No, you can’t work in Canada while on a Visitor Visa


There are four basic ways you can come to Canada: you can come as a visitor, you can go to school as an international student, you can come to work under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or you could immigrate to Canada as a Permanent Resident. Depending on your personal circumstances, you’re likely to be approved for whichever immigration program you apply for. Just make sure you understand: you can’t work in Canada while on a Visitor Visa.

Filipinos have been travelling the world since the beginning of the Galleon Trade (1565 or thereabouts). As a people, you could say that Filipinos are seasoned travellers. Unfortunately, we seemed to have picked up a few bad habits through the years.

Canada has one of the world’s most dynamic immigration systems. It changes whenever Canada needs to make adjustments to honour its international commitments, but will always have Canadian interests first and foremost on its mind when changing its immigration policies. Canada isn’t open for everyone to just come in and decide to stay (despite what our dashing young Prime Minister might have said in the past), there is a pretty tough set of requirements that need to be met for every applicant wanting to come to Canada (no matter what the purpose of the trip might be).

Perhaps the easiest way for most Filipinos would be to come and visit. Canada welcomes tourists from different countries around the world to come and stay for six months at a time. Canada’s a huge country, there’s plenty to see and do, and just like anyone else, money generated by the tourism industry makes a world of difference.

There are two types of Filipinos in Canada: those who get to stay and those who don’t.

If you were born in Canada, you get to stay (with a few exceptions, one of which is that if your parents are diplomatic officers of a foreign government, then no you don’t get automatic Canadian citizenship). If you were granted Permanent Residency prior to your arrival to Canada (that is, if you applied from another country like the Philippines), then you get to stay. If you apply for Permanent Residency under several different eligible programs (such as the now-defunct Live In Caregiver Program), then you get to stay.

If you are a visitor, you don’t get to stay. If you are an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) with a work permit not under the Live In Caregiver Program, you don’t get to stay.

Aside from not being able to stay, you should know that you also aren’t allowed to work on a Visitor Visa. That’s a big no no. You would be in violation of the terms and conditions of your Visitor Visa and would be subject to removal if caught.

That’s just another word for deportation (we Canadians are SUPER polite, even when we’re kicking people out of the country).

More importantly though, you don’t have access to provincial health care programs and you won’t have workplace insurance coverage. If something happens to you, your Canadian employer will just get a slap on the wrist. You get to go home to the Philippines on the next available plane.

Plenty of Filipinos have visited Canada and said to themselves: Hey, I like it here. I don’t think I want to go home anymore.

Let us count the reasons why we know that’s such a bad idea:

1) Canada’s a first world country, the Government of Canada has a pretty sophisticated immigration database – if you think you can run and Canada won’t notice, think again. They know you’re there, and while they might not come looking for you right now, when they do find you, it’s hit the road, Jack (and don’t you come back no more). Violating the conditions of your Visitor Visa will be grounds for your removal from Canada and be a very big red flag on any future applications you might be thinking of submitting.

2) Canadian employers will use and abuse you – even the nicest person will turn bad really quickly when given even a little bit of power over another person. We’ve seen this happen plenty of times. What started as just “helping out” rapidly becomes one person threatening another person into doing some pretty bad stuff under threat of being reported to immigration authorities. Canadian employers hiring people who don’t have authority to work in Canada (for example, overstaying visitors) don’t report them to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for tax purposes, so they have no reason to pay them minimum wage or give them benefits. So basically, you’ll be working for peanuts under some very tough conditions. If you come in late, they can call immigration on you just like that then it’s hasta la vista, baby.

3) Overstaying your Visitor Visa is a one way ticket – plenty of people have done it before, and you can be sure that plenty of people will continue to do so for many more years to come. People from all over the world risk life and limb to come to Canada, hoping they can catch a break. Think you’ve got it tough? You’ve got nothing on the Haitians who are crossing the border from the United States into Canada. They do it all year round, even in the dead of winter (in sub-zero temperatures). This one guy lost all his finger and toes due to frostbite. At the end of the day, it’s unlikely he’ll get to stay, and given the circumstances of his entry into Canada (he was caught by Canada Border Services Agency CBSA officers and brought to the hospital), he really can’t expect a favourable response for his application for asylum. Under normal circumstances, Filipinos can’t apply for refugee status. If you’re an overstaying your Visitor Visa, you’re just another guest who has overstayed your welcome to Canada.

If you unilaterally decide to stay, don’t make things worse by working under the table. Canada is probably one of the worst countries to go tago-ng-tago (TNT). Canada is a welfare state (it has publicly funded schools and health care systems) for people who are authorized to receive it. That’s reserved for Canadian citizens, permanent residents and certain other individuals.

Visitors are welcome to stay for six months, then it’s merci beaucoup, we’ll see you next time. You don’t get to go to school for free, and you can’t work legally neither.

The biggest thing about working under the table for us is the risk of injury or even death. We’ve worked with representatives from the Philippine government here in Canada, and it’s always a sad day when you send home the remains of an undocumented Filipino back to their relatives.

Think of your family, don’t overstay your Visitor Visa. After your vacation, go back home to the Philippines. Now that you know Canada better, you will be much more prepared to go to Canada under different immigration programs you might be qualified for.

Interested in visiting Canada? Visit the official Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Embassy of Canada in Manila at

Are you in Canada on a Visitor Visa and would like to extend your stay? Call the IRCC Contact Centre at 1-888-242-2100.

Are you an OFW in Canada and you need help? Don’t be afraid to ask. These are the contact numbers and addresses of the POLOs in Canada:

Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) Toronto
160 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 200
Toronto, Ontario M4P 3B5

(416) 975-8252

Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) Vancouver
World Trade Centre Office Complex
999 Canada Place, Suite 611
Vancouver, BC V6C 3E1

(604) 641-1234

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