Open Work Permits for Vulnerable Workers

As a foreign national, working legally in Canada requires you to be either authorized by the Regulations or to have a Work Permit (WP). Otherwise, you will be in violation of law where you will bear consequences that may include deportation.

Talking about Work Permits. Those have different types. A work permit can be either an open one, which means the worker can do the job for the employer of his choice or an Employer-Specific Work Permit, where the individual is allowed to work for the employer mentioned in his work permit and only for this one. However, some issues of abuse might arise and being tied to that one employer may negatively impact the employee.

In its attempt to protect foreign workers, the Government of Canada, in cases of abuse, or the risk of being abused, will issue an open work permit that is exempt from Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to those migrant workers. By having this type of work permit the latter can find another job without the need of staying in an abusive work environment.

The policy covers different types of abuse:

  • Physical abuse: physical contact intended to cause feelings of intimidation, pain, injury, or other physical suffering or bodily harm.
  • Sexual abuse: it generally encompasses any situation in which force, or a threat is used to obtain participation in unwanted sexual activity as well as coercing a person to engage in sex against their will.
  • Psychological abuse: a pattern of coercive or controlling behaviour, iterated threats or both.
  • Financial abuse: a form of abuse where one person has control over the victim’s access to economic resources.

Where a worker is eligible, he must apply for an open work permit for vulnerable workers online to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and include supporting evidence of the abuse (if applicable).

Evidence of abuse includes, but is not limited to, a letter, statement or report from an abuse support organization, medical doctor, health-care professional or other such entity, supporting or additional material, such as victim impact statements, hard copies of email messages, photos showing injuries or working conditions, witness testimonies, etc.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Work authorization: A migrant worker, at the time he applies, must be in Canada and have the proper authority to work.
  • Context of Employment: Where the officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that this worker is experiencing or is at risk of experiencing abuse in the context of his employment in Canada.
  • Experiencing abuse or being at risk of experiencing abuse: The onus is on the applicant to provide evidence of this.

Examples of abuse can be when a migrant worker is forced to work in an unsafe work environment, may not be directly experiencing abuse but may be in a situation where their co-workers are being abused by their employer, putting them at risk of experiencing an abusive situation, etc.

For more information about this subject, you can refer to the Government of Canada website here.  

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