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How to change from a Visitor Visa to a Work or Study Permit in Canada


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The first thing to note is that a visitor visa ALONE is not a permanent relocation visa. So, it’s important to be sure you have what it takes to change your status while visiting Canada.

I am increasingly getting questions from those with a Canada Visitor Visa and looking for options to change that to another status while visiting, so they can stay legally in Canada and perhaps eventually become a permanent resident or citizen.

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Note that while Canada allows you to apply for another status while visiting, there are requirements to meet. Let’s talk about that.

1) Visitor Visa to Work Permit

Those on a Visitor Visa can apply for a work permit (after getting an eligible job). The temporary policy allowing this has been extended to February 28, 2025. You can read more about this here.

To do this, a Visitor must:

  • have a valid visitor status
  • have a good job offer (supported mainly by LMIA from an employer), or a job exempted from LMIA listed here
  • apply for an employer-specific work permit.

This means that if you are a visitor in Canada, you cannot legally work with that Visitor Visa ALONE. You must first get a valid job offer, get the LMIA you will likely need through the employer, apply for, and get a work permit.

Take note of this and plan accordingly.

The Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) will show a need for a foreign worker OUTSIDE Canada to fill the job. It will show that no Canadian worker is available to do the job after it has been advertised for some time. Details available here

If you and the employer then scale this hurdle, the employer wishing to hire you as a temporary foreign worker will pay a processing fee of $1,000 for the LMIA request and a “privilege fee” of $100. Once you have the LMIA, you can apply for a work visa.

It is important to note that the employer must pay the $1,100 for the LMIA. An employer can also not charge the applicant for a job offer. It is against the law. So, if someone is telling you (as the employee) to bring money for a job offer and LMIA in Canada, I can tell you that it is 100% a scam.

After getting your valid job offer and other necessary documents like the LMIA from your employer, you can submit your work permit application online (for the permit to be issued). Or go to a land border (between USA & Canada) to apply for the work permit through Flagpole.

You can read more on the process of flagpole here.

2) Visitor Visa to Study Permit

Those on a Visitor Visa can also apply for a study permit while visiting Canada.

To do this, a Visitor must

  • Have a valid visitor status
  • Have an admission and acceptance letter from a Designated Learning Institution
  • Apply for a study visa online.

This means that applying for a Study Visa while visiting Canada is similar to applying from outside Canada.

You must still apply for the study visa online on the IRCC portal, and after your approval, you will present yourself at a Port of Entry to get a Study Permit.

After your online study visa application has been approved, you can exit and re-enter Canada by air and present yourself as a new student (for the study permit to be issued). Or go to a land border (between USA & Canada) to apply for the study permit through Flagpole.

It is important to note these requirements to prepare and plan before deciding to immigrate on a Visitor Visa. The stay as a Visitor is also expected to be for a maximum of 6 months (each time you visit).

So, keep this in mind and plan accordingly.

Lastly, if you are Visiting Canada as the Spouse of a student (that is doing a program eligible for Post Graduate Work Permit – PGWP). Or you are the Spouse of an International Graduate already on a PGWP and have an exemption.

Spouses of International Students doing a program that is eligible for PGWP or who already have the PGWP do not need a job offer/LMIA to get their Spousal Open Work Permit.

For more resources and information to apply as a student, check all our compiled here.

All information you need to apply for admission, scholarships, and a visa in Canada can be found in the compiled resources. It’s a Do It Yourself (DIY) community.

Examples of resources to look out for are:

Top 15 websites to look for jobs in Canada. Available here.

CV/Resume Templates from Canadian Universities. Available here.

NB: The posts and information on this website are not legal advice.

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