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COVID-19 and the resulting international border closure have complicated the pathway to Canada for many.  However, there are still several options for those wishing to come to Canada, whether on a temporary basis or with permanent resident status in mind. 

Intra-Company Transferee Work Permits 

One way to come to Canada despite travel restrictions is an Intra-Company Transferee Work Permit Application under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. The Intra-Company Transferee Work Permit provides those with international companies the opportunity to temporarily relocate employees to Canada who meet the required criteria. Once the applicant obtains their work permit and begins working in Canada, they gain Canadian work experience that can be used as a basis for their Application for Permanent Residence. 

A significant advantage to Intra-Company Transferee Work Permit Applications is that applicants are exempt from the requirement to obtain a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) before making the work permit application. Obtaining an LMIA can be a daunting and difficult process; being able to bypass this step is particularly appealing to many employers and potential intra-company transferee applicants. 

Spousal Open Work Permit and Length of Permit 

For Intra-Company Transferee Work Permit holders looking to travel to Canada with their family, their spouse will be eligible to apply for a Spousal Open Work Permit and their dependent children (age 21 and under) may apply for either Visitor Records or Study Permits (depending on their age).  

The Spousal Open Work Permit allows the qualifying spouse to work for any employer in Canada during the term of the work permit’s validity. Initial Intra-Company Transferee Work Permits may be valid for up to three years, with the possibility of extension in two-year increments, up to a maximum of seven years. For start-up companies in Canada, initial Intra-Company Transferee Work Permits are usually valid for one year. 

Necessary Requirements 

In order to qualify for the Intra-Company Transferee Work Permit, there are various criteria both the partaking companies and the applicant must meet. Prior to applying for an Intra-Company Transferee Work Permit, the following must be established: 

  • There must be two legally established companies (a Canadian company and a foreign company) that have either a branch, affiliate or parent/subsidiary relationship. This may require the incorporation of a company in Canada prior to the Work Permit Application. For there to be a parent/subsidiary relationship, the foreign company would need to own the Canadian company or vice versa. For an affiliate relationship, the definition is: 
    – one of two subsidiaries, both of which are owned and controlled by the same parent or individual; or 
    – one of two legal entities, owned and controlled by the same group of individuals, each individual owning and controlling approximately the same share or proportion of each company. 
  • Both companies must be actively and legitimately doing business, or in the case of a start-up Canadian company, be on the verge of actively doing business; 
  • The applicant must have been employed continuously and full-time by the foreign company for at least one out of the previous three years as an executive (e.g. president, CEO, vice-president, etc.) or as a senior manager (manager of a department in a company or manager of other managers, supervisors or professional employees). In turn, those deemed to be specialized knowledge workers for the company may also qualify to be transferred; and 
  • Finally, the applicant must be being transferred to the Canadian company to fulfill a position similar in nature to the position they held with the foreign company. 

As part of an Intra-Company Transferee Work Permit Application, a variety of supporting documents clearly illustrating the success and legitimacy of both companies must be submitted. In addition, documents detailing the qualifications of the applicant must be included. 

Canadian Start-Up Companies 

For those being transferred to a Canadian start-up company, the issuance of a work permit will be largely dependent on whether the new company has legitimatized itself in Canada to the extent possible, such as by securing leased premises, establishing a prospective customer base and by providing proof of the company’s ability to financially sustain itself in Canada. 

Long-Term Goals: Permanent Resident Status 

As outlined above, coming to Canada temporarily as an Intra-Company Transferee Work Permit holder may open the door to various pathways toward Canadian permanent residence by helping either the work permit holder or their spouse obtain the required work experience in Canada. 

Whether you wish to discuss the growth of your business in Canada or your desire to work in Canada as a qualifying employee, we would be happy to speak with you about your options and this unique program. 

Laura Hanusiak

Laura Hanusiak is a lawyer in the Halifax office of Cox & Palmer where she practices in the area of citizenship and immigration law. She can be reached at

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