Do I Need a Job Offer to Get a Work Permit?

Hi, this is Michael Niren, Immigration Lawyer
and founder of We were asked this common question, “Do I need a job offer
in order to get a work permit?” Now, I’ve had discussions about this before online and
I am going to try my best to clarify and outline the circumstances that are applicable in this
case, because in some cases you don’t actually need a job offer to get a work permit. But
let me just outline the situations, the most common situation where you in fact do need
a job offer. In most cases if you’re applying for a work
visa to Canada or to United States, you need a job offer first. You need a company who
is willing to commit to you, to sponsor you and offer you a job. And that’s the first
step. Then after that if the company is willing, their forms have to be filled out and an application
has to be submitted to the government to get you a work permit and usually it’s a two step
process where the company first has to get approved for the job offer to the foreign
national and then step two is that the applicant (the foreigner) has to then apply for the
work permit. Now, there’re some exceptions to that, for example under NAFTA where you
could apply at the port of entry without necessarily going through that two step process. But,
in both cases a job offer is the first thing. However, having said that, there are certain
circumstances where a job offer, at least a formal job offer, is not necessarily required.
For example, if you’re a businessperson and you wish to start your own business you could
potentially apply for a work visa on that basis. In the United States we call that an
E-2 visa, in Canada it’s a different type of visa. But essentially there are circumstances
where if you’re interested in investing in your own business and starting a new business
you can actually get a work visa without having a job offer from a separate company. In addition,
if you are a spouse of a work permit holder you could potentially apply for what we call
an open work permit, which means that you don’t need a job offer from a company. You
could as a spouse get a work visa because your spouse has a former work visa. We call
it an open work visa. Now, there are restrictions to that, not all visas are allowed for that.
For example currently the H1B visa you can’t really get as a spouse a work visa although
there’s talk to change that and I hope that comes through, but there’re other circumstances
where you can. Thirdly, let’s say you wish to expand your
business from your home country into United States or Canada, we call that an inter-company
transfer. That’s a circumstance where you could not necessarily get a formal job offer,
or you don’t need a formal job offer from a company, but rather you are expanding and
growing your business into Canada and the United States and on that basis apply for
a visa. So there are circumstances where you don’t need a job offer in order to get a work
permit. But every case is different and in most cases you’re going to have to really
explore what your options are and do your homework and preferably consult with an immigration
professional before you make such an application. So this hopefully has cleared up some misconceptions
that people have that, “Oh, if I don’t have a job offer I can’t get a work permit.” Yes,
in many cases that is true, but not in all cases. So hopefully this has given you some insight
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