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Can I Change Employer On A Canadian Closed Work Permit?

In many aspects of life, despite best-laid plans, the unexpected often happens. If you have moved to another country to work, it may be that you wish to switch to a different employer. The challenge is that as a person who is subject to immigration control, you may have conditions on your current permit, which mean you cannot simply move to another company. This is the difference between an ‘open’ work permit and a ‘closed’ work permit; the former allows holders to switch employer, the latter does not. In this article, we will review what a person on a closed work permit in Canada can do if they wish to switch to a different employer.

What Is A Canadian Closed Work Permit?

Canadian closed permits are also referred to as ‘employer-specific work permits’ and provide permission to work for a named employer. The official Canadian government guidance states, “An employer-specific work permit allows you to work according to the conditions on your work permit, which include:

  • the name of the employer you can work for
  • how long you can work
  • the location where you can work (if applicable)”

The type of permit you are given will depend on the type of work you are doing in Canada, however, in the majority of cases, migrant workers are issued with employer-specific work permits. This does not mean you cannot change employers, but you will need to submit an application to do so.

How Can I Change Employer On A Canadian Closed Work Permit?

Thankfully, there is a process in place which enables existing migrant workers in Canada to switch employer. It is important that if you do plan to switch employer, you must do so at least 30 days before your current work permit expires (this also applies if you want to extend your existing permit). You are required by the Canadian immigration authorities to apply to extend or change the conditions of your work permit if:

  • your job is extended
  • there are changes to your current job, such as:
    • a change in your pay
    • new responsibilities
    • you’re offered a different job
    • you want to work for a new employer

You will not be able to start working in a new role or for a new employer until your application is processed and your new permit issued.

Before applying to change your work permit, it is essential that your new employer completes all of the steps they need to do from their side. This may include applying for a new LMIA from Employment and Social Development Canada/Service Canada, or just issuing a new offer of employment, and paying the ‘employer compliance fee’ where an LMIA is not needed.

The application to change your work permit is completed online. Before applying, it is advisable to review ‘Guide 5553 - Applying for a work permit inside Canada – extend, change conditions, initial and open work permits - online application’ - this will ensure you understand the whole process. You will also need access to a camera or scanner to allow you to upload copies of your documents.

The application you will need to complete is the ‘Application to Change Conditions or Extend Your Stay in Canada’. You will also be given a personalised list of documents you will need to submit with your application (this is based on the answers you provide to a series of questions you will be asked after you login to the immigration system).

Once you have completed the application, you will be asked to pay the required fee (this is currently $155).

What Happens Once I Apply To Change Employer In Canada?

If your application is approved, you will then be sent a work permit detailing your working conditions, including the name of your new employer.

The current processing time to change employers in Canada is shown as 137 days (four and a half months). For this reason, it is important to ensure you apply to change your work permit as soon as possible before the expiry of your current status.

In the event that your permit does expire before you receive your decision, you can remain legally in Canada – this is referred to as ‘implied status’.

What Happens If I Apply After My Work Permit Expired?

It may be that you applied to change your closed work permit after it expired. In this situation, you do have options. The immigration rules state, “In some cases, you may apply to restore your status as a worker if you:

  • apply within 90 days of losing your status
  • keep meeting the requirements for your stay
  • have met all the conditions listed on your permit, and
  • pay your fees
    • restoration ($200) and
    • work permit ($155)”.

The guidance also recommends that:

  • on form IMM 5710, under section 3 “I am applying for one or more of the following” – select, “Restore my status as a worker”
  • you should clearly explain why you stayed in Canada longer than allowed

While it should be possible to restore your legal working status, the decision will be entirely at the discretion of the immigration authorities in Canada. Much will depend on your immigration record and the explanation for why you have overstayed.

Final Words

Applying to switch to a new employer is not an insignificant task. Not only will you have to gather the evidence you need to support your application and complete the form, but you will also have to pay an additional fee and wait for a decision. You will have the privilege of being able to apply from within Canada; initial work visa applications are typically completed outside of the country. This also means you can remain legally while your application is being processed.

Related article:

A step-by-step guide to work permit application within Canada

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