(403) 452-9515

Ackah Law

Search Ackah Law...

Contact us

Contact Information

1 (403) 452-9515

1 (800) 932-1190

Book a Consultation

More Options...

Volunteering in Canada Without a Work Permit

Blog posted on by Evelyn Ackah in Business Travel to Canada, Work Permit Exemptions, How To Move To Canada and Canada Work Visas

Volunteering in Canada Without a Work Permit

Visitors to Canada cannot work in Canada without a work permit. Many visitors to Canada want to know if they can volunteer without a work permit. Sometimes the volunteer work involves a barter for services or goods, but not money. IRCC defines work as an activity that you are or could be paid for, and which takes work away from or competes with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. Because of this, volunteer work, unpaid internships and practicums may also require work permits.

In most cases, it's a bad idea to volunteer in Canada without a work permit.

My colleague discusses the Juneja case as an example of how trying to avoid the requirement to have a work permit can lead to disastrous results:

In this case, Mr. Juneja entered Canada from India with a valid study permit. He began studying at a college in Edmonton, Alberta. It is important to note that his study permit prohibited any kind of employment.

An individual at Mr. Juneja’s school saw him working at a Ford dealership and contacted authorities. Mr. Juneja was detained and he had a hearing soon after to determine whether or not he could stay in Canada.

If those were the only facts, then this case would be pretty straightforward.

However, Mr. Juneja was not being paid at all. He was not given anything in return for his service. Rather, the Ford dealership was recording his hours, and they agreed that Mr. Juneja would be paid for his services only once he received a work permit in the future.

In essence, he was volunteering his time.

The Court found that Mr. Juneja still violated the conditions of his study permit.

It did not matter that he wasn’t being paid. The Court held that Mr. Juneja was engaged in a “performance of an activity in direct competition with the activities of Canadians and permanent residents in the Canadian labour market.”

In other words, his action of working (even for free for the time being) competed with the ability of citizens and permanent residents to work, which is prohibited under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Mr. Junja was issued an exclusion order to leave Canada.

Tips on Volunteering in Canada Without a Work Permit

Can a temporary resident without a work permit volunteer in Canada? IRCC says that there are some charitable volunteer jobs which are normally not paid, It’s best to seek legal counsel as circumstances can vary considerably.

Here are some general guidelines:

1. If the job is normally a paid position, do not volunteer for it.

If you are an accountant or computer programmer, you shouldn’t normally volunteer those skills, as typically those are paid positions.

Dishing soup in a soup kitchen is normally charity work and not normally a paid position, and you can likely volunteer in the soup kitchen without a permit under the current rules.

2. If the job is not paid but usually leads to a paid position, do not volunteer for it.

There are certain jobs that individuals normally accept with the expectation that it will lead to a paid position. Internships or other training positions may not be paid, but they may be considered to be “in direct competition” with Canadians in the labour market.

3. Do not try to invent clever schemes for alternative payment.

In the Juneja case, Mr. Juneja and the Ford dealership assumed they had avoided the work permit requirement by delaying any actual payment until Mr. Juneja obtained a work permit in the future.

The Court did not accept this. It’s not payment that is key – it’s interfering with a Canadian’s ability to perform that job. Any sort of alternate payment or barter scheme is not allowed.

4. Volunteering on non-commercial farms may not require a work permit if the farm work is not the main reason for entering Canada.

Foreign nationals volunteering on family or hobby farms in exchange for room and board for a period of up to four weeks per host do not require work permits.

5. Foreign students are required to have a work permit.

These exceptions are allowed where a work permit is not required:

  • on-campus employment
  • health care students doing an internship or practicum to acquire training may be unpaid and but not be of more than 4 months’ duration

It’s a good idea to consult an immigration lawyer if you have questions about volunteering in Canada without a work permit.

This post does not constitute legal advice – you should consult with a lawyer so he or she can evaluate your unique circumstances and application materials.


Evelyn Ackah

Founder/Managing Lawyer

Ms. Ackah is passionate about immigration law because it focuses on people and relationships, which are at the core of her personal values. Starting her legal career as a corporate/commercial ...

More About Evelyn Ackah

How Tech Immigration Is Helping Canada During the Global Slowdown

During the pre-COVID global slowdown, Canada's immigration policies helped strengthen the countries economy. Canada has put into place programs to increase economic immigration ...

Read More

Travel Limits to Canada by Passenger Vessels

On April 6, Canada enacted new restrictions on passenger vessels entering Canadian waters in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). These new travel limits to Canada ...

Read More

Indian Tech Workers Targeting Canada Tech Employers

Tightening United States immigration regulations are making Canada the first-choice destination for highly skilled and educated Indian technology workers. 85,000 Indian immigrants ...

Read More

H-1B Visa Denied? Try Nearshoring to Canada!

Fewer skilled foreign workers are able to get an H-1B visa, and businesses are looking for alternatives. A new H-1B process went into effect in 2020, including an additional USCIS ...

Read More

How to Work as a Business Visitor to Canada

Recent #Megxit conversations about moving to Canada from England or America have mentioned the option to come to Canada as a business visitor. As visitors, you can remain in Canada ...

Read More

Episode 11: Can You #Megxit to Canada? How Brits and Americans Can Move to Canada

Right now there's a very active hashtag going around called #Megxit. It relates to Meghan Markel and Prince Harry and their rumored move to Canada and departure from the royal family. ...

Read More

I wish there were a million ways I could say THANK YOU for all you, and your incredible team, have done for me and Brian. You are all incredible, brilliant, patient, compassionate people, and I will never be able to express how deeply grateful I am.

So very simply and sincerely...THANK YOU...from the bottom of my soon-to-be Calgarian heart!

– Michael Dettner

View All Testimonials