Bringing a Spouse, Common-Law Partner, or Family Members to Canada

Last updated: 19 March 2024


Are you thinking about inviting a spouse or common-law partner, or other members of your family, to join you in Canada?

Canada’s generous immigration policy allows certain family members of international students to come to Canada to work and/or study. This CanadaVisa page provides you with an overview of how you can bring your family to Canada while you study.

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Table of Contents

Definition of a Family Member

For the purposes of this page, “family member” refers to a spouse, common-law/conjugal partner, and dependent children. 

Visitor Visas

Citizens of some countries and territories require a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) in order to enter Canada as visitors. A visa cannot be applied for at a Canadian Port of Entry, and, in some cases, a medical examination may be required. This can add significant processing time to your application.

Citizens of certain countries do not need a TRV, but, as of November 10, 2016, most visa-exempt persons require an electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). The main exception is U.S. citizens, who require neither a TRV nor an eTA.

To determine whether you and/or your accompanying family members require a TRV or an eTA, use the Visiting Canada Tool.

Work Permits for Spouses

IRCC has changed the eligibility criteria for spouses of international students who are eligible for an open work permit. This open work permit allows its bearer to work for any employer in Canada, and does not require a job offer, or a Labour Market Impact Assessment. Bear in mind, this open work permit may exclude certain occupations (such as jobs in schools or hospitals) unless medical examination is provided. A spousal open work permit for the spouse an international student will usually be valid for the same amount of time as the validity of the student's study permit. 

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)

Note: If your spouse or common-law partner already has an open work permit under this stream, and wants to extend their work permit under this stream, they must meet all the same eligibility criteria as those who have applied for their work permit before March 19th, 2024. 

Spousal Work Permit Timing and Application Procedure

Canadian visa offices overseas are generally able to process an application for a work permit at the same time as the study permit application. In such cases, in addition to the study permit processing fees, the applicant(s) must also include work permit processing fees.

Conversely, the spouse or common-law partner may come to Canada as a visitor and then apply for a work permit after arrival. For citizens of countries that do not require a TRV, this work permit application may be done at a Canadian Port of Entry. In some cases, citizens of visa-required countries may also contemplate a Port of Entry application.

Minor Children and Canadian Study Permit Rules

If you or your spouse or common-law partner is already in Canada, your minor child may study without a study permit at the preschool, primary, or secondary level. Once the child reaches the age of majority in their province, however, he or she must apply for a study permit to continue his or her studies in Canada. This application can be completed from inside Canada. Please consult the table below for further information.

When applying from outside Canada, you will need to apply for your child’s study permit at a Canadian overseas visa office.

Applying Together

if you are planning to bring your family to Canada while you study, and you’ll be arriving at the same time, you may consider filling out one application for the entire family. If you have a variety of different permit applications (your study permit and your spouse or common-law partner’s work permit, for example) you will need extra documentation and will need to include additional fees (such as the additional fee for the work permit).


If you wish to extend or change your conditions while you are in Canada, you will need to complete a separate application. Make sure to check the date of expiry on your study permit and apply at least 30 days before that date if you would like to extend your stay.

Does a child need a study permit?

Children accompanying an adult who is in Canada on a work or study permit may study in Canada without a study permit at the pre-school, primary and secondary levels.

If the child is...
Documents needed
Study permit required
a Canadian citizen
Passport, citizenship card, or birth certificate
a Canadian permanent resident
Record of Landing (IMM 1000), Confirmation of Permanent Residence (IMM 5292) or Permanent Resident Card
a foreign national accompanied by a parent with Visitor status
Stamp on the child’s passport or on the father’s or mother’s passport on which the child is listed as a son or daughter
alone, or with a parent who is a temporary resident and has a study or work permit
Child’s passport or child listed on the parent’s passport. The child may have a visitor record. The parent has a study or work permit. (See note below)
a refugee claimant, whether accompanied by a parent or not
Determination of Eligibility letter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Child’s passport or child listed on a parent’s passport, or any available travel or identity documents. May also have an expired IRCC document.
in Canada without status
Child’s passport or child listed on a parent’s passport, or any available travel or identity documents. May also have an expired IRCC document.

Note: The child may have either a visitor record or a study permit when entering Canada. The child is authorized to study without a study permit if he or she has only the visitor record or a Canadian entry stamp on his or her passport.

Can I bring my parents while on a study permit?

While on a study permit, international students can invite their parent(s) to visit on a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), which allows the parent (s)to travel to Canada. 

Contact the Cohen Immigration Law Firm for Assistance

Do you need assistance studying in Canada? The Cohen Immigration Law Firm can help. Cohen Immigration Law offers over 45 years of Canadian immigration expertise.

Please contact us to schedule a free telephone consultation with one of our lawyers.

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