Extension Applications and Summer Travel

The heat of the last few days reminds us that summer actually does comes to Toronto, and it can be hot! Because of school schedules and the fact that it is difficult to move house in the snow, especially if you are from a warm climate, many newcomers to Canada arrive in the summer, particularly in the month of August. This means that generally, work permits also expire during the summer; when everyone wants to travel.

Every year I see applicants who have planned vacations for exactly the same time that their work permits expire. Each year it causes many people time, anxiety and sometimes significant costs when they don’t know if their documents will be issued in time for them to travel. Sometime they even need to cancel their travel plans.

Applicants can apply for their work permit extensions within the 90 days before their work permit expiry. Although you can sometimes apply a little earlier, especially when processing times for work permit extensions are high, if you apply after your work permit after it has expired you are out of status.

As of writing this article processing times for work permit extension applications are approximately 46 days if applied online, and 110 days if the application is submitted in paper format. As we move through the summer we can expect that these processing times will continue to increase. I’ve seen processing times for extension application rise to well over 150 days during peak summer months.

If an applicant is in a situation where they have already applied for their work permit but a decision has not been made when the work permit expires, the applicant will benefit from “implied status.” Here the applicant has implied status to continue working under the conditions of their previously issued work permit until a decision has been made on the pending application. The challenge here is that implied status is broken if the applicant exits Canada.

For example, if an applicant is in implied status and leaves Canada to take their family to Disney World for a family vacation before a decision has been made on the work permit application, the application is considered abandoned. If they return to Canada with no additional actions taken, they can only return as visitors, and would be unable to work in Canada until a new work permit has been obtained. There are ways to work with this situation, however it is best to avoid these complications if possible.

If the applicant is a citizen of a visa requiring country, processing increases even more as the applicant can only apply for a renewed visa after the work permit extension application has been approved. This can add an additional 2-3 weeks of processing time as well as time to courier the passport back and forth to CPP Ottawa.

More than once I’ve had a situation where an applicant has plans to return to their home country to get married in September when their work permit expires in August. Because the process was not started early enough, everyone including the applicant, the fiancée, the applicant’s manager, the HR business partner, and sometimes even the company CEO are involved trying to find ways to make the system work faster. Everyone ends up holding their breath and crossing their fingers that the documents arrive on time. It can cause so much anxiety for the applicant that their productivity and ability to focus on their work significantly diminishes.

In light of the above, my recommendations for ensuring a less stressful summer vacation are the following:

  1. Be aware of your work permit expiry date. Put it in your calendar and set an alert to remind you 4-6 months in advance of your expiry date and start the process early.
  2. If you are planning to travel outside of Canada around the time your documents expire, plan to return from the trip before the stated expiry date. You can travel outside of Canada while the extension application is in process, just not after your work permit has expired.
  3. If possible, plans vacations within Canada around your work permit expiry date. It’s a beautiful country with great places to explore.
  4. Start working on your work permit extension application early so that you can minimize the timeframe in which you are unable to travel internationally.
  5. If you have international travel plans, (especially important ones like a wedding to attend), let your immigration service provider know when the application is initiated so that they can strategize your application accordingly.


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