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Canada offers an Open Work Permit program to some vulnerable workers on an employer specific-work permit, who may be victims of abuse at their workplace.

The measure allows vulnerable workers who may be the victim of abuse at their workplace, or by their employer (and who hold an employer-specific work permit), to apply for an Open Work Permit (OWP).


Who can apply?

Workers currently in Canada on an employer-specific (or LMIA-based) work permit, and who report being the victim of abuse in relation to their employment, may be eligible for this program. More specifically one can apply if they are:

LMIA-based work permits are tied to a specific employer in a particular industry. These work permit holders are not authorised to work in any other industry or for any other employer. Usually if a foreign worker wants to change employers, they must apply to change conditions of their employment to do so legally in Canada. An open work permit on the other hand allows individuals to work for any employer in most industries.


How is abuse defined?

Abuse is defined as the following:

Any behavior that scares, controls or isolates you could be abuse. Abuse can be physical, sexual, financial or mental. Examples of abuse that you should report in your application include:

In addition, employers who have been previously found in violation of their responsibilities when hiring a temporary foreign worker—under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (FWSP), or the International Mobility Program (IMP), the two programs for issuing work permits in Canada—are listed in a government directory. 


What is the process of applying?

Detailed instructions on how to apply can be found on the government’s webpage here. An instruction guide from Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is also available to outline the process further. Note that there are no fees associated with this application.


Letter of explanation

In addition, to support one’s application a letter of explanation is needed to describe one’s situation, and the specific abuse they are facing at their workplace. An online form is available to make this process simpler.



In addition, applicants are encouraged to include any evidence of abuse that they can in their application. Types of evidence that can be included in your application:

IRCC notes that these are simply examples of abuse; applicants may have other forms of evidence which they are free to submit. If all forms of evidence cannot be uploaded, applicants are encouraged to include this fact in their letter of explanation.


Contact Visalink for information on applying vulnerable work permit if you are facing abuse or are at risk of facing abuse at your workplace.