Fri | Sep 21, 2018

Can my spouse work in Canada?

Published:Tuesday | February 24, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Dear Ms Powell,

I should say thank you very much for your encouragement about pursuing further studies in Canada as someone who is a little bit older than the average student. My new problem is that I do not want to separate from my husband during my study. Can he accompany me and work in Canada? If yes, that would be great for us since we could still be together and he could work and help offset our expenses. Also, does he need to first get an employer to help with the application? Can we apply for permanent residence at the end of my studies? Thanks again for your valuable guidance.

- MK

Dear MK,

Congratulations and thank you for keeping me updated. I am very happy and proud of you for having the courage to pursue studies in Canada. It is never too late to learn and to pursue further studies. Education is the key to success.

Under Canada immigration regulations, spouses or common-law partners of full-time international students are eligible for open work permits, provided they are able to satisfy the requirements. If you had consulted with an immigration lawyer to submit the application on your behalf, I'm sure you would have been advised that both applications could have been processed at the same time.

Open Work Permit

Nevertheless, all is not lost as you may still submit an application for an open work permit, which is a permit that is not job-specific. Since the work permit is not job-specific, you do not need a job offer in order to apply. Spouses or common-law partners of certain international students are allowed to accept employment in the general labour market without need of a job letter from an employer. That being said, if your husband has a job offer, you should submit it with your application as this will further strengthen his application.

In order to be eligible for a work permit, an applicant must provide evidence of the direct relationship to the spouse or common-law partner who is already in receipt of a valid study permit from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). The study permit must be granted to a spouse who is/intends to be a full-time student at one of the following:

1. A public post-secondary institution such as a college or university or college d'enseignement gÈnÈral et professionnel (CEGEP) in Quebec; or

2. A Canadian private institution authorised by provincial statute to confer degrees.

The work permit is usually issued for a period that coincides with the period that the spouse is permitted to work or study in Canada, as the case may be. So, for example, if you are going to attend a school for two years, on a full-time basis, then your husband would most likely be issued an open work permit that expires around the same time that yours does. It will most likely not be for more than two years.

On the completion of your studies, you may apply for a postgraduate work permit and also apply for extension of your husband's work permit. Once you have the required work experience in Canada, you may both apply for permanent residence. Currently, those applications fall under the Express Entry System. However, the Canadian government may change its laws, procedures, and regulations without notice, so I strongly suggest that you consult with an immigration lawyer privately to ensure that your application is submitted at the correct time, with the required supporting documents and taking into consideration your long-term plans.

- Deidre S. Powell, is a lawyer, mediator, and notary public, who is a member of the Jamaican and Ontario, Canada, bars, with office located in Ottawa, Ontario. Her areas of practice are in immigration, real estate, personal injury, family, commercial, and administration of estates. Submit your questions and comments to Email:, Tel: 613.695.8777 or 876.922.8899 Facebook: jamaicanlawyer Twitter: deidrespowell