Work Permits - How Long Do They Take?

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Many businesses in Canada depend on foreign workers to stay operational, as it can often be difficult to find local talent to fill positions, for low skill, high skill, agricultural, or seasonal jobs. Canada needs foreign workers to help keep many areas of our economy going.

So if you are a business owner/staffing manager and want to broaden your horizons with foreign workers or if you are a foreigner looking for a job in Canada read on to find out how work permit processing can affect your process.

What you need to know about work permits

Just remember,  work permits will allow your foreign workers to (or you as a foreign worker) to work in Canada for a maximum of 24 months, and these permits can be extended in certain situations. 

Work permits can be either open or closed. An open work permit allows a foreigner to work for any Canadian employer while a closed work permit allows a foreigner to work for only the named company on that work permit. 

That is unless your company is hiring specifically seasonal agricultural workers then the work permit would only be good for a maximum of 9 months from March to November. There are always exceptions and special cases for every immigration program in Canada (like the 180 day seasonal work permits and international mobility to name a couple).

How long does it take to process the application?

Here is the million dollar question: How long will it take before my workers can come to Canada? The average work permit processing time is normally 1 - 38 weeks depending on which country they apply from, and any restrictions that may have been put in place. 

There are longer places like UAE and Nigeria that are over that amount so it is a good idea to check the times as they do fluctuate. Global Talent Stream LMIA supported work permits should be processed in 2 weeks from anywhere in the world no matter what the local processing time is.

As an employer, before you can have your international workers come here you have to make sure that you have applied for a labour market impact assessment (LMIA) and have received approval from Service Canada. Your company can not hire foreign workers from outside of Canada without one through this process.

As a foreigner, to be eligible for a work permit you must have a job offer from a Canadian employer with a positive LMIA, prove that you will return to your home country when your work permit expires, are able to support yourself while in Canada, prove that you can obey the law, and are in good general health. 

As mentioned above, average work permit processing times vary from 1 week to 38 weeks. Keep in mind that this varies for each industry sector. 

The table below lists the LMIA application processing time that the employers must wait to get approval to hire foreign workers. 

These totals are from the time of submission of the application to getting approval. If the application is not yet submitted you must add this time to the work permit processing times most recent average processing times as of December 2020. 

These times are quite generalized and there are always exceptions to each stream always.

LMIA Program Stream 

Processing Time (Approximated)

Business Days



Seasonal Agricultural

9 days

2 weeks


In-Home Caregiver

12 days

2 weeks


Global Talent 

15 days

3 weeks



17 days

3 ½ weeks

1 month 

Permanent Resident 

18 days

4 weeks

1 month

High Wage

34 days

7 weeks

2 months

Low Wage

34 days

7 weeks

2 months


How do processing times vary?

Another factor that will affect the work permit processing times is the country the applicant is coming from. In some cases an employer may only consider hiring employees from one country such as Mexico, as work permit processing times from Mexico are much faster than hiring people from another country like Brazil, which has slow processing times.

It is important to know that each country has a different set of conditions, or exceptions depending on economic relations, such as NAFTA. Processing is typically based on work permit application type, but other factors can affect processing such as the quality of the application submitted, how many additional government requests are required, information verification and how long it takes the consultant or applicant to respond to such requests. 

Processing times by country are again generalized.  A comprehensive list of Canadian work permit processing times can be found on the Government of Canada website. This list is based on the most recent processing times as of January 19, 2021.


Processing Time in Weeks (Approximate)


2 weeks (NAFTA)


3 weeks


4 weeks


7 weeks


7 weeks


9 weeks


10 weeks


11 weeks


13 weeks 


13 weeks


13 weeks


14 weeks


14 weeks


15 Weeks


17 weeks


18 weeks


19 weeks


20 weeks


22 weeks 


27 weeks


38 weeks


Important things to keep in mind

Knowing how long it will take to process a work permit application from outside Canada is imperative for any company who wants to hire foreign workers, especially if they are needed in peak operational seasons. This is truly important for businesses in agriculture, construction, and tourism that may be limited by short seasons of work from March to November.  

In addition to the various processing times per country for a work permit Canada also has many different travel restrictions, including new COVID-19 required testing and a 14 day mandatory quarantine or isolation. The pandemic has made it more difficult to hire international workers, but as long proper planning is in place it can be completed in a timely manner. The better the plan the better the product.

How We Can Help

So if you are an employer and want to learn more about the process for hiring foreign workers feel free to schedule a call with one of our Registered Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCIC) to find out how we can help you.

For employers, we can help your company with creating an immigration strategy for your business with the best chances for success as well as provide you hiring options. Our software will keep you informed during the process so you know when to expect your new staff.

 If you are looking to make Canada your new home in the future, check out our Job Board and find out if any of our vacancies would be right for you. Our RCIC immigration consultants can help you learn about all your options and let you know which programs you could quality for. Book your consultation today.