Canadian Student Permits

An Overview of Student Work Permits

Canada is renowned globally for its high educational standards making it an attractive destination for students internationally. While studying, many international students look to finance their studies and living expenses with a job. Having an understanding of student work permits in Canada is important as working illegally can lead to removal from the country.


In this blog post, we aim to provide a comprehensive guide to understanding the different work permits students in Canada can apply for.

Canadian Student Permits

Why Work While Studying in Canada?

As an international student, you might be wondering why it’s necessary to consider working while pursuing your studies. Working during your studies provides an opportunity to understand the Canadian work culture. Getting accustomed to the Canadian work culture will help you prepare to enter the workplace after graduation. In addition to this, having international experience on your CV will help you stand out in future employment once you relocate back to your home country, providing you with an edge over other candidates applying. Lastly, it is always great to build a professional network early on in your career. Having a professional network can help you land a job quickly after graduation.

Canadian Student Permits

Understanding the Basics: Canadian Study Permits

Before we dive into the different work permits available to Students, let’s first understand the basics of Study Permits. A Study permit is a document issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that allows foreign nationals to study at designated learning institutions (DLIs) in Canada. There are about 1,500 different DLIs in Canada. Once you have obtained a study permit, you are permitted to work in Canada. 


To be eligible to work on your student permit you must be a full-time student in a post-secondary DLI. Your study program must be academic, vocational, or professional and it must lead to a degree, diploma or certificate. Your study permit must include a condition that allows you to work on or off-campus. When you receive your study permit, it will have conditions written on it, like whether you are allowed to work. If you meet the above conditions but your study permit doesn’t state you can work, you will need to request an amendment to your study permit from IRCC.


Under the study permit’s work provisions, you are permitted to work up to 20 hours per week during academic sessions and full-time (i.e., more than 20 hours per week) during scheduled breaks such as winter and summer breaks.

Student Permits (3)

Off-Campus Work Permits for Students

International Students can work off-campus if they meet the following conditions.


Hold a valid study permit: It should clearly mention that you’re allowed to work off-campus.


Be a full-time student: You must be enrolled full-time at a designated learning institution (DLI) and be actively pursuing an academic, vocational, or professional training program.


Be enrolled in a program that leads to a degree, diploma, or certificate: The program of study should be of a duration of at least six months.


Students eligible to work off-campus can work up to 20 hours per week during regular academic sessions and can work full-time during scheduled breaks (for example, winter and summer holidays, and reading week). It’s important to note that working more than the prescribed hours can lead to you losing your student status.

Canadian Student Permits

On-Campus Work Opportunities


Similar to the off-campus work permit, you may be eligible to work on campus. On-campus work refers to employment within the boundaries of the campus of the institution where you are a full-time student. 


To be eligible for on-campus work, you must:


Hold a valid study permit: Your study permit must clearly state that you’re allowed to work on-campus.


Be a full-time student: You must be enrolled full-time at a public post-secondary institution, such as a college or university, or at a private institution that operates under the same rules and regulations as a public one.


There is no restriction on the number of hours you can work on campus. You can work as much as you like as long as you meet the eligibility criteria.


It is important to keep in mind the definition of “on-campus” can sometimes be complex. In general, any location within the boundaries of the campus is considered on-campus. However, if the employer is a private company and provides services to the institution but is not directly related to its operations, it may not be considered as an on-campus employer. 


It’s always a good idea to verify this with your consultant before starting any job.

Canadian Student Permits

Work Experience as Part of Curriculum: Co-op Work Permits


In Canada, many educational programs offer co-op. If you are unfamiliar with co-op, it is a work experience requirement embedded into the completion of your degree. Certain academic programs in Canada design co-op into their programs for students to receive real-life experience in their future profession. The student will have to gain a job offer and spend time with an employer as outlined by the program to fully complete their degree. If you are already in a co-op program or would like to enter one, a co-op work permit will be required in addition to the study permit.


A co-op work permit is unique as it’s not restricted by the usual limitations of a study permit. It allows international students to work full-time and is not confined to specific employers. 


However, the work must be an integral part of your course of study, as certified by your academic institution.


To be eligible for a co-op work permit, you must meet the following conditions:


You must have a valid study permit: A co-op work permit is an additional document to your study permit and not a substitute.


Your intended employment must be an essential part of your program of study: This should be certified by your academic institution. It means the work experience must be a mandatory part of your curriculum, and you can’t opt for it voluntarily.


Your employment cannot form more than 50% of your program of study: The primary reason for your stay should be to study, and the co-op job cannot be more than half of your total program.


It is important to note that the co-op work permit is employer-specific, which means it allows you to work for the employer stated in your co-op letter. If you want to change your employer, you must apply for a new co-op work permit.

Canadian Student Permits

Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)


Now, let’s talk about one of the most promising opportunities that Canada offers to its international students – the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). The PGWP program is designed to provide students with the opportunity to gain crucial work experience in Canada after completing their academic program at a designated learning institution (DLI). 


What sets the PGWP apart is that it’s an open work permit. This means it allows you to work for any employer in Canada and doesn’t restrict you to a specific location. The length of the work permit depends on the length of your study program. For programs between 8 months and 2 years, the PGWP may be valid for the same duration as your study program. For programs 2 years or longer, a PGWP may be issued for 3 years.


To be eligible for a PGWP, you must meet the following criteria:


You must have completed a program of study that lasted at least eight months at a DLI: The DLI must be authorized by the province or territory to grant degrees.


You must have maintained full-time student status in Canada during each academic session of the program or programs of study you have completed: Exceptions can be made only for the final academic session.


You must apply for a work permit within 180 days of receiving written confirmation from your institution that you have met the requirements for completing your academic program.


The PGWP is an amazing opportunity for students to transition seamlessly from the academic world to the professional world in Canada. It also puts students on a viable path towards permanent residency, a feature that makes studying in Canada an attractive place for many international students.

Canadian Student Permits

Spousal Work Opportunities


Canada recognizes the importance of family and offers opportunities for the spouses or common-law partners of international students to work while their partner is studying. If you are a full-time student at a designated learning institution and hold a valid study permit, your spouse or common-law partner may be eligible for an open work permit.


There are a few factors to consider including the following. 


Eligibility: To be eligible, the student must be a full-time student at a DLI.


Application: The spouse or common-law partner can apply for the work permit before or after they arrive in Canada.


Validity: The validity of the spousal work permit is usually the same as the validity of the study permit of the international student.


Work Limits: There is no restriction on the number of hours a spouse can work if they hold an open work permit. They can also switch employers without additional approval.


The spousal work permit is an attractive program the IRCC offers to international students, it is also a testament to the effort Canada makes to bring international students and situate them during their studies.

Canadian Student Permits

Navigating student work permits in Canada can seem like a daunting task. However, with a comprehensive understanding of your options and the right guidance, you can maximize your academic and professional journey in this beautiful country. At Canada By Choice, we bring a wealth of experience in guiding international students, right from applying for the right work permit to ensuring compliance with all necessary regulations. Located in Windsor, we have the unique advantage of being at the heart of the vibrant international student community at the University of Windsor. 

Post Graduate Work Permit PGWP
The information in this blog is not to be interpreted or construed as legal advice. Everyone’s immigration goals, objectives and situations are different. Please contact us to speak to a consultant for advice.

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