Last month at Collision 2023 conference, the Government of Canada announced a special program to attract H1B Visa holders currently living in the US and facing any issues related to immigration, or nearing their end of term, to come and work in Canada. This program opened to the public on July 16th, 2023, and is now accepting applications.
In this article, we will review the background, process, and documents required, how it would work, including the situation of H4 visa holders, and address some common FAQs. We will update this article with the latest news related to Canada’s H1B open work permit.
Background: Open Work Permit for H1B Visa holders from US
The Canadian Government on June 27th, 2023 announced the creation of open work permit for the H1B visa holders, who are working in the US in speciality occupations. Their main intent behind the program is to attract skilled workers who are ending their H1B Visa term in the US or having challenges with their visa situation due to Layoffs or other aspects.
Below are the key features of the Open work permit for H1B visa holders
- H1B Visa holders living in the US can apply for the open work permit
- The approved applicants will get an open work permit for up to 3 years.
- The program will be available for one year or until the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reaches 10,000 applications
- If approved, the dependents also can either work or study in Canada
- Only the principal applicants are counted towards the 10,000 limit. Their dependents are not counted towards the cap.
What does Open Work Permit mean for H1B Holders?
An Open Work Permit in the context of Candadian work visa program means three key things:
- Your work permit is not specific to a job or a type of job. You are free to work in any job. You could be flipping burgers or driving Uber; there is no restriction that you need to work in the area of your expertise or education.
- You do not need the sponsorship of any employer to get the work permit. There is no need for a letter or confirmation that employment is available when you apply for an open work permit. It means you are not dependent on any employer or job to get an open work permit.
- There is no need to do a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) that confirms that the job will not impact workers in Canada. This is similar to H1B Labor Condition Application(LCA).
As you can see from the above three, the open work permit is completely different from the typical H1B Visa program, where you need an employer to sponsor H1B and you need to work in the job related to your speciality occupation and you need an LCA.
Basically, the open work permit enables the H1B visa holders to enter Canada without any job offer and look for work of their choice and work in their preferred job.
Canada H1B Open Work Permit Eligibitliy
Below are the only two requirements to be eligible to apply for the H1B Visa holder’s Open work permit in Canda:
- The applicant needs to have a valid H1B Visa based on speciality occupation.
- The applicant needs to live in the US at the time of application.
Some of you may have H1B, but not living in the US. For those people, unfortunately, even though you have H1B Visa, you would not be eligible to apply for the H1B Open work permit. If you see, the main intent behind the program is to give an alternative for H1B Visa holders, if they have any issues with their job or visa status to stay in North America.
Documents Checklist for Canada H1B Open Work Permit
Below is the full list of required documents to apply for the H1B visa open work permit in Canada based:
- Your valid passport or travel document. It must have one full free page.
- Copy of your H1B Visa (if you have done US Visa stamping at a US Consulate)
- H1B Approval Notice from USCIS. This is Form I-797A or I-797B that USCIS sends when they approve the H1B petition.
- Proof of your stay in the US that includes documents such as those below:
- Your US address proof, such as recent utility bills, rental agreement, etc.
- Arrival/ Departure Record, which is nothing but Form I-94, that shows your status in the US.
- Your Income Tax filing report
- Any documents that prove that you are currently living in the US.
- Your most recent US bank statements with deposits, withdrawals
- US Driving License
- US State ID
Fees for H1B Open work permit
The application fee for H1B Canada Open work permit is $155 Canadian Dollars(CAD). It is about 118 USD.
If you need to give biometrics, you will be charged another $85 CAD. This fee is for the fingerprinting and the photo. If you have a family of two or more, that maximum fee is $170 CAD.
If you have given any biometrics in the past 10 years, there is no need to give biometrics again. You can check for yourself, if your biometrics are valid at their website
Medical Exam Requriements
In general, for most of the general tech workers working on H1B visa, there may not be a need for medical exam when you apply for the H1B open work permit. If you work in a profession, where you interact in close contact with people like in health care settings or labs, you may not need a medical exam. You can check the requirements on Canada Immigration website, if you need it.
Now that we understand the requirements, let’s now look at how to apply for Canda open work permit for H1B visa holders.
Some users got approval for the H1B Open work permit. Check out the User Experience for H1B Canada Work Permit – Approval Letter
Step by Step Guide to apply for Canada H1B Open Work Permit
Below is the step by step guide to apply for the Canada H1B Open work permit.
Step 1: Create an Account on IRCC Portal
If you have never used or created an account with the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada(IRCC) portal system, you must create a new account.
Go to get an IRCC Portal Account page and enter your valid email id and click on get invitation code. You will get a code right away. Copy the code and click on the continue button below. It will indicate how long the code is valid for. You can use that code and signup for the account.
Below is the screenshot of the how the account creation screen and invitation code screen looks like in IRCC portal.
When you try to signup for the account, they will ask some basic information like Name, US Phone number and email again. You will get a code to the email and you need to use that to validate the account and activate the same. Once you activate your account, your email is verified and you will get confirmation for the same.
