Open work permit in Canada: requirements, fees and processing time

Zorica Lončar
24.08.21
6 minute read

Canada is an exciting place to call home. Its vast, stunning landscape appeals to many adventurous travellers, but it also has a lot to offer those looking to relocate and work overseas.

Some of the other benefits to life in Canada include its multicultural, welcoming society, its high standard of living and low crime rate. UK expats also find the transition to life in Canada relatively easy, because of an overlap in cultures. And, one of the two main spoken languages is English.

This guide is designed for expats who wish to relocate and work at the same time, focusing on the open work permit in Canada. We’ll cover what exactly it is and we’ll take you through the requirements, the application process, what fees you can expect to pay and how to extend your permit. This should give you a good understanding of whether this permit might be for you, and how to go about applying for it.

We’ll also throw in a handy tip for how to manage your finances with Wise’s multi-currency account in readiness for your big move. You’ll see how this could really help make a difference to the costs of relocation.

What work permits are available in Canada?

To be able to work in Canada you’ll need a work permit. There are two types: an open work permit and an employer-specific work permit

The employer-specific work permit lets the holder work for the employer listed on the permit for the amount of time specified. The employer will usually have to have completed certain steps to aid the application and may also need to provide a copy of the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and a confirmed job offer.¹

The open work permit, on the other hand, isn’t job-specific, so if you hold this type of work permit you’ll be able to work for any compliant employer. More detail on which employers you can work for is available here

Now, what about restrictions on these work permits? For example, you might want to know - can I travel outside of Canada with an open work permit? Or, can I study with an open work permit in Canada?

You are able to travel outside of Canada with a work permit, as long as you have your travel documentation i.e. a Canadian temporary resident visa or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)².

Unfortunately, you can’t study while holding an open work permit³. But, there are options for work and study. For example, international students with a study permit are entitled to work up to 20 hours per week while studying, and 40 hours (full time) during summer breaks or other regular breaks³.

You should be aware that you do have to meet certain criteria to be eligible for the open work permit⁴.

How to get an open work permit in Canada - requirements⁵

The eligibility criteria for the open work permit are quite strict. You’ll need to be any of the following:

  • On Canada’s post-graduate work permit program, as an international graduate of a designated learning institution
  • An applicant for permanent residency in Canada
  • A dependent family member of an applicant for permanent residency in Canada
  • A spouse or common law partner of a skilled worker or international student
  • A spouse or common law partner of an applicant of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program
  • A temporary resident permit holder
  • A young worker participating in special programs
  • A refugee, refugee claimant, protected person or their family member
  • A student unable to meet the rest of the costs of your studies
  • A holder of an employer-specific work permit, but being abused/at risk of being abused in relation to your job in Canada
  • Under an unenforceable removal order.

Be aware that there are other conditions in addition to these listed criteria. To find out if you’re eligible, you can fill out a quick survey on the Government of Canada’s website.

Applying for a Canadian open work permit

If you’re ready to begin applying then conveniently, like for all work Canadian work permits, this can usually be done online⁶. And, that’s the same whether you’re applying from outside or inside Canada. This means that you save on the courier fees associated with paper applications and can quickly make changes to, or get updates on, your application online.

However, providing your biometrics (fingerprints and photo) is now commonly part of the application process too, and you may need to book an appointment to complete this part of the process⁷. Find out if you need to provide yours here.

How to apply for an open work permit outside of Canada

The best way to begin is by getting your supporting documents ready first (see our handy documents checklist below).

Next, register for an IRCC secure account and sign in to your account to start an application⁸. Then you can fill out your forms, using the instruction guide to help you.

Once you’re happy with everything you can pay your fees (listed in the table below) and submit the application (together with your forms and supporting documents) via your account⁸. Then arrange to give your biometrics if these are required.

Documents checklist⁹

When applying from the UK online, you should prepare the following documentation before you start your application:

Your proof of identity

  1. A valid passport or travel document that guarantees you re-entry to the country or territory that issued it.
  2. Two photos of yourself and accompanying family members that meet the Visa application photograph specifications.

