer to show that they have given Canadian overseas similar employment opportunities in reciprocity.

In certain situations, there may be multiple work permit options to explore. If an applicant purchased or started a business in Canada, they may apply for a LMIA-supported work permit or a significant benefit work permit.

Open Work Permits

An applicant may apply for an open work permit if they:

  • meet the requirements of IRCC’s temporary public policies, e.g., policy in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine to issue open work permits to Ukrainians and their families
  • recently graduated from a post-secondary school in Canada as an international student
  • applied for permanent residence in Canada and the application has been principally approved
  • applied and was approved for the International Experience Canada (IEC) program
  • are the spouse or common-law partner of a foreign worker or international student in Canada
  • are a refugee, refugee claimant, protected person or their family member
  • are a young worker participating in International Experience Canada
  • are a destitute international student
  • are under an unenforceable removal order (the person may have no means of support if removed, or the removal order is being appealed)

Note that these are the most common ways to get an open work permit.

Apply for immigration

After obtaining a work permit, landing in Canada and acquiring Canadian work experience, the applicant may now qualify for Canadian immigration (also called permanent residence). The Canadian immigration journey can be divided into two options: federal and provincial.

Federal immigration options include Federal Skilled Worker, Canadian Experience Class and Federal Skilled Trades. All of these are applications under Express Entry and have the shortest government processing time.

Provincial immigration options are called Provincial Nomination Programs (PNPs). There are more than 80 PNPs in Canada that selects a variety of skilled workers and entrepreneurs who want to live in the nominating province or territory, and are deemed beneficial to local economic development.

Most applicants choose the following immigration applications:

  • Canadian Experience Class under Express Entry, where applicants can get a maximum of 380 bonus points with a work permit and Canadian work experience to reach 450-470 points to be invited.
  • Alberta Opportunity Stream, this Provincial Nomination Program has no age requirement, minimal education requirement, minimal language requirement (CLB 4/5) and does not have any revenue, staff or years-of-operation requirement for the company in Alberta that the applicant is working for, unlike other PNPs.
  • Skilled Worker in Manitoba Stream, this PNP is almost exactly the same as the one above. It has one additional requirement that the applicant needs to live and work in Manitoba for 6 months before they can apply.