An open work permit allows foreign nationals to work for any employer and in any job in Canada. For many, obtaining this type of work permit is the first step to eventually immigrating permanently as a skilled worker. This guide will outline the step-by-step process of leveraging an open work permit to achieve permanent resident status through the Express Entry system.

For the best understanding, we recommend first reading through the full article from start to finish without clicking the links. This will give you a complete picture of the process of converting an open work permit into permanent resident status through Express Entry.Once you have an overall understanding of the key steps involved, go back and click on the links during a second pass to explore additional details.

Overview of Open Work Permits

An open work permit essentially removes restrictions tied to employer-specific work permits. Some key facts about open work permits:

  • Valid for up to 3 years depending on situation
  • Allows working for any employer in Canada
  • Available through select immigration programs or situations

Eligibility circumstances can include being a spouse sponsor, international student graduate, refugee claimant and more. 

Once you obtain an open work permit, this facilitates gaining essential skilled Canadian work experience needed for Express Entry’s economic immigration programs.

Using Express Entry for Permanent Residence

Express Entry oversees the processing of applications for three federal economic immigration programs:

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program
  • Canadian Experience Class

All candidates submit profile to the Express Entry pool, where they are ranked based on a Comprehensive Ranking System. Highest scoring profiles receive Invitation to Apply for permanent residence in regular draws.

Express Entry has two major advantages helpful for open work permit holders seeking permanent status:

  • Quick processing time - 6 months or less
  • Option to get points for skilled Canadian work experience

Let’s explore the path to leveraging an open work permit for permanent residence through Express Entry.

Assessing Your Eligibility

The first step is determining which of the three Express Entry-managed economic programs you can qualify for once becoming eligible to apply.

1. Federal Skilled Worker Program

Eligibility criteria:

  • Minimum 1 year of continuous work experience in a skilled occupation (NOC 0, A or B)
  • Education credentials at Canadian benchmark
  • Proof of language proficiency
  • Sufficient settlement funds

2. Federal Skilled Trades Program

Eligibility criteria:

  • Hold qualification certificate in skilled trade
  • Minimum 2 years full-time experience (or equivalent part-time)
  • Meet job offer requirements (or certificate in Red Seal trade)
  • Language ability

3. Canadian Experience Class

Eligibility criteria:

  • 1 year full time skilled Canadian work experience (or equal part-time)
  • Meet language levels
  • Education credentials at Canadian benchmark
  • Employed under certain work permits if outside Canada

As an open work permit holder, the Canadian Experience Class will likely be the most accessible path, requiring just 12 months of skilled Canadian work experience.

Gaining Qualifying Work Experience

Once in possession of an open work permit, the next imperative step is gaining at minimum one year of skilled work experience in Canada at NOC skill type 0, A or B.

This is essential to have the qualifying experience needed to apply through one of the Express Entry programs. Track hours carefully. Work experience credentials include:

  • Job title and main duties
  • Duration of employment
  • Hours worked - full time (30+ hrs/week)
  • Wages paid, income tax forms (T4 or NR4)
  • Reference letters from employer

The more relevant experience you obtain, the higher chances of securing enough Comprehensive Ranking System points. Additionally, once you’ve built 12+ months of work credentials, get your experience formally assessed through an Educational Credential Assessment. This verifies your position and duties meet the National Occupational Classification skill level standards.

Submitting Express Entry Profile

With your open work permit, qualified work experience and language/education benchmarks met, you can now take the step of creating your online Express Entry profile.

You will be scored and ranked in the pool based on factors like:

  • Age
  • Level of education
  • Official languages proficiency
  • Canadian skilled work experience
  • Arranged employment validity
  • Adaptability factors (spouse education, previous study in Canada etc.)

As you build more work credentials, your score can improve. A minimum score of around 470+ points is currently needed to maximise chances of getting an Invitation to Apply when draws are held.

The online profile form takes about 2 hours and requires:

  • Personal details
  • Family information
  • Education/work background
  • Proof of funds
  • Digital photos
  • Document scan uploads
Get your language test results, educational credential assessment report and proof of work experience documents ready before starting your Express Entry profile.

Invitation To Apply

Once in the pool, top-ranking candidates are issued an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence in regular round of selections. ITAs are based on Comprehensive Ranking System score and program eligibility rules.

You then have 60 days after invitation to submit full application, including all forms, documents and fees. Spouses can be included. Permanent residence can be granted in 6 months or less in most cases.

As an open work permit provides flexibility to gain skilled Canadian experience, leveraging this temporary status for permanent immigration through Express Entry is a logical choice. Utilizing programs like Canadian Experience Class allow you to transition in place from temporary to permanent status.