International students pursuing study programs in Canada that require a co-op internship program or work placement may apply for a co-op work permit. 

International students pursuing a study program at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada that requires a mandatory work placement or internship must apply for a co-op work permit in addition to a Canadian Study Permit. The co-op work permit is a separate work permit, unrelated to the authorization to work part-time that is generally included in Canadian study permits.It is important to note that an individual applying for a co-op work permit must hold a valid study permit.

The co-op work permit may only be used for work that is essential to the program of study. Any other work undertaken by an international student — including an internship or work placement at an organization unrelated to the educational establishment, which does not give credit for the study program — is covered by the work authorization related to the study permit. Any international student unsure of whether he or she needs a co-op work permit is advised to consult his or her program adviser.  

Work Experience Essential to the Program of Study

Work experience is defined as essential to the program of study if it is undertaken for program credits, and is required in order for the international student to graduate.

  • International students undertaking employment, paid or unpaid, in order to graduate the program of study require a co-op work permit.
  • Authorization is required from the educational institution in order to obtain a co-op work permit and begin the mandatory work experience.
  • Such work experience cannot account for more than half of the study program.
  • Work experience essential to the program of study is considered to include, but is not limited to:
    • field work;
    • clinical work;
    • practicums;
    • volunteer work; or
    • internships, paid or unpaid.

Eligibility Criteria

International students may be eligible to apply for the co-op work permit if they:

  • Hold a valid study permit;
  • Are enrolled in a study program that requires a mandatory work placement in order to obtain credits for the program; and
  • Have a letter from the educational institution authorizing the work placement, and confirming that the work placement is required for the study program.

Further documents may be required for the application, depending on the applicant’s situation. When the international student has the required documents, he or she can apply for a co-op work permit.

The Co-op Work Permit: In Detail

  • The co-op work permit allows the holder to work up to full-time during the semester, depending on the conditions of the work placement authorized by the DLI.
  • The co-op work permit is required regardless of whether the mandatory work placement is paid or unpaid.
  • International students may simultaneously use a co-op work permit, and the standard work authorization granted to the holder of a Canadian study permit. This means that an international student may have a job unrelated to his or her study program, at the same time as working in the mandatory work placement.
  • The co-op work permit is a closed work permit, meaning it can only be utilized for one job and one employer. The employer is designated on the permit document as the educational institution authorizing the co-op placement.
  • The co-op work permit will also be issued for a specific time period as authorized by the co-ordinator of the student’s co-op work placement. Usually this will coincide with the validity of the study permit.
  • There are no application fees for the co-op work permit.

An application for a co-op work permit may be submitted at the same time as the application for a study permit, or as soon as the international student has the required documentation outlined above. An international student may apply for a co-op work permit later in his or her program. However, due to processing times it is recommend that anyone enrolled in a program requiring a mandatory work placement applies for the co-op work permit sufficiently in advance of the intended start date of the placement, as a student cannot begin the placement without the co-op work permit. The application may be submitted online or by mail.


To learn more about studying in Canada, click here.

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