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Migrant Workers in Abusive Job Situation in Canada can now Apply for Open Work Permit to Change Employer

Last updated on 3 June 2019


Canada is taking action to help protect vulnerable workers, newcomers who face family abuse, and help newcomers sponsor family members that they didn’t initially declare.

Every worker in Canada is entitled to a safe and healthy work environment where their rights are respected. Some migrant workers with employer-specific work permits end up enduring mistreatment, fearful of workplace punishment, as well as fear of losing their job.

Starting June 4, 2019, migrant workers who have an employer-specific work permit and are in an abusive job situation in Canada will be able to apply for an open work permit. This will allow migrant workers to leave that employer immediately, maintain their status and find another job.

Nobody should have to stay in an abusive situation. Some individuals fear jeopardizing their immigration status more than an abusive spouse or partner.

Starting July 26, 2019, newcomers experiencing family violence will be able to apply for a fee exempt temporary resident permit that will give them legal immigration status in Canada and includes a work permit and health care coverage.

In addition, we are expediting the process for those in urgent situations of family violence who apply for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

When a person applies to immigrate to Canada, they are required to declare all of their family members. The consequence for failing to declare a family member is a lifetime bar on the principal applicant being able to sponsor that family member in the future.

As of September 9, 2019, we will launch a 2-year pilot project where a person (resettled refugee, was conferred refugee protection in Canada or were themselves sponsored as a spouse, partner or dependent child) who came to Canada can now sponsor undeclared immediate family members.

The Government is committed to protecting vulnerable people so they can leave abusive work or family relationships, or reunite with immediate family members.


“Newcomers who failed to declare immediate family members as they first came to Canada were barred from sponsoring them. Today, we right that wrong. No worker should fear losing their job when they are being mistreated in their place of work. No partner should be more fearful of losing their immigration status instead of escaping abuse. Today, we say, fear no more.”

– The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Quick facts

  • When an application is approved for an open work permit for a vulnerable worker, the employer will also face an employer compliance inspection. To date, more than 160 employers have been found non-compliant and received a monetary penalty and/or a ban on hiring foreign workers. Cases that involve potentially criminal behaviour are referred to Canada Border Services Agency or the appropriate police force.
  • The expedited temporary resident permit process for victims of family violence is only available to foreign nationals in Canada who have not yet obtained their permanent residence and whose status in Canada is dependent on their abusive spouse or partner. It is not available to foreign nationals outside Canada.
  • The pilot project for sponsorship of previously undeclared family members will last 2 years – from September 9, 2019, to September 9, 2021. Applications that are already in process will also benefit from this pilot project.
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