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Ask Tito Mike by Michael Scott  

The Closed Work Permit:

Options for those who lose their jobs

by Michael Scott

There are a number of categories of work permits in Canada, such as open and closed work permits. If your work permit is open and you lose your job, it’s not a problem. You can find another one. Your options are open. You are not limited to work for the employer. The options for the migrant worker with a closed work permit are not so encouraging or open. If you hold an employer-specific work permit, you can only work for the named employer. That employer must have obtained a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) before providing the foreign worker with a job offer.

The employer-specific or closed work permit allows the holder to work in Canada but only under the conditions detailed on the work permit document itself. The conditions on the Work Permit document IMM1442 include information such as the name of the employer you can work for; how long you are legally entitled to work; the job title and NOC code; and the location of the employment. In other words, you are limited by working for the named employer, working only within the validity period of permit and within the geographic confines of the job.

If the holder loses the job, then he or she is not entitled to work for the named employer or for any other employer in Canada. The period however remains valid, so losing the job does not make someone illegal or out-of-status inside the country. You cannot continue to work, but you can apply for a new work permit, if the prospective employer has an approved LMIA or you can apply for a study permit if you have been admitted to a post-secondary institution. You are not allowed to start another job or transition to a study permit without first obtaining permission from IRCC.

You may also have an option to apply for an open work permit but only under certain circumstances. The open work permit is highly desirable because it is not limited by employer, job, or even location but by validity period. You do not need an approved LMIA as in the case of the employer-specific work permit. Before you conclude that all your challenges have ended, you need to understand more about the specific requirements for obtaining the open work permit.

The change from employer-specific to open work permit is available only for overseas workers who were abused or exploited at their job in Canada. The open work permit is available to vulnerable workers in Canada, who are on the job or have lost their jobs. In order to start the process, the OFW must apply directly to IRCC for an open work permit for vulnerable workers. It is important to note that vulnerable is defined by being a victim of abuse for any of the following: physical abuse, including assault or forcible confinement; sexual abuse, including sexual contact without consent; psychological abuse, including threats and intimidation; and financial abuse, including fraud and extortion. The abuse also covers being forced to work outside of the limits of the employer-specific work permit such as for a different employer, in a different job, or in a different location.

Migrant workers who have lost their jobs because of abuse or those who are considering leaving their employment can apply for an open work permit for vulnerable workers. They are encouraged to contact IRCC to seek information on the process and the requirements. They can contact the Client Support Centre (CSC) to obtain work information. The CSC can provide functional guidance on the steps to follow including the provision of a Letter of Explanation-Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers (IMM0017). They will be required to submit evidence of the abuse, such as a sworn statement (affidavit) by the applicant, and a letter or report from an abuse support organization, or a medical doctor, or a copy of an official complaint from an enforcement agency, for example, a police or CBSA report. The impact statement can be supported by copies of e-mail messages, photos showing injuries or working conditions and witness testimonies.

Officers must have reasonable grounds to believe that the migrant worker is/has been subject to abuse or is at risk of abuse within the former or existing employer-specific placement. The “reasonable grounds to believe” standard of proof is more than mere suspicion but less that the civil standard of proof on the balance of probabilities (over 50 per cent). Reasonable grounds is where the complaint is supported by compelling and credible information. It may include a document from a recognized authority affirming that the event occurred. Note that an anonymous letter alleging misdeeds would not meet the minimum standard.

It is not right for any worker to be subject to abuse. They have rights and they have options. The first is not to consider the extreme measure of pursuing an open work permit for vulnerable workers if there is or was no abuse. Rather if you have lost or are losing your job, consider the options of applying for a new work permit or transitioning to a study permit or changing to a visitor visa if your time in status is ending. If you are in doubt about the process or your options, contact an immigration lawyer or licensed immigration consultant.

Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Immigration Canada and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with Immigration Connexion International Ltd. Contact him at 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: