Hiring Foreign Workers: Legal or Not?

by | Apr 11, 2023

As a Canadian employer, you may want to consider hiring a foreign national to fill a position in your company. The good news is that it is possible to hire a foreign national in Canada. However, there are specific steps you need to take and requirements you need to meet before you can hire a foreign national. This article will discuss the general rule and exemptions when it comes to hiring foreign nationals in Canada.

The General Rule: Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)

If you are a Canadian employer who wishes to hire a foreign national, you must first seek the consent of the Canadian authorities. This consent is typically done in the form of a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The LMIA process involves going to the Canadian authorities and demonstrating that you have not been able to identify a Canadian resident or citizen who has the requisite skill sets to perform the job inside Canada.

As part of the LMIA process, the employer may be required to post job opportunities or job advertisements for a set period of time, with the intention of identifying suitably qualified Canadians. Only after doing this unsuccessfully can the employer apply for a positive LMIA, meaning an approved LMIA. Once the LMIA is approved, the employer can provide it to the prospective employee, who then uses it as the basis to apply for a work permit.

LMIA Exemptions

While the LMIA process is the general rule for hiring foreign nationals, there are exemptions to the LMIA requirement. Eligibility for an exemption will depend on the type of exemption you want to apply for and the nature of your business inside Canada. Here are a few examples of LMIA exemptions:

Intra-Company Transfer

If your business inside Canada has a related entity outside Canada, such as a branch or affiliate, that entity outside Canada may be used as a vehicle to transfer employees to Canada. This exemption allows you to bring an employee to Canada without you, the employer, needing to apply for an LMIA.

International Agreements

Canada has agreements with some countries that allow for easier hiring of foreign nationals. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allows for easier hiring of citizens from the United States and Mexico.

Canadian Interests

If the hiring of a foreign national is of significant benefit to Canada, you may be eligible for an LMIA exemption.

Significant Benefit

If the hiring of a foreign national will create or maintain significant social, cultural, or economic benefits for Canadians, you may be eligible for an LMIA exemption.


As a Canadian employer, it is possible to hire a foreign national to fill a position in your company. However, you must first seek the consent of the Canadian authorities, typically in the form of an LMIA. If you are unable to obtain an LMIA, there are exemptions that may be available to you. It is important to understand the specific requirements for each exemption to determine your eligibility. By following the appropriate steps and requirements, you can successfully hire a foreign national in Canada.


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