The Government of Canada has extended a pilot program that enables foreign nationals living in Canada who have applied to immigrate as a spouse or common-law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to work while they are waiting for the application to be processed. The Open Work Permit Pilot Program, which was originally set to expire on December 22, 2016, has been extended until December 21, 2017.
Under the Spouses or Common-Law Partners in Canada (SCLPC) class, part of the Family Class immigration category, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident may sponsor a spouse or common-law partner for Canadian permanent residence. Under the Open Work Permit Pilot Program, spouses and common-law partners who are being sponsored for permanent residence by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident may obtain an open work permit to enable them to work anywhere in Canada for any employer. The pilot work permit program was introduced in December, 2014, to enable spouses and common-law partners to work in Canada during this processing time. It has already been extended once, in December 2015.
The news of the extension comes as the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), John McCallum, announced a reduction in processing times for applications under the SCLPC class. The current average processing time for a spousal sponsorship application made within Canada (an inland application) is 26 months.
McCallum has announced that as of December 7, 2016, IRCC aims to process spousal sponsorship applications within 12 months. Consequently, applications that have already been submitted as of December 7, 2016, are expected to be processed by the end of 2017. According to IRCC, the extension of the pilot work permit program is “to give spouses a chance to work while their application is being finalized.”
Instructions for applicants
IRCC has clarified the next steps for spouses and common-law partners living in Canada who are being sponsored under the SCLPC.
In order to be eligible for an open work permit, candidates must have valid temporary resident status as a visitor, student, or worker, and live at the same address as their sponsoring spouse or common-law partner. Candidates who have already submitted an application for permanent residence under the SCLPC class and who have not received approval in principle, or who have not yet applied for an open work permit, may submit an application for an open work permit. Candidates who obtained an open work permit under the initial pilot program must apply for a work permit extension before their current permit expires.
Approval in principle means that the candidate has received a letter from IRCC confirming that he or she meets the eligibility requirements for Canadian permanent residence, but that he or she (and any accompanying family members, if applicable) has not yet passed the medical, security, and background checks.
Candidates who have already received approval in principal for their permanent residence application may apply for an open work permit online. Individuals submitting new applications may submit an application for a work permit at the same time as the application for sponsorship and the application for permanent residence.