Working in Canada: eTA, visa, or work permit?

Woman working from home on her computer



The various policies for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, combined with the high quality of life, have made Canada a very popular destination to live and work. But there is of course a difference between working in Canada and making a business trip to Canada. And that can mean the difference between needing an eTA or a visa or work permit.

The Easiest Option: the eTA Canada

The abbreviation eTA stands for “Electronic Travel Authorization”. It is a permit that is needed to enter Canada when arriving by plane. Unlike the visa, the eTA can be applied for completely online using a simple digital form. Once the application has been submitted, it will be assessed by Canadian Immigration for any possible security risks to the country. By far most eTA are approved in a matter of days or even minutes. On top of that, the eTA is also quite a bit cheaper than the Canadian visas (sometimes even by as much as tenfold).

The eTA Canada is linked to the traveller’s passport. This information is shared with the airline and customs authorities, which means the eTA is not a paper document you need to print. The eTA is valid for five years from the date of issue, during which time an unlimited number of trips of up to 6 months each may be made without the need to apply for a visa.

Business Travel and Activities Allowed with an eTA Canada

While most people use the eTA for holidays or to visit family or friends, it can in fact also be used for work-related trips. For example, you can visit (potential) business partners, attend or organise meetings, trade fairs or conferences, visit companies for preliminary research, provide training on location, and even buy or sell products or services. You don’t need a work visa to do any of these things. In addition, manual labour on manager or university level may also be performed, provided that this is done only once for no more than 15 consecutive days in any six-month period, or once for no more than 30 consecutive days in any year.

In addition, people with the following professions are allowed to work in Canada with an eTA: guest speakers (for events lasting up to 5 days), academics (who evaluate research projects), athletes and their coaches, artists and their support staff, referees, journalists and members of a film crew.

For individuals travelling to Canada on business, it is advisable to bring a letter of invitation written by the business partner and a statement from the employer detailing the purpose and duration of the stay to demonstrate that the above requirements have been met. This letter of invitation should include information such as:

  • the traveller’s first name, last name and date of birth
  • his or her job title
  • the name of the company where he or she works and the relationship between his or her employer and the Canadian company (and person) he or she is visiting
  • the name, address, website and a brief description of the company (and person) to be visited
  • a telephone number where the business partner can be reached
  • a reservation of accommodation in Canada
  • A description of how the cost of the trip will be paid for

Visa, Work Permit or ATT

As you can tell, the eTA allows you to perform quite a bit of business-related activities in Canada. You can save a healthy chunk of money and time by applying for an eTA instead of a work visa. However, if your trip doesn’t meet the above requirements, you will still need a visa. The most commonly applied for work visa in Canada are the Work Permit and the Working Holiday Visa, both of which can be applied for online.

Individuals who wish to work for a Canadian company for a longer period than is allowed on an eTA, or who wish to carry out manual labour in the country, must apply for a work permit. This permit is for people who want to work in Canada for a Canadian company and can only be applied for after you have found work in Canada and received written confirmation from your Canadian employer. With this permit, you will also receive an eTA, which is granted automatically and does not need to be applied for separately. Young professionals or students who have been offered a job or internship in Canada must apply for an Employer-Specific Work Permit, a specific permit to work for one company in the same location for the duration of their stay in Canada.

Finally, the Working Holiday Program is intended for young people between the ages of 18 and 30 who want to work in Canada to finance a holiday in the country. In this case, it is not necessary to have found a company in advance and the programme can only be used once.


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