Ever wondered exactly what happens if you let your Canadian work permit expire? Or, are you in a situation where your expiration date has passed or is coming up quickly? We understand situations like these can be incredibly stressful. So, to help paint the picture of what you're up against, we chatted with Leann Iamartino, Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant at Foothills Immigration.
First and foremost, Leann wanted to ensure you know that "there are more options than you may think." Naturally, your options are more extensive if you haven't yet let your visa expire. But we absolutely understand things happen. Leann advises not to panic if your expiration date has passed. If you're in a pinch, you should connect with an immigration expert like Leann to help you understand your options. Whether or not you're planning on working with an expert, we've outlined some important information below to help you learn more about what visa expiry means and looks like in Canada.
What To Know About Your Work Permit’s Expiration Date
"Your work permit, for example, will have an issue date and an expiration date right on the actual document," Leann explained. "It's really, really important to watch this date closely. Because often, it sneaks up. You need to give yourself a bunch of time to figure out what you want in terms of your future in Canada and your options."
Leann's advice in most circumstances is never to let yourself expire. In fact, you want to start considering your options and next steps long before your expiration date. If you have a visitor visa, work visa, or study visa nearing expiration, you need to make sure that you have applied for an extension before your expiration date. If you get an extension request submitted to the government before your expiration date, your status will automatically be classified as maintained (formerly known as "implied") status. Let's talk about that.
Suppose you're applying for a new immigration status before your current status expires. In that case, you may be able to remain in Canada while working or studying (as your current visa permits), which is called "maintained status." Your maintained status will last until a decision is made on your application. So, until your application is either approved or declined by the government. If rejected, your status will then be considered expired. If approved, your new status will begin.
There are a few different approaches to gaining maintained status. "You can apply for an extension on your existing visa if that's available, or you can take the LMIA route with your employer, for example," said Leann. "If you get that application in before your expiration date, you have maintained status and can continue working (in the same conditions that your original work permit permits." Filling out and submitting extension applications isn't exactly a walk in the park. First, you'll want to choose the best option for you. Next, you'll need to put the necessary documentation together, and then you'll need to submit it. This is why giving yourself lots of time before your expiration date is essential.
If You Let Your Visa Expire
"If your work visa expires, you must stop working immediately," said Leann. "If you don't, you could face fines or bans from Canada." If it's your study visa that's expired, you must stop attending your schooling immediately, as well. The good news is that you have a 90-day "Restoration Period" after expiration. During those 90 days, you can apply to extend your visitor, work, or study visa. "However, you will have to pay a fee for it, and you won't be able to work throughout the application process," Leann explained. While this may not sound like the worst-case scenario, it can be incredibly challenging if you don't have the funds to support yourself without working during that period. In addition, you'll also be risking your employment if your workplace isn't willing to hold your position while you get your status sorted out. Let's look deeper into what the restoration period looks like.
The Restoration Period Explained
"The government is giving you a 90-day grace period referred to as restoration status. During this time, you can legally live in Canada and, as it suggests, restore your status," Leann told us. "You have to restore your status within that 90 days. If you don't, then on day 91, you will need to leave Canada."
Leann told us that overstaying is not something the government takes lightly. There are records of everything, including which country your passport is in and your immigration status at any given time. Suppose you overstay and don't experience any immediate ramifications. In that case, you may face future issues if you try to leave the country and return or apply for any other type of visa or residency. Essentially, you need to obey the law, and if you don't stop working when you're supposed to or leave the country when you're supposed to, you may run into problems. Ideally, this won't even be relevant for you because you won't let your visa expire!
Reasons Your Visa Might Expire
One of the reasons you might end up with an expired visa is simply forgetting or missing the expiration date. Other reasons include misunderstandings concerning permanent residency applications or miscommunications with employers.
"One thing some people don't realize or misunderstand is that you need to maintain your status while you're in the PR application process," Leann noted. "Just because you've applied for PR doesn't mean you're status is maintained.”
Another instance that might land someone in a tricky situation is if there's been a miscommunication with an employer during their LMIA process. For example, an employer might get part of the way through the process before realizing they cannot fulfill the LMIA requirements (paying the median wage, providing required documentation, for example). In this case, the employee might be in a time crunch with no clarity on their next moves or the best path forward. Leann advised that if you ever need to rely on someone else, "you need to stay on top of everything, check in often, and take charge because it is your responsibility."
Some Tips to Keep in Mind
We'll leave you with some helpful tips to ensure you don't end up in a stressful situation. First, Leann suggests you "take two minutes to put a reminder in your calendar and on your phone. Give yourself reminders for one year and six months before your expiration date." When those reminders come around, take a look at your options, assess your situation, and be proactive so you're in great shape for when your expiration date grows nearer.
In the same vein, "give yourself a ton of time to extend before your work permit expires," Leann said. Get moving on putting your application together, and keep your eyes open for new programs that might be fitting for you. The more time you give yourself, the less stressful the process will be. She said you'll need to know your options. "Because you may have a few, you need to understand those because, generally, none of them happen quickly. So if you know where you're at, in terms of what's available, that will be the best thing."