Skip to content

Advertisement

Let’s explore the topic of how to activate your Canadian work permit, a process that has changed over the years with the advent of online applications and changing processes.

This page focuses on activating a Canadian work permit through any of the available application methods: online, by paper, or at the border itself, with further distinctions on whether you are applying from within Canada or outside Canada.

Jump To

Work permit application types

Work permit application types

Under a pilot program initiated in 2017, applying for and/or activating a Canadian work permit at the border may not be possible at every single border crossing. Moreover, where it is possible, it may only be possible on certain days and/or between certain times, depending on the border crossing. Learn more

Activate your Canadian work permit: online applications

The benefits of applying for a Canadian work permit online, as opposed to by paper, are outlined elsewhere on this website (in a nutshell: it’s quicker, you can avoid processing delays, incomplete applications are returned, and it’s easier to ensure completeness before submitting in the first place).

Let’s turn our attention for a moment to the post-application stage: the activation stage.

If you applied for your Canadian work permit online and from within Canada, you will, if approved, received a letter by email from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) informing you that your Canadian work permit application has been approved. Thereafter it’s simply a short waiting game to receive the actual, physical work permit to your mailing address. When you receive it, you can consider it activated. You have nothing left to do (except enjoy working in Canada, of course).

  • Note: new process for activating IEC work permits inside Canada: Individuals who are inside Canada and have been approved for their IEC work permit (i.e. have a POE letter) have a new process enabling them to activate their work permit from inside Canada. Individuals in this situation may activate their work permit by submitting a IRCC web form and including the exact message outlined on this IRCC page. If the individual meets the criteria, their permit will be mailed to them. Flagpoling has not been allowed since the beginning of the pandemic. This has not changed.

If you applied for your Canadian work permit online and from outside Canada, you will, if approved, receive an approval letter (the POE letter of introduction) with instructions on how to obtain your actual, physical work permit upon presentation of this letter and other key documentation at a Canadian port of entry. See below for details, depending on the type of Canadian work permit you have applied for.

Note: If you’re an applicant under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program or eligible for two-week processing through the Global Skills Strategy, you can only submit your work permit application online. You cannot apply by paper or at the border.

Activate your Canadian work permit: paper applications

Some Canadian work permit applicants prefer to apply by paper, either because they are more accustomed to using a pen and paper than a mouse and keypad, or for any other reason that may be specific to their situation. (For example, applicants who want to maximize a period on implied status may consider a paper application, purely because processing times are typically longer than for online applications.)

There are different guides and forms to apply on paper for Canadian a work permit, depending on whether you are applying from inside Canada or outside Canada.

But that’s about the application stage; our focus here is on activating your Canadian work permit having submitted by paper.

If you applied for your Canadian work permit by paper and from within Canada, you will, if approved, received a letter in the mail from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) informing you that your Canadian work permit application has been approved. Thereafter it’s simply a short waiting game to receive the actual, physical work permit to your mailing address. When you receive it, you can consider it activated. You have nothing left to do (except enjoy working in Canada, of course).

If you applied for your Canadian work permit by paper and from outside Canada, you will, if approved, receive an approval letter (the letter of introduction) with instructions on how to obtain your actual, physical work permit upon presentation of this letter and other key documentation at a Canadian port of entry. See below for details, depending on the type of Canadian work permit you have applied for.

Note: If you’re an applicant under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program or eligible for two-week processing through the Global Skills Strategy, you can only submit your work permit application online. You cannot apply by paper or at the border.

Activate your Canadian work permit: applying at the border

Some Canadian work permit applicants are able to apply upon presentation of their case and supporting documents — no online or paper application required. Two things to note:

  • If you’re an applicant under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program or eligible for two-week processing through the Global Skills Strategy, you can only submit your work permit application online. You cannot apply by paper or at the border.
  • You can only apply for a Canadian work permit at the border if you are a citizen of a visa-exempt country. Click the slide directly below to find out if you are from a visa-exempt country.

Are you visa-exempt or visa-required? Find out.

Note: restrictions on flagpoling have been rolled out during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some people intending to apply for a Canadian work permit at the border may already be in Canada. In this case, they may undertake a process known as flagpoling, indicating the quick U-turn made at the US-Canada border before re-entering Canada.

Many temporary residents of Canada wish to avoid the online or paper application process in order to bypass the anticipated time it would take IRCC to process the application. Whereas an online application to IRCC may take weeks or months to process, applying at the border, where a Canadian border services officer may review the case, can take just a few minutes, excluding travel time.

Applying for a Canadian work permit is also possible for certain visa-exempt applicants coming to Canada from another country. In such cases, please note again that IEC and Global Skills Strategy applications are among the applications that are refused processing at the border.

When you enter Canada, tell the Canadian border services officer that you have come here to work.

If you have received a Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction indicating that you are approved to work in Canada, bring it with you. This letter is not a travel document or a work permit, but you must show it when you arrive in Canada.

You should also have supporting documents, such as:

  • proof that you meet requirements of the job, such as proof of work experience and education, and
  • a copy of your employer’s positive Labour Market Impact Assessment.

Once the Canadian border services officer has checked your documents and confirms that you can enter Canada, the officer will print the actual Canadian work permit for you.

LMIA-exampt, employer-specific Canadian work permit

When you enter Canada, tell the Canadian border services officer that you have come here to work.

If you have received a Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction indicating that you are approved to work in Canada, bring it with you. This letter is not a travel document or a work permit, but you must show it when you arrive in Canada.

You should also have supporting documents, such as:

  • proof that you meet requirements of the job, such as proof of work experience and education, and
  • the offer of employment number your employer received when they submitted the offer of employment through the Employer Portal.

Once the Canadian border services officer has checked your documents and confirms that you can enter Canada, the officer will print the actual Canadian work permit for you.

IEC Working Holiday

When your International Experience Canada (IEC) working holiday application is approved, you’ll receive a port of entry (POE) letter of introduction in your account. You’ll need this letter of introduction to receive an IEC work permit when you enter Canada.

The letter does not guarantee entry into Canada or guarantee a work permit. You’ll need to bring this letter with you to Canada and show it to a border services officer at the port of entry (airport or land border).

Your letter of introduction will have a clearly marked expiry date. You must show your letter at a Canadian port of entry on or before this date to get your work permit. The expiry date of the letter of introduction cannot be changed or extended under any circumstance. You cannot transfer your letter to any other person or name.

In addition to your letter of introduction, you will also need to be able to produce proof of at least $2,500 CAD in funds and insurance to cover the entirety of your planned stay in Canada. See our IEC FAQ sheet for more.

About the author

Rebecca Major profile picture
RCIC logo

Rebecca Major

She/Her
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Rebecca Major is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (R511564) with nearly 15 years of licenced Canadian Immigration experience, gained after graduating with a Bachelor of Laws in the UK. She specializes in Canadian immigration at Moving2Canada.
Read more about Rebecca Major
Citation "How to activate your Canadian work permit." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation