If you’re already in Canada on a valid work permit, and you’re applying for permanent residency through the Express Entry program, then you may be eligible for a Bridging Open Work Permit, or BOWP. This will allow you to stay in Canada while your application is processed.
If you don’t apply for a bridging visa, then you may be required to leave the country while your application is considered, or you may be allowed to remain but ineligible to work. Your eligibility depends on what permit you’re currently on and which PR visa you’re applying for.
It’s important to get your application in on time, so you don’t face any gaps in your employment eligibility or run the risk of overstaying your visa. Fortunately, the IRCC (Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada) website makes it easy to apply for a bridging work permit online.
What Is a Bridging Open Work Permit?
A Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP) is a way to extend your right to live and work in Canada while waiting for your permanent resident application to be approved. In most cases, you’ll retain all of the work rights that you have on your current visa for up to another year.
For example, you might have arrived in Canada as a student or temporary employee and wish to apply for permanent residency through the Federal Skilled Worker Program. Instead of having to leave the country and apply for PR from overseas, you can apply for a BOWP and continue working for your current employer or any other eligible employer in Canada.
Open work permits differ from employer-specific work permits in that you aren’t restricted to working for a particular company. However, you may be restricted from working in the health, child care, or medical fields if you don’t have an up-to-date health check. You also won’t be allowed to work for companies on the non-compliant employers.
If you don’t have an open work permit, then your prospective employer will need to go through a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) before they can hire you. This means they’ve shown that the job won’t displace a Canadian worker or have a negative economic impact. But since it costs $1,000 for an LMIA application, many employers will prefer to hire someone with an open work permit to avoid going through the LMIA process.
Applying for an open work permit costs $255 CAD, including a $155 processing fee and a $100 open work permit holder fee, and the permit is valid for up to 12 months.
The BOWP is intended for applicants currently in Canada who are planning to live in Canada as a permanent resident. But not all applicants for permanent residency are eligible for a Bridging Open Work Permit. To qualify, you must meet the following conditions:
- You must already be in Canada
- You must have a valid work permit
- You must have applied for permanent residency
- You can have no more than 4 months remaining on your current work permit
This means that you can’t apply for a BOWP simply to extend your stay in Canada or while waiting to decide if permanent residency is right for you. You also can’t apply if your current work permit has expired, or when entering the country from overseas.
You won’t be given a BOWP until your electronic application for permanent residency, or e-APR, is checked for eligibility and completeness through the Express Entry system. However, being granted a BOWP does not guarantee that your PR application will be approved.
If you’re applying for permanent residency as a couple, your spouse may also be eligible for a bridging open work permit, but they will have to submit a separate application.
Qualifying Permanent Residence Programs
Bridging Open Work Permits are only available to applicants who are applying for permanent residency through one of the following programs:
- Federal Skilled Worker Program
- Canadian Experience Class
- Federal Skilled Trades Program
- Provincial Nominee Program
- Caring For Children Class
- Caring for People With High Medical Needs Class
Most likely, you’ll be applying for one of the first three programs, all of which use the Express Entry system. You’ll need to receive an invitation before you can apply.
If you’ve lived and worked in Canada for at least a year (for example, through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Post-Graduation Work Permit, or International Experience Canada), then you may be eligible for the Canadian Experience Class visa. If you have an education in an eligible skill or trade and one year of work experience overseas, then you may qualify for the Federal Skilled Worker Program or Federal Skilled Trades Program.
If you’re applying through the Provincial Nomination Program, then you’ll have to submit a copy of your nomination letter and will be restricted to working in that specific province. You won’t be eligible if there are any additional restrictions attached to your nomination.
Applicants living in Quebec are not eligible for the BOWP, since Quebec has its own provincial nomination process that is separate from the PNP system. If you’ve been living and working in Quebec and are applying for a federal PR program or are nominated by another province, then you will need to relocate out of the province to be eligible for a bridging open work permit.
How to Apply
You can apply for a BOWP online or on paper. Processing times are currently 98 days for online applications and 105 days for paper applications. You may also need to submit biometrics such as a photo and fingerprints if you haven’t already, which may extend your processing time.
Regardless of which visa you’re applying for, you’ll need to submit your electronic application for permanent residency (e-APR) before you can apply for a BOWP.
If you’re applying through the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, or Canadian Experience Class, you’ll use the Express Entry system. Remember, you’ll need to receive an invitation before you can apply, which can take several months to a year. Simply creating your Express Entry doesn’t count, since you may not be selected from the pool of eligible applicants. It’s important to plan ahead of time – otherwise, you may not receive an invitation before your current work permit expires.
Once you’re invited to apply and have submitted your application, you’ll receive a file number and acknowledgment of receipt, which you’ll include with your BOWP application.
If you’re applying for through the Provincial Nomination Program, you can also use the Express Entry system, but you’ll also have to include a copy of your provincial nomination letter.
When you’re ready to apply, you can fill out form IMM 5710 (Application to Change Conditions, Extend my stay or Remain in Canada as a Worker) online or on paper.
What You Need for a Bridging Open Work Permit
Prepare your application in advance by looking over this document checklist to make sure you have everything you need. Depending on your situation, you’ll need to include:
- Acknowledgment of receipt of PR application
- Provincial nomination letter (if applicable)
- Proof of payment of the processing fee
- Photocopy of your passport
- Photocopy of your current visa or work permit
- Marriage license or certificate (if applicable)
If your documents are in another language, you’ll need to have them translated into English or French and include copies of both the original and the translation.
Make sure to have all of your documents in order and submit them on time. If your current work permit expires before a decision is made on your BOWP application, then you may be able to keep working under implied status under the same conditions as your current permit. Implied status means you’re considered a temporary resident and not in violation of your visa.
But, if your application for a BOWP is declined and your current permit has expired, then you will have to stop working immediately or risk jeopardizing future applications.
If you’re unable to get a BOWP, your alternatives are to:
- Leave Canada and apply for PR from out of the country
- Apply for visitor status (without work rights)
- Find an employer who will undergo the LMIA process
Hopefully, you won’t run into any issues and your application will be accepted, but it’s always a good idea to know what your options are and have a plan to avoid worst-case scenarios.
Bridging Open Work Permits are an important part of the immigration process. They allow you to remain in Canada while your application is processed and continue building a life in Canada with your spouse and dependents. They also make it easier on your employer by allowing you to continue working for them without any gaps in your employment.
Most likely, your application for a Bridging Open Work Permit will be just a formality, and won’t have any issues or processing delays. But since paperwork always takes time, and there are a lot of steps to complete, it’s best to plan in advance to improve your chances of a stress-free application process. Once you have your BOWP, you’ll be able to concentrate on what really matters: working toward permanent residency and a long-term life in Canada.