Hi, How Can We Help You?

Vulnerable Workers

Vulnerable Workers

Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers

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:

  • Inside Canada (applications at the port of entry will not be accepted);
  • Have a valid employer-specific work permit (ie: a work permit that has the employer’s name on it, and has not expired (or was valid at the time of applying for extension));
  • Being abused or at risk of being abused in relation to their job in Canada.

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 OWP 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:

  • physical harm
  • forcing you to work in a way that’s unsafe or puts your health at risk
  • unsafe or unsanitary living conditions in employer-provided housing
  • sexual touching that you did not agree to
  • making unwanted sexual comments to you
  • controlling where you can go
  • stealing from you
  • stopping you from seeing friends or co-workers
  • taking some or all of the money you are paid
  • threats, insults and intimidation
  • forcing you to commit fraud
  • a third party charging you fees for a job or making promises that aren’t real

Temporary resident visa holders (whether LMIA-based, OWP, or even individuals under a study permit who may be working) in Canada should be aware that they are afforded the same labour rights and privileges as Canadian permanent residents and citizens.

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.

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:

  • a letter, statement or report from an abuse support organisation, medical doctor, health care professional, etc.
  • a sworn statement, also known as an affidavit, from yourself
  • a copy of an official report you submitted to an enforcement agency, such as a police or Canada Border Services Agency report
  • a copy of an official complaint submitted to a provincial government enforcement agency, such as an employment standards branch
  • a victim impact statement
  • email or text messages
  • pay stubs or bank statements
  • photos showing injuries or working conditions
  • witness testimony

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.