Under Canadian immigration regulations, foreign spouses and common-law partners of temporary foreign workers and foreign students, who themselves want to work in Canada, will need an open work permit.

Open work permits are also available through the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program for international students.

In addition, a pilot program introduced in December, 2014, allows spouses and common-law partners being sponsored through the Inland Spousal/Common-Law Partner Sponsorship Category of the Family Class to be granted an open work permit while the application for permanent residence is being processed.

The holder of an open work permit can work for any Canadian employer, without first having a confirmed offer of employment. An open work permit is not job-specific.

Under Canada immigration regulations, open work permits may be applied for by:

  • the spouses or common-law partners of foreign temporary workers;
  • the spouses or common-law partners of foreign students;
  • international students who have graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution.

To be eligible for an open work permit, graduating international students must meet the requirements under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.

To be eligible for an open work permit, the spouse or common-law partner of a foreign temporary worker must demonstrate that:

  • the principal temporary foreign worker has employment in Canada that is at a management level, or a job in a professional occupation, or as a technical or skilled tradesperson. In other words, the skill level of the principal temporary foreign worker’s job must be level 0, A or B, according to the National Occupational Classification (NOC). This skill level requirement does not apply to principal temporary foreign workers who have been nominated for permanent residence by a province (provincial nominees).
  • the principal temporary foreign worker is permitted to work in Canada for a period of at least six months.

To be eligible for an Open Work Permit, the spouse or common-law partner of a foreign student cannot themselves be full-time students and must demonstrate that:

  • the foreign student is studying full-time at a diploma/degree-granting, publicly-funded post-secondary educational facility; or
  • the foreign student has graduated and is the holder of a valid work permit for a job related to his or her studies.

For spouses and common-law partners, open work permits are generally issued with a validity date that coincides with the period of time that their spouse is permitted to work or study in Canada, as the case may be.

Open work permits are also available to candidates for the International Experience Canada program.

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