Step 2: Select H1B Open work Permit Options
You will be asked to accept terms and conditions, disclaimers and then eventually you will come on a page that would have 3 options. You would select the option “Apply to visit, study or work in Canada as a temporary resident” under “Start an application” section. The screenshot of it would look like below.
Once you select that option, you will get another screen, where you need to select “work permit” option to see the open H1B work permit option. You need to select the exact option “an open work permit for an H-1B visa holder”. It looks like in the below screenshot. You can select the province as unknown, if you don’t know the place where you would live or work.
Once you select the above and proceed to next step, the system will give you a list of required documents and what information you need to enter in the next steps.
You will need the below information to complete the application
- Your personal information
- Your passport information
- Your finances info
- Your education history
- Security details and your criminal records details
- Your medical background
- Your family information.
Below is the exact screenshot on the IRCC portal that shows the requirements and documents that you need to apply and complete the application
Step 3: Complete the application, pay fees, submit
It is a pretty detailed form, make sure you have all the relevant information before you start filling out the information. You will need to have copies of your documents to upload and put in details in the form. You will also be asked about if you have given biometrics in the past or not and informed that you would need to pay additional fee.
You will need to enter your H1B Receipt Number details as well. You will also get an option to pay the fee as well towards the end. Once everything is complete, you will give your consent and declaration and submit the application.
Step 4: Giving Biometrics, Processing of your application
After you apply, it can take anywhere from a few days up to 6 weeks for the application to be processed. You will need to book an appointment to give biometrics and give biometrics as needed in the meantime.
Depending on your case, you maybe asked to attend an interview with an officer or asked to send more information or documents. You can check the status of your application online using the application number or your unique client identifier(UCI)
Below is the screenshot from the IRCC website that talks about the processing time stating it can take up to 6 weeks. ( it was showing 0 to 2 months before)
Step 5: Approval letter, Port of entry Proces
If your H1B visa holder open work permit application is approved, you will get an approval letter that says you are allowed to work in Canada in any profession or place. The approval letter is called as “Port of entry letter of Introduction“. This letter is not your actual work permit.
When you enter Canada at a port of entry(place where you enter Canada), you need to bring this letter and show it to the officer. The Officer at the port of entry would give you the actual “work permit” at the port of entry on the day you enter Canda.
The work permit that is issued to you would give you the details on how long that you can work in Canada and what are the conditions you can work under. If your passport is expiring under 3 years, your Open work Permit would be given for a shorter duration.
Canada H1B Open Work Permit – H4 Visa Holders Options
If you are a H1B Visa dependent living in the US on H4 Visa, you might wonder what are your options, when you go to Canada. Below are the options available to you to work or study.
- You can either work or study in Canada as a dependent of H1B Open Work permit holder.
- There are no work visa restrictions like on H4 visa in the US, you are free to work.
- You can apply with your spouse on the IRCC portal during the initial process or apply for your dependent visa after your spouse’s Open work permit is approved.
Latest News on Canada H1B Open Work Permit
August 10th, 2023: Some users got approval for the H1B Open work permit. Check out the User Experience for H1B Canada Work Permit – Approval Letter
July 17th, 2023: The applications are closed and you cannot submit any application for H1B Open Work Permit. Below is the notice on the IRCC portal that shows the applications are closed and they reached the 10,000 cap.
July 16th, 2023: The applications are now open to submit an application for H1B Open Work Permit. You would see the option to select Work Permit and H1B Open work permit in the IRCC portal.
June 16th, 2023: Canada minister announces a new program at Collision 2023 conference to attract H1B holders currently living and working in the US. It is capped at 10,000 slots and does not include spouse and dependents for that cap. Check full details at Press Release on Tech Talent Strategy 2023.
The program is available for one year or until they reach 10,000 applications. Depending on how many apply, this could be gone in no time. If the 10,000 cap is not reached, it is valid until July 15, 2024.
Yes. The whole idea behind the program is to encourage anyone in America planning to leave US to apply for this program and stay in North America.
No, there is nothing that specifically tells in the guidance that H1B holders, who lost job would get preference.
It can take anywhere from few days to 8 weeks or 2 months for the process to be completed and have a decision on your applicant. It could be faster or slower depending on your
No, it will not have any impact on your Canadian PR application. The idea of the open work permit is for H1B holders to arrive in Canada, get a PR, and settle down.
There is no direct clarification about not having an H1B Visa stamp in the passport in the IRCC website. All they ask is anyone working on H1B Visa status in US can apply. If you do not have a valid H1B visa stamp, do not worry. Just apply with your I-797 approval notice and indicate your F1 Visa, and COS(change of status) relevant I-94 with the approval notice and put in notes, you should be good to go.
Yes, you can fill out the IRCC Webform to fix any errors or upload the documents that you missed submitting during the application submission process.
What do you think of the program by Canada? Would it attract more people? When do you think the quota would be done? Share your thoughts in comments section below.