As a foreign worker in BC, you may want to extend your work permit. Perhaps your employer offered to renew your contract. Maybe you’ve been offered a new job elsewhere in BC. Or maybe you want to stay while your permanent residence application gets processed. We explain your rights and the steps to take.
There’s a deadline to apply to extend a work permit
If you want to extend your stay in BC as a worker, you must apply before your current work permit expires. Once you file your application, you have “implied status”. That means you can continue to work in Canada until the federal government decides your application.
If you miss the deadline, you may be able to get an extension. See the next section for guidance.
If you finish at your current job and are offered another job in Canada, you may need to apply for a new work permit. Don’t start your new job without a work permit that authorizes you to work in the new position.
If your work permit has expired
“As a seasonal worker, my job was only supposed to last until the end of the summer. But this year the harvest went late, and my employer asked me to stay an extra month. I agreed to stay on, but I forgot to renew my permit before it expired. Luckily, I applied to restore my status within the 90-day period and my extension was granted.”
– Marino, Guatemala
You lose your status as a foreign worker in BC if your permit expires before you apply for a new permit or an extension. In other words, you lose your legal right to continue working in BC.
If you find yourself in this situation, you may be able to restore your status. To do so, you must:
- apply within 90 days of losing your status, and
- keep meeting the requirements for your stay, and
- have met the conditions listed on your permit, and
- pay the appropriate fees.
If you’re eligible, follow the steps in the “Apply to extend your work permit” section below. On your application form, indicate that you’re applying for:
- an initial work permit or a work permit with a new employer, and
- restoration of your status as a worker.
Describe your situation. Explain why you ended up staying in BC past the end of your work permit. The application form has space for you to write this out.
You have options to become a permanent resident
A work permit allows you to work in BC temporarily. If you want to immigrate (stay in BC permanently), you must qualify under one of the permanent resident categories.
One option is to be nominated under the BC Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). The BC PNP offers permanent residence to experienced workers, business people and their family members.
There are three different program “streams” you can apply under:
- Express Entry. Open to foreign workers who have the skills to fill a high-demand job in BC. Connects to the federal Express Entry system.
- Skills Immigration. Another option for foreign workers with the skills, experience and qualifications needed by BC employers.
- Entrepreneur Immigration. For experienced business people wanting to start their own business in BC.
If the BC PNP isn’t the right fit for you or your family, there are alternatives:
- Canadian Experience Class. Open to foreign workers who have work experience in Canada.
- Family sponsorship. A way for Canadian citizens and permanent residents over the age of 18 to sponsor their relatives to come to Canada.
- Self-Employed Persons Program. Open to foreign workers who will become self-employed in Canada.
Visit the provincial government’s website to learn about other immigration options.
The BC PNP process is designed to let you submit an immigration application on your own. However, if you need help you can hire a representative (an immigration consultant or lawyer, for example) to help you with the process. The provincial government’s website has more information on using a representative.
If you’ve applied to become a permanent resident
A bridging open work permit lets you keep working while you wait for the results of your permanent residence application. You may be eligible for a bridging open work permit if:
- you applied for permanent residence, and
- your current work permit expires in four months or less, and
- you have valid status on your work permit, and
- you’re currently in Canada.
To be eligible, you must have applied for permanent residence under one of the following programs:
- Federal Skilled Worker Program
- Canadian Experience Class
- Federal Skilled Trades Program
- BC Provincial Nominee Program
- Caring for Children Class
- Caring for People with High Medical Needs Class
The federal government’s website has more information on applying for a bridging open work permit.
Step 1. Find out when your current work permit expires
Check the expiry date on your work permit. You must apply to extend your work permit before your current permit expires. If you miss the deadline, you may still be able to get an extension. But you must stop working until your new work permit is issued. See the “If your work permit has expired” section above.
Step 2. Prepare your application
The documents you need to submit with your application will vary depending on your permit category. Visit the federal government’s website to find the application package that applies to you. Once you make a selection, you’ll get a personalized document checklist with the forms you need to submit.
Fill out each section of the forms you’re required to submit. If a section doesn’t apply to you, write “Not Applicable” or “NA.” Sign and date your application. If you need more space for any section, print another copy of the same page and submit it with your application.
Make sure your application is complete before you submit it. An incomplete application could delay processing. See this guidance from the federal government on how to fill out your application.
Except in limited circumstances, all applications must be made online through the federal government’s website.
Step 3. Pay the fees
A processing fee is required for each service you’re applying for. If you’re applying for more than one service, add up the fees and submit the total with your application.
The basic fees (in Canadian dollars) are:
- work permit extension (per person): $155
- work permit extension (group of three or more performing artists): $465
- open work permit extension: $100 (in addition to the $155 processing fee)
- restore your status as a worker: $355
If your temporary resident status has expired and you’re applying for a work permit, you must pay:
- the work permit extension fee, and
- the fee to restore your status as a worker.
How to pay your fees
- a valid email address, and
- access to a printer (to print the receipt), and
- a credit card or Canadian debit card.
For online payment, visit the federal government’s website and follow the instructions. At the end, print off two copies of your receipt and attach one to your application. Keep the second copy for your records. Make sure you don’t exit without printing your receipt!
If you can’t pay online, Canadian migration offices accept other methods of payment.
Step 4. Submit your application
Except in limited circumstances, all applications must be made online, through the federal government's website. To apply online, you’ll need a scanner or camera to create electronic copies of your documents. You’ll also need a valid credit card or debit card.
Step 5. Wait for your application to be processed
If any further action is required, the federal government will say so in a letter.
Either way, you’ll receive a letter telling you your application was accepted or refused. If your application is refused, you can only stay in Canada until your current temporary resident status expires.
My work permit expired before I could apply to extend it. Can I continue to work in BC?
You can apply to restore your work permit in the first 90 days after it expires. If you do this, you can stay in Canada until you receive further instructions. But you must stop working until you receive your restored permit.
If you don’t apply to restore your permit within the 90 days and you don’t leave, you could be removed from Canada. To return, you’d need the permission of an immigration officer.
See the section above on “If your work permit has expired.”
I’ve applied to extend my work permit. Can I travel outside of Canada?
Yes, you’re allowed to leave Canada and come back. However, there are three possibilities when you return:
- If your work permit extension hasn’t yet been granted, you may be allowed back as a visitor. But you can’t work in Canada until you get your extension.
- You may be allowed to return as a worker if your work-permit extension was granted while you were away.
- You may be asked to apply for a new work permit at the port of entry.
The Immigrant Services Society of BC provides settlement and employment services, as well as English language lessons, to new immigrants.
The Migrant Workers Centre is a non-profit organization that provides legal information, advice and full representation to migrant workers in BC.
MOSAIC is a registered charity serving immigrant communities in Vancouver. They provide free settlement services, legal information and English language activities to temporary foreign workers.
S.U.C.C.E.S.S. is an organization that delivers settlement services to immigrants in BC, including integration and mentoring programs, legal clinics, pre-departure workshops and more.
The Migrant Workers’ Dignity Association helps migrant workers in BC solve their legal problems.