IRCC data show where foreign workers got jobs in Canada under the International Mobility Program last year.
Most of Canada’s foreign workers fall under the International Mobility Program (IMP). In 2021, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issued more than 315,000 work permits under the IMP alone. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) accounted for about 104,000 work permits issued.
The major difference between the two programs is the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The TFWP requires employers to complete LMIAs to show there are no workers in Canada available to do the job, and hence the hiring of a foreign worker is necessary.
IMP work permits do not require LMIAs because their purpose is to support Canadian interests. The most common IMP work permits fall under the significant benefit and reciprocal employment categories. The government defines “significant benefit” as a foreign national whose work will benefit Canadians socially, culturally, or economically. Reciprocal employment is when Canada has an agreement with another country, which allows for the exchange of workers across borders. The labour market impact is considered neutral since foreign workers can have similar opportunities in Canada to what Canadian workers can have abroad.
IRCC regularly publishes monthly data on temporary residents and permanent residents. These newly-released data show where you were most likely to find IMP holders last year, categorized by occupation and province. Numbers are rounded to the nearest multiple of five.
Ontario took in most IMP work permits
More than 135,000 IMP work permits went to the province of Ontario in 2021, double British Columbia, which came in second with over 55,000 work permits.
Quebec, Alberta, and Manitoba rounded out the top five places where IMP work permits were issued.
IMP work permits issued in 2021 by province
Top occupations by top 5 provinces
Having work experience that falls under these NOC codes does not necessarily mean you are eligible for an LMIA-exempt work permit. In order to get any work permit in Canada, you have to be eligible for a TFWP or IMP stream. These lists just indicate the most common instances of a certain NOC being listed on an LMIA-exempt work permit in 2021.
Tech occupations were most commonly listed on Ontario IMP work permits. Computer programmers and interactive media developers took the top spot, followed by information systems analysts and consultants, and software engineers and designers.
University professors and lecturers were the fourth most common IMP work permit holders, followed by specialist physicians.
Top 5 Ontario IMP work permits by occupation
Software engineers and designers were the most common IMP work permit holders in B.C. last year. Actors and comedians came in second place, followed by graphic designers and illustrators, university professors and lecturers, and information systems analysts and consultants.
Top 5 B.C. IMP work permits by occupation
Graphic designers and illustrators were the top LMIA-exempt work permit holders in Quebec last year. University professors and lecturers came in second, followed by post-secondary teaching and research assistants. Specialist physicians and producers, directors, choreographers and related occupations held the fourth and fifth positions.
Top 5 Quebec IMP work permits by occupation
University professors and lecturers were the most common IMP work permits holders in Alberta. Food service supervisors, post-secondary teaching and research assistants, cooks, and transport truck drivers also made the top five.
Top 5 Alberta IMP work permits by occupation
In Manitoba, industrial butchers and meat cutters, poultry preparers and related workers held the most IMP work permits. Transport truck drivers, athletes, cooks, and agriculture service contractors, farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers took the subsequent positions.
Top 5 Manitoba IMP work permits by occupation
How to get LMIA-exempt work permits
There are many LMIA-exempt work permits available. The first step to get one is to learn your options, and determine what exactly you are looking for.
You may be able to qualify for an open work permit, which will allow you to hold any job in any Canadian province for any Canadian employer. All open work permits fall under the IMP. There are open work permit options for international student graduates, or youth from certain countries with reciprocal agreements to Canada, and spouses of Canadians and temporary residents.
There are also LMIA exemptions for certain professionals, investors, and traders from countries that have free trade agreements with Canada.
Canada also offers exemptions to eligible entrepreneurs, French-speaking skilled workers, and workers in occupations that are considered to promote the country’s interests.