With respect to religious work, foreign nationals that can be classified as members of the “clergy” do not in fact require work permits to practice in Canada. This exception is tightly circumscribed and applies only to foreign nationals coming to engage in traditional religious activities, such as the preaching of doctrine or presiding over public worship. Working for a religious entity, such as a church or synagogue, could be indicative of the presence of religious work, but it is by no means conclusive in this regard. If the work being done is wholly unrelated to the religion in question, for example if the worker is performing bookkeeping or accounting work, then a work permit would be required.
For those who do meet the strict definition of religious worker, while a work permit is not required, the foreign national in question might still want to apply for one for practical reasons. Examples of these could be to avoid having to constantly extend the 6 months stay allotted to temporary visa holders if they are staying longer than this, or to grant their spouse the ability to apply for an open work permit to be able to accompany them to Canada and work legally while here. In such cases the work permit the religious worker would be applying for is LMIA exempt under exemption code C-50.