On March 22, 2021, IRCC clarified the person who is a “student in a health field” and provided additional information on who does not meet the requirements of this work permit exemption.
According to Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) 186, a foreign national may work in Canada without a work permit, and Paragraph 186(p) authorizes temporary residents to work without a work permit if:
- they are a student in a health field at a foreign learning institution,
- the work is primarily for the purpose of acquiring training for a limited period of time, and
- they have written approval from the body in Canada that regulates that field.
This includes work dealing directly with patients, such as work as part of a medical elective in their program of study or in a support role in a health care environment (like as a clinical clerk at a medical teaching institution in Canada).
186 A foreign national may work in Canada without a work permit
(a) as a business visitor to Canada within the meaning of section 187;
(b) as a foreign representative, if they are properly accredited by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and are in Canada to carry out official duties as a diplomatic agent, consular officer, representative or official of a country other than Canada, of the United Nations or any of its agencies or of any international organization of which Canada is a member;
(c) if the foreign national is a family member of a foreign representative in Canada who is accredited with diplomatic status by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and that Department has stated in writing that it does not object to the foreign national working in Canada;
(d) as a member of the armed forces of a country that is a designated state for the purposes of the Visiting Forces Act, including a person who has been designated as a civilian component of those armed forces;
(e) as an officer of a foreign government sent, under an exchange agreement between Canada and one or more countries, to take up duties with a federal or provincial agency;
(e.1) as a cross-border maritime law enforcement officer designated by the United States under the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America, signed on May 26, 2009;
(e.2) as an in-flight security officer employed by a foreign government with which Canada has concluded an arrangement in respect of commercial passenger aircraft security;
(f) if they are a full-time student, on the campus of the university or college at which they are a full-time student, for the period for which they hold a study permit to study at that university or college;
(g) as a performing artist appearing alone or in a group in an artistic performance — other than a performance that is primarily for film production or a television or radio broadcast — or as a member of the staff of such a performing artist or group who is integral to the artistic performance, if
- (i) they are part of a foreign production or group, or are a guest artist in a Canadian production or group, performing a time-limited engagement, and
- (ii) they are not in an employment relationship with the organization or business in Canada that is contracting for their services;
(h) as a participant in sports activities or events, in Canada, either as an individual participant or as a member of a foreign-based team or Canadian amateur team;
(i) as an employee of a foreign news company for the purpose of reporting on events in Canada;
(j) as a guest speaker for the sole purpose of making a speech or delivering a paper at a dinner, graduation, convention or similar function, or as a commercial speaker or seminar leader delivering a seminar that lasts no longer than five days;
(k) as a member of the executive of a committee that is organizing a convention or meeting in Canada or as a member of the administrative support staff of such a committee;
(l) as a person who is responsible for assisting a congregation or group in the achievement of its spiritual goals and whose main duties are to preach doctrine, perform functions related to gatherings of the congregation or group or provide spiritual counselling;
(m) as a judge, referee or similar official at an international amateur sports competition, an international cultural or artistic event or competition or an animal or agricultural competition;
(n) as an examiner or evaluator of research proposals or university projects, programs or theses;
(o) as an expert who conducts surveys or analyses that are to be used as evidence before a federal or provincial regulatory body, a tribunal or a court of law or as an expert witness before such a body, tribunal or court of law;
(p) as a student in a health field, including as a medical elective or clinical clerk at a medical teaching institution in Canada, for the primary purpose of acquiring training, if they have written approval from the body that regulates that field;
(q) as a civil aviation inspector of a national aeronautical authority conducting inspections of the flight operation procedures or cabin safety of a commercial air carrier operating international flights;
(r) as an accredited representative or adviser participating in an aviation accident or incident investigation conducted under the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act;
(s) as a member of a crew who is employed by a foreign company aboard a means of transportation that
- (i) is foreign-owned and not registered in Canada, and
- (ii) is engaged primarily in international transportation;
(t) as a provider of emergency services, including medical services, for the protection or preservation of life or property;
(u) until a decision is made on an application made by them under subsection 201(1), if they have remained in Canada after the expiry of their work permit and they have continued to comply with the conditions set out on the expired work permit, other than the expiry date;
(v) if they are the holder of a study permit and
- (i) they are a full-time student enrolled at a designated learning institution as defined in section 211.1,
- (ii) the program in which they are enrolled is a post-secondary academic, vocational or professional training program, or a vocational training program at the secondary level offered in Quebec, in each case, of a duration of six months or more that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate, and
- (iii) although they are permitted to engage in full-time work during a regularly scheduled break between academic sessions, they work no more than 20 hours per week during a regular academic session;
(w) if they are or were the holder of a study permit who has completed their program of study and
- (i) they met the requirements set out in paragraph (v), and
- (ii) they applied for a work permit before the expiry of that study permit and a decision has not yet been made in respect of their application; or
(x) if they are an Indian.
A “student in a health field” is a foreign national who has not yet completed their Doctor of Medicine (MD). Therefore, foreign nationals who have finished their Doctor of Medicine and are completing their residency do not meet the requirements of paragraph R186(p).
For the purpose of the work permit exemption under paragraph R186(p), the medical elective or clinical clerkship at a medical teaching institution in Canada (host employer) is short term, usually 1 term that a student from a foreign learning institution is completing in Canada as part of their Doctor of Medicine program, after which they will return to their foreign learning institution to complete their MD.
Medical teaching institutions are identified in the IRPR as employers for medical students under paragraph R186(p). However, workplaces such as private clinics are also permitted if they are providing human health care training. Health care fields include the following:
- medicine (including dentistry)
- occupational and physical therapy
- medical technology
- other professions in human health care that are regulated by provincial or territorial governments
There is no requirement for wages to be paid. However, where the position is unpaid or of minimal recompense, foreign students must demonstrate that they have the means to support themselves while in Canada.
The primary purpose of the work must be to acquire training in a field related to the foreign national’s studies, not to conduct research. Non-research training in a health research facility (such as a laboratory) is permitted.