Open Work Permits for Canada

Last updated: 19 March 2024

CV Open Work Permits for Canada 3 v2

Open work permits allow eligible foreign nationals to work for any employer in Canada. 

The biggest advantage of holding an open work permit is the freedom to work in the occupation, or for the employer, of your choice. This comprehensive CanadaVisa page provides you with everything you need to know on open work permits in Canada.

Do you need work permit assistance? Cohen Immigration Law is a leading Canadian immigration law firm with over 45 years of expertise.

Please complete our contact form if you wish to schedule a free telephone consultation with our work permit lawyers.

Table of Contents

What is an Open Work Permit?

Most foreign nationals who want to come to Canada to work must have legal authorization via a work permit. Open work permits are one of many types of work permits that allow foreign workers to legally work in Canada. 

There are two types of work permits in Canada: closed work permits that are tied to a single employer and open work permits that allow foreign nationals to work in Canada for any number of employers and in various locations.

The biggest advantage of open work permits is that they allow for freedom of movement, whether it is between workplaces, employers, occupations or locations in Canada. Open work permits are exempt from some of the requirements associated with obtaining a permit to work in Canada. You do not need to have a job offer or a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment to be eligible for an open work permit.

    Some open work permits may, however, have additional requirements that must be met by foreign nationals. If applicable, these requirements will be indicated directly on your open work permit. 

    Who can Apply for an Open Work Permit?

    You may be eligible for an open work permit if you fall under one of the following categories:

    • You are an international student who has graduated from a designated educational institution and is eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program;
    • You have applied for permanent residence in Canada under one of Canada’s immigration programs;
    • You are a dependent family member (e.g., spouse or common-law partner) of a person who has applied for permanent residence;
    • You are the spouse or common-law partner of a skilled worker;
    • You are the spouse or common-law partner of a master's or doctoral degree student;
    • You are a temporary resident permit holder;
    • You are a refugee, asylum seeker, protected person or their family member;
    • You are under an unenforceable removal order;
    • You are a young worker participating in the Working Holiday program;
    • You are a student who is unable to meet the costs of studies;
    • You have a work permit specific to your employer and are being abused or are at risk of being abused in the course of your employment in Canada.

    What are the Eligibility Requirements for Open Work Permits?

    The eligibility requirements and application procedure differ depending on the specific situation of each individual. The following are examples of common reasons that can make one eligible for an open work permit:

    • Permanent residence applicants residing in Canada

    You and your spouse or common law partner may be eligible for a Bridging Open Work Permit if you reside in Canada, have an expiring work permit and have submitted an application for permanent residence through a federal or provincial economic class program (Note: the BOWP is not available in Quebec, but alternative work permits exist in Quebec).

      • Spouses or common-law partners being sponsored under Inland Sponsorship

      Spouses and common-law partners of Canadians or Permanent Residents may be granted an open work permit if they are being sponsored for permanent residence through Inland Sponsorship and meet eligibility criteria under that sponsorship immigration program.

      • Spouses or common law partners of temporary foreign workers

      You may be eligible for an open work permit if you are the spouse or common law partner of temporary foreign worker who has employment in Canada in a job corresponding to Skill Level 0, A or B of the National Occupational Classification (NOC) for a period of at least six months and who resides or intends to reside in Canada.

      • Spouses or common-law partners of international students

      To be eligible for an open work permit as a spouse or common-law partner of an international student, you cannot be a full-time student yourself.

      If an application has been made after March 19th, 2024, the following conditions must be met for your spouse to be eligible for an open work permit:

      • You must be studying in:
        • a master’s or doctoral degree program in a university or polytechnic institution or
        • one of the following professional degree programs at a university:
          • Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS, DMD)
          • Bachelor of Law or Juris Doctor (LLB, JD, BCL)
          • Doctor of Medicine (MD)
          • Doctor of Optometry (OD)
          • Pharmacy (PharmD, BS, BSc, BPharm)
          • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
          • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN, BSN, BNSc)
          • Bachelor of Education (B. Ed.)
          • Bachelor of Engineering (B. Eng., BE, BASc)
      • You must be able to provide proof of your relationship to IRCC

      If an application for an open work permit has been made before March 19th, then all of the following conditions must be met:

      • You (the student) have a valid study permit
      • You're eligible for a post graduation work permit (PGWP)
      • You're a full-time student at one of these types of DLIs:
        • a public post-secondary school, such as a college or university, or CEGEP in Quebec
        • a private college-level school in Quebec
        • a Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law (for example, a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree)

      For more information on open work permits for spouses, visit our dedicated webpage here

      • International Graduates and their spouses and common law partners

      To be eligible for an open work permit, students who have graduated from a designated program of study in Canada must meet the requirements under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program. To be eligible for a PGWP, a foreign national must be at least 18 years of age and have studied full-time in Canada in a program of at least 8 months at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). 

      You may also be eligible for an open work permit if you are the spouse and common-law partner of a post-graduation work permit holder. These open work permits generally have a validity date that corresponds to the period during which their spouse is authorized to work in Canada.

      • International Experience Canada Participants

      Participants in the International Experience Canada (IEC) program may also be able to obtain an open work permit under the Working Holiday category. IEC is open to young adults who are citizens of foreign countries which have reciprocal agreements with Canada. The eligible age range depends on the country, but is usually between 18 and 35 years old.

        How do I Apply for an Open Work Permit?

        You can apply for an open work permit from inside Canada or from outside Canada. The application process and the forms you will need to submit will vary depending on where you are applying from. In both cases, the procedure will include the submission of a specified form and payment of the open work permit holder fee as well as the work permit processing fee at the same time.

        Contact the Cohen Immigration Law Firm for Assistance

        Do you need work permit assistance? The Cohen Immigration Law Firm can help. We offer over 45 years of expertise assisting workers and employers obtain Canadian work permits.

        Please complete our short form to submit your question directly to our law firm. One of our lawyers will contact you to schedule a free telephone consultation.

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