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What is a Work Visa | How to Get and What Countries Have it

Facing severe shortages in the skilled labor force, employers across the world are increasingly seeking immigrant talents. Recently, the Canadian government removed the 20-hour-per-week cap on off-campus employment for foreigners living in the country with a student visa.

The reform is aimed at alleviating the labor shortage, especially in the IT sector.  

Employment-based immigrant visas also known as work visas are the most important legal authorization granted by governments to skilled foreigner nationals. For example, the US government issues over 1.4 million work-related visas to foreigners in a year. 

Read on to know more about work visas. 

What is a Work Visa?

A work visa is an employment-based travel authorization issued by governments to foreign nationals. 

The document gives the holder the chance to work and live in a foreign country for a particular period of time.

Applicants need to meet several conditions and requirements to get a work visa and these change from country to country. 

However, there are a few conditions that are common for most work visas.

Applicants can be employed in a foreign country only for a pre-approved period of time and if they want to extend the validity of the visa they must continue to be employed. 

It is highly unlikely that they will be allowed to change their industry as these visas are issued based on their skills and expertise in a specific field like information technology and medicine.    

They are not allowed to change their employers. If they get job offers from different employers, they have to inform the immigration authorities. 

Most work visas allow the holders to stay in the country for a few months to find a new job if they are unemployed. 

What is the Difference Between Work Visa and Work Permit? 

A visa is a legal authorization issued by a country to citizens of foreign countries to enter it for various purposes such as study and work 

A work visa is a visa granted for foreigners to work in a country. This is typically issued to them before they enter that nation through its diplomatic missions. However, a work permit is issued to foreigners when they are in the host country. 

Some nations issue work permits to foreigners living in the country on long-term visas including student visas

Both work visas and work permits are usually extendable. 

The validity of work visas varies depending on the host country. However, most work visas are granted for longer terms between five to ten years.

They are generally issued for the duration of the work contract. The processing fee for a work visa also differs from country to country and consulate to consulate. 

Can a Foreigner Arriving on a Work Visa Bring Family Members?

Yes, they can bring their spouses and children to the host country. Some countries also allow them to bring extended family members. However, they have to get proper travel authorization such as a visitor or dependent visa.  

Document Required for a Work Visa

Documents required for a work visa are different for different countries and visa aspirants should check with the embassies to know exact documentation.

The following is the most common identity and supporting documents needed for a work visa. 

A completed application form: All applicants need to fill out an application form (it can be online or offline based on the country) with accurate information. Since it is a long-term visa, applicants are required to visit the embassy or consulate of the host country to drop off the support documents and complete biometrics. In most cases, there will be an in-person interview. 

Photographs: Applicants for a work visa should submit their passport-size photographs. The measurements and guidelines for the image can vary based on the country. 

Medical certificate: Most countries ask applicants for work visas to undergo several health checks. This is to ascertain that they are free from any communicable or contagious disease and are not a threat to the health of their own citizens. 

Character certificate: Like the medical certificate, a police verification certificate is a mandatory document for long-term visas including the work visa. Applicants are required to submit a police verification certificate to prove that they do not have any criminal convictions in their home country. 

Work contract/offer letter: Applicants for a work visa are required to provide a letter of offer from an employer in the host country. Without this document, their visa will not be processed. 

Resume: This document proves the education background and work experience of the applicant in a specific field. A few countries also ask for letters of recommendation from previous employers. 

Marriage certificate: This document is optional. Applicants who wish to apply for a visa for their spouses should provide it.  

Children’s birth certificates: If they are applying for a visa for their children. 

An Overview of Work Visas Issued by Countries 

The best method to get a work visa from a foreign country is to secure a job in that country. Many countries issue work visas/permits if the applicant has a native sponsor or employer. Read on to know more about work visas issued by a few developed countries that face shortage in skilled labor force. 


The Canadian government too issues post-graduation work permits to foreign students who have completed their graduation in universities in the country. 

The country also offers permanent residence under its federal skilled worker or Canadian experience class program. 

There is also a temporary resident visa with a work permit. This visa allows a foreigner to stay in the country and look for a job. 

An open work visa allows foreigners who have a Canadian job offer to come to the country. They are allowed to switch jobs. 


The European country offers work visas to foreigners who are highly skilled and have a good educational background.

The EU Blue Card Scheme grants a resident visa with a work permit. This visa also gives foreigners the right to free movement in Schengen areas.

Foreigners who have completed a business degree in one of the accredited educational institutions in Germany can also extend their residence permit for 18 months to find a job. 

There are other short-term and long-term visas with work permits. However, applicants are required to acquire proficiency in native language (German). 


The island nation’s work visa system is similar to that of New Zealand. It offers two types of post-study work permits – graduate work stream and post-study work stream. 

While the graduate work stream allows foreigners to work for 18 months, the post-study work stream allows them to work in the country for up to four years. 

There is also a Global Talent Independent Program which grants residence visas with work permits to skilled workforce in specific industries. 

New Zealand

Australia’s neighboring country, New Zealand, too has a simple and easy work visa processing system. The country mainly issues three types of work visas. Foreigners who have completed their graduation in recognized educational institutions in the country is granted a work visa. This post-study work visa is granted for up to three years. 

The New Zealand skilled migrant visa grants permanent residence to skilled foreign citizens. 

The entrepreneurship work visa allows foreigners to build their business in the country for up to three years. They should have a valid business plan and enough funds to make initial investment.
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