Your proof of relationship

  1. A marriage certificate and birth certificates for any accompanying family members.
  2. If you’re in a common-law relationship and your common-law partner is accompanying you to Canada, you need to fill out the Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union (IMM 5409). And, send proof listed on the form to support your relationship.

Your immigration status

  1. If you’re not a citizen of the country or territory where you’re applying from, you must send proof of your present immigration status in that country or territory.
  2. If the government that issued your passport or travel document requires a re-entry permit, you must receive it before you apply for a work permit.

Do be aware that proof of employment isn’t needed to support open work permit applications¹⁰. However, there may be other documentation required as part of your application, as well as those listed above.

If you’re already in the country and wish to apply for an open work permit in Canada, then in most circumstances you’ll be able to apply online too⁶. However, the process is a little different so you’ll want to head to the Government of Canada’s How to Apply page for more information.

Application fees¹¹

You can expect to pay two sets of fees for your open work permit application. These are the work permit processing fee and the open work permit holder fee. Both normally need to be paid at the same time.

Depending on whether you need to supply them, there may also be biometrics fees to pay too.

We’ve put together approximate costs in the table below for you, but it’s always worth checking the fee list for the most up to date information.

Fee TypeAmount
Work permit processing (including extensions) - per person$155 CAD (£89)
Open work permit holder$100 CAD (£57)
Biometrics - per person$85 CAD (£49)
Biometrics - per family (2 or more people applying at the same time and place)$170 CAD (£98)

Application processing time

Processing times vary depending on your individual application, and also where you’re applying from - the most up to date information can be found here.

At the time of writing, applications from the UK take about 4 weeks and take about 59 days from within Canada¹². If you need to provide biometrics this could potentially extend the processing time as well, because this may need to be done in person. So make sure you factor these in.

Open work permit validity and how to extend it

Canada’s open work permit validity depends on your individual circumstances, such as the eligibility criteria you met and the amount of time left on your passport¹³. Immigration officers will decide the validity period for the permit.

You can apply to extend your open work permit when it’s about to run out, but this should be at least 30 days before expiration¹⁴. You’re then legally allowed to stay in Canada until a decision is made on your application.

To extend your permit you’ll need to log in to your existing IRCC account. From there you can follow the instructions to request an extension and pay the processing fee. A decision will then be made on your request to renew - the outcome will likely depend on the eligibility criteria you meet, and whether your circumstances have changed since you first applied.

Save money with Wise when living and working in Canada

Once you’ve secured your open work permit, you can start looking forward to your move. Before you leave, and to save on the associated costs, it could also help to open a multi-currency account with Wise.

With Wise’s international money transfer service, you can choose to send earnings overseas to your main bank for only a tiny fee. Unlike with traditional banks, you’ll encounter no hidden fees and you’ll always get the real, mid-market exchange rate, avoiding sneaky mark-ups which make the transfer more expensive.

If you’re frequently travelling, you can also make great use of the Wise debit card and spend in 200 currencies from the moment you arrive.

Join Wise today


We hope that this guide has helped you get the information you need about the open work permit in Canada. If you find that you meet the specific eligibility criteria then the path towards securing your permit shouldn’t be too difficult.

Be sure to have all your documents and funds ready for as smooth an application process as possible, and check if you need to arrange to give your biometrics. And remember, renewing your permit is possible should you wish to carry on living and working in Canada after it runs out. Good luck with your move!


Sources used for this article:

  1. Canada.ca - work permit types
  2. Cic.gc.ca - can I leave and come back to Canada if I have a work permit
  3. Canadapt.ca - studying with an open work permit in Canada
  4. Wise - moving to Canada from the UK
  5. Cic.gc.ca - who can apply for an open work permit
  6. Canada.ca - how to apply for a work permit
  7. Canada.ca - applying for a work permit outside of Canada
  8. Canada.ca - IRCC secure account
  9. Canada.ca - applying for a work permit outside of Canada
  10. Cic.gc.ca - what is an open work permit
  11. Cic.gc.ca - fee list
  12. Canada.ca - processing times
  13. Canada.ca - conditions and validity period
  14. Canada.ca - extending work permit

Sources checked on Aug 10, 2021.


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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