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Differences Between Canadian Permanent Residency (PR) and Canadian Work Permit (WP)

Canada Business Immigration | Canada Permanent Residency | Canada PNP | canada program | Canada Work Permit (WP) | Provincial Nominee Program |
24 April 2017

Earlier this month, QICMS discussed common questions we receive from individuals seeking immigration through investment solutions: what are the differences between having Canadian permanent residency and U.S. permanent residency (U.S. Green Card), and what kind of benefits does each provide applicants and their family members? One thing we like to emphasize is that researching Residency (or Citizenship) by Investment Programs is important for understanding which one is right for you and your family, whether it’s in Canada, Europe, or the United States. This means understanding what a program’s application requirements are, what kind of visa status is granted, and what benefits the program allows applicants and family to receive.

Many of our program inquiries involve Canada and what each program offers, such as the type of residency status that is granted. Canada offers 20 Residency by Investment Programs that include the popular Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP), 13 Provincial Nominee Programs, and various federal programs. Like any other residency program in the world, Canadian immigration programs each have specific requirements foreign investors must meet in order to qualify and apply. More importantly, each Canadian residency program grants a type of immigration visa: Canadian permanent residency (PR) or a Canadian work permit (WP). This difference in residency status is commonly seen among the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP), such as the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program for Business (MPNP-B) and the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BCPNP). Each grant a different type of immigration visa, and for many, the type of immigration visa that is granted is the most important factor when deciding between Canadian immigration programs.

Today we will outline basic differences between obtaining Canadian permanent residency (PR) and a Canadian work permit (WP) through investment in a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). It’s important to keep in mind that deciding which program fits your immigration needs depends on your personal circumstances and should therefore be discussed in-depth with a qualified immigration lawyer or consultant.

Canadian Permanent Residency (PR) vs. Canadian Work Permit (WP)

First, it helps to define what Canadian permanent residency (PR) and Canadian work permit (WP) actually means. Permanent residence (PR) is a legal status that allows an immigrant to legally reside and earn a living anywhere in Canada. A work permit (WP) is a written authorization to work in Canada issued by an officer to a person who is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada. Usually, it is valid only for a specified job and / or business and length of time.

For business immigration to Canada, PR is issued to foreign investors who make a substantial contribution into the Canadian economy. In exchange, investors and their eligible dependents are granted permanent residency status to live, work, and study anywhere in Canada, as well as eligible for most social benefits granted to Canadian citizens. However, it’s important to note that some Canadian PNPs require applicants to declare their intention to live in a specific province, i.e. Manitoba, but may live anywhere Canada once PR is officially granted.
Canadian work permits (WP) are issued by Canadian Government officials, which allow foreigners with target skills to work for a Canadian employer / business. Both the job and employer are specific to the WP granted, including the province or location the holder can reside while in Canada. In respect to all Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP), work permits are issued to foreign investors with experience in entrepreneurship, business ownership and/or management, or even work experience relevant to the program of interest. Unlike PR status, applicants for a Canadian work permit must also apply for a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), separate from the permit itself.*

Many individuals ask about applying for permanent residency status as a work permit holder. While it’s certainly not impossible in this situation, applicants must expect a lengthy process ahead. Furthermore, applying for permanent residency as a work permit holder is not guaranteed, in that he or she must first receive a nomination to apply in addition to meeting eligibility criteria. This may also involve renewing a TRV if the work permit expires while applying for Canadian permanent residency, and in some cases, applying for Cpermanent residency is simply not permitted by the individual’s work permit conditions.

*Applicants from a visa-exempt country are not required to obtain a TRV. In this case, visa-exempt nationals must obtain an electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) before their departure to Canada. However, U.S. citizens or Green Card holders (permanent residents) are not required to obtain either.

Which PNPs Offer Canadian Permanent Residency (PR) and Canadian Work Permits (WP)?

Between 13 Provincial Nominee Programs, 6 programs offer applicants Canadian permanent residency (PR) and 7 programs offer a Canadian work permit (WP).

PNPs offering Canadian Permanent residency (PR) are as follows:
  • Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) –  Self-Employed Farmer Stream
  • Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program for Business (MPNP-B)
  • Nova Scotia Nominee Program (NSNP) – International Graduate Entrepreneur stream
  • Prince Edward Island Provincial Nominee Program (PEI-PNP) – Partial Ownership
  • Prince Edward Island Provincial Nominee Program (PEI-PNP) – 100% Ownership
  • Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) – Farm Owner/Operator Category
PNPs offering a Canadian work permit (WP) are as follows:
  • British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BCPNP)
  • Northwest Territories Nominee Program (NTNP)
  • Nova Scotia Nominee Program (NSNP) – Entrepreneur Stream
  • Ontario Nominee Program (OINP) – Corporate Stream
  • Ontario Nominee Program (OINP) – Entrepreneur Stream
  • Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) – Entrepreneur Category
  • Yukon Business Nominee Program (YBNP)
The table below provides general information on what Canadian permanent residency (PR) and a Canadian work permit (WP) grants through Provincial Nominee Programs.
Canadian Permanent Residency (PR) through Provincial Nominee Programs
Canadian Work Permit (WP)
Provincial Nominee Programs
Permanent Residents can live, work, and study
anywhere in Canada
Holders of a WP must reside in the province or city of their employment, i.e. the Province of Ontario or Vancouver, British Columbia (BC)
Spouse and dependents under the age of 19 are included for Canadian PR Spouse and dependents can be included in
Canadian WP applications
Average time to obtain Canadian PR is 18-24 months Average time to obtain a Canadian WP varies from program to program, but can take weeks to months depending on additional requirements
Permanent Residents may establish, expand, or
manage an approved business in Canada
Canadian WP holders must have an approval
from a Canadian province prior to arrival and
cannot change business
Permanent Residents can travel in and outside of Canada without a TRV or eTA Canadian WP applicants may need a Temporary
Resident Visa (TRV) to enter and/or re-enter Canada
Permanent Residents can apply for citizenship after 4 years within 6 years of stay in Canada Canadian WP holders can apply for PR status if a nomination is obtained and requirements met
(WP to PR or citizenship is not guaranteed)
Permanent Residents must physically live in Canada
for 2 years out of 5 to maintain their PR status
WP length of stay depends on the business and
category applied for (WPs can be extended, but
some have maximum stay durations)
Spouses/common law partners can legally work in Canada (no permits or authorization required) WP holders can request an open work permit for spouses/common law partners or a study permit for dependent children
Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are similarities as well as significant differences between Canadian permanent residency (PR) and a Canadian work permit (WP) statuses. As a rule of thumb, those seeking permanent relocation to Canada are likely better suited for Provincial Nominee Programs that offer PR status, whereas individuals seeking temporary skilled work in Canada might find WP status more appealing.

As mentioned before, all Provincial Nominee Programs have specific qualifications and criteria applicants must meet. Some PNPs require applicants to make an Exploratory Visit, whereas others require an Expression of Interest (EOI) or Entrepreneur Immigration Registration (EIR). All PNPs require an interview of the applicant as well as meeting additional selection criteria. In short, no PNP is a “one size fits all” situation, so discussing the details of programs with a qualified immigration lawyer or immigration consultant is key to finding the right one.

Are you interested in obtaining Canadian permanent residency (PR) or a Canadian work permit (WP)? Contact our offices today to discuss immigration planning with our team of professionals.

For a comparison of Canadian Provincial Nominee Programs, please click here.

For a comparison of all Canadian business immigration programs, please click here.

For general information on Canadian immigration programs, please click here.

Fill out our Free Assessment to see if you qualify for any of the immigration programs offered.

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