Religious workers who primarily preach doctrine, provide spiritual guidance, or preside over public worship functions are permitted, under Canada’s public policy, to work in Canada without a work permit. Authorization to work under this category is granted under a visitor record.
Religious workers seeking authorization to work under this category should provide a genuine job offer from a religious organization and proof of their ability to minister a congregation in the applicable religious denomination. In certain circumstances, the profile of the religious organization may be assessed to determine the genuineness of the job offer, including incorporation documents, proof of registration as a charity or non-profit organization (if applicable), details about the size and make-up of the congregation, and financial statements.
Religious workers described by this category are also permitted to apply for an LMIA-exempt work permit under the charitable or religious work category (see below).
Charitable and religious workers seeking to carry out duties for a Canadian charitable or religious organization are supported by Canadian public policy considerations that allow these workers to receive a work permit directly from Citizenship and Immigration Canada without the need for the organization to first obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The duties carried out by the individual must themselves be of a charitable or religious nature. It is important to bear in mind that only activities which constitute “work” will require a work permit – such as doing an activity that is full-time and provides wages. Activities more properly defined as “volunteering”, such as canvassing or donating time to a call centre, do not require a work permit. The broad test is whether or not the individual is entering the labour market.
Several conditions are required to be eligible for an LMIA-exempt work permit under this category. First, the organization must be charitable or religious. Only non-profit organizations with a mandate to relieve poverty, or benefit community, educational or religious institutions are considered charitable organizations. The organization need not be a registered charity with the CRA, but must be able to provide supporting documents to prove it is in good standing if requested by an officer.
Second, applicants must prove that the work performed is of a charitable or religious nature. It is not enough to simply work without payment for a charitable or religious organization. In assessing whether the work performed is of a charitable or religious nature, the officer will consider whether the performed duties help achieve the charitable or religious mandate of the organization, whether the organization will not receive any remuneration for the services provided by the worker, and whether the work goes beyond normal work in the labour market (ex: requires shard beliefs with a particular religious community, or a substantial commitment to a particular cause).
If the eligible individual is unremunerated (beyond living expenses), they are exempt from paying the processing fees for the work permit application.
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