Our bridging visa guide is written by Matthew Iwama, Vancouver-based Canadian Immigration Consultant with Vancouver Visa Services.
His firm specializes in the preparation of BC PNP Applications, ESDC Labour Market Opinions and Canadian work permits.
Understanding bridging visas
Bridging visas (officially called Bridging Open Work Permits, or BOWP) is a much welcome innovation from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).
The Bridging Open Work Permit was created as a way to keep workers in Canada working while their applications for Permanent Residency are processed.
CIC realized that long processing times for streams such as the Canadian Experience Class, Federal Provincial Nominee Program and Federal Skilled Worker Program were leaving in-Canada applicants in a bit of a tight spot. Here’s why:
Most often, in-Canada Permanent Residence applicants are currently on valid Canadian work permits.
By the time they have gained the experience necessary for their Permanent Residence applications, their work permits are set to expire. They are either forced to ask their employer to apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to extend their work permit or to leave their jobs and return to their home countries while their applications for Permanent Residence are finalized.
This presents two problems:
1) It creates an unnecessary burden on Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to process thousands of unnecessary LMIA applications for applicants who are not only working in Canada already but who have also submitted applications for Permanent Residence.
2) It forces already established workers to leave Canada, quit their jobs and wait out the processing period of their Permanent Residence application in their home countries, only to be allowed to back to Canada in a few months as Permanent Residents, but without jobs.
Clearly, Citizenship and Immigration Canada saw this as a serious problem and, in turn, created a great solution.
Bridging visa requirements:
In order to apply for a bridging visa, applicants must meet the following criteria:
1) You must have applied for permanent residence under one of the following:
- Federal Skilled Worker Program
- Canadian Experience Class
- Federal Skilled Trades Program
- Provincial Nominee Program*
- Caring for Children Class
- Caring for People with High Medical Needs Class
2) Applicant must be currently in Canada.
3) Must be on a valid work permit that is due to expire within four months.
4) Must have received a positive eligibility decision on an application for Permanent Residence under FSWP, CEC, Federal PNP or FSTP.
5) Must have applied for an open work permit, have paid the processing fee and the Open Work Permit Holder fee.
*Applicants under the PNP must provide a copy of the nomination letter issued by the nominating province or territory along with their application, and cannot have any employment restrictions exist as conditions of the nomination.
How do you know if a positive eligibility decision has been made?
Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP): You have received a positive Determination of Eligibility letter/e-mail (also known as “PER”). This is the letter you receive when your application has been accepted under the Ministerial Instructions. OR the “Ministerial Instructions” status inside of GCMS has been set to “Met.”
Provincial Nominee Program (PNP): You have received the Acknowledgement of Receipt (AOR) letter/e-mail from CIO-Sydney OR the “Eligibility EC-QC/PNP” status inside of GCMS has been set to “Passed”.
Canadian Experience Class (CEC): You have received the Acknowledgement of Receipt letter/e-mail from CIO-Sydney OR the “Eligibility CEC” status inside of GCMS has been set to “Passed”.
Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP): You have received the Acknowledgement of Receipt letter/e-mail from CIO-Sydney.
When applying, include the following:
1) IMM 5710
2) IMM 5476 (if applicable)
3) Copy of Passport ID Page
4) Copy of all marked pages of your passport, including the stamp made by Canadian authorities on your most recent entry into Canada
5) Fee Payment Receipt ($150 Online Fee Payment)
6) Copy of your current Canadian work permit
7) Proof that you have received a positive eligibility decision such as your Acknowledgement of Receipt letter
Common bridging visa questions:
1) Can I apply at the Port of Entry (Border Crossing) for my bridging visa?
No. Bridging Open Work Permit applications will only be processed at CPC-Vegreville.
2) Can I apply online for my bridging visa?
Yes. However, it is a bit tricky to navigate the MyCIC online to load the requirements checklist.
3) I’ve applied for Permanent Residence under the Canadian Experience Class. I haven’t received my AOR yet but my work permit expires in three weeks. What should I do?
Many people find themselves in this situation. They are waiting for their AOR (which takes about 60 days to receive after filing) but their work permit is set to expire before they will receive it. You are still eligible to apply and should do so a few days before your work permit is set to expire. Here’s why:
When Canadian visa officers are assessing your application, they will either look for an AOR, which is included in the application, or they will check the Global Case Management System (GCMS) to see if the “Eligibility CEC” decision has been set to “Passed”. If in between the time you applied and the day the officer will assess your application (if applying on paper, this will take about 50 days or so) you will have received your AOR. Internally, when you receive your AOR, your eligibility status has been set to “Passed”. For the time between when you applied for your Briding Open Work Permit and the time you receive it, you will be on “Implied Status” as per S. 185(5)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
4) My work permit is set to expire in six months and I’m tired of working for my current boss, can I apply for a bridging visa if I have received my AOR?
No. As per the regulations, you must wait until you are within four months of your current work permit expiring before you are eligible to apply for your bridging visa. Once received, you are entitled to work for whomever you choose.
5) What about my spouse or common-law partner? Can they get an open work permit along with my bridging visa?
Yes. The spouse of skilled workers are eligible for open work permits in Canada. You can apply at the same time as for the bridging visa, both online and on-paper.
6) How long does it take to receive my bridging visa?
Processing times vary throughout the year. It can range anywhere between about 20 days if applying online and about 60 days if applying in paper. Depending on your situation and if you need to buy some time on implied status to wait for your AOR to be processed, applying on paper may be more beneficial.
7) I received my nomination certificate from the BC PNP, can I apply for my bridging visa?
No. Your AOR from the provincial PNP office is not eligible to be used for your Bridging Open Work Permit. It needs to be the AOR from CIO-Sydney as it regards your Federal Provincial Nominee Program application.
To speak with an expert, see our Canada Immigration Advice page.
Please also refer to the Government of Canada page about the Bridging Open Work Permit.
- To learn more about permanent residency, read our guide Express Entry: The Basics.
Written by Matthew Iwama, Vancouver-based Canadian Immigration Consultant with Vancouver Visa Services, a firm specializing in the preparation of BC PNP Applications, ESDC Labour Market Impact Assessments and Canadian work permits.