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Work While Studying

In 2014, the government of Canada introduced changes to the terms of Canadian study permits. Under these changes, the majority of study permits automatically grant international students the authorization to work while studying in Canada. Most Canadian study permits allow a full-time international student to work up to 20-hours per week during regular school sessions and undertake full-time employment during scheduled breaks.

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In certain cases, a study permit may not authorize an international student to work while studying in Canada:

  • The study permit is for a program of study which is less than six months in duration.
  • The study permit specifies that the holder of the permit has employment restrictions.

An international student may be authorized to continue working 20-hours per week even if they are not enrolled in full-time classes:

  • The student is in the last semester of a study program and they do not require a full-time course load in order to meet the requirements for completing the program.
  • The student is at the graduate level of study and has completed all required coursework for their degree.

Please note that if a study permit becomes invalid, the foreign national immediately loses authorization to work in Canada. If a foreign national works or studies in Canada without legal authorization, they will jeopardize any future applications for Canadian immigration.

Social Insurance Number (SIN)

Anyone working in Canada must have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN). This means that any international student wishing to work in Canada must first apply for a SIN. Applications for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) can be submitted in-person or by mail to Service Canada. However, in order to apply for a SIN, there must be certain information listed on the study permit of an international student. The study permit must state one, or both, of the conditions listed below. If those conditions are not included on a study permit, the student simply has to request that they be added. Study permit conditions required to apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN):

  • May accept employment on the campus of the institution at which registered in full-time studies
  • May accept employment on or off campus if meeting eligibility criteria as per R186(f), (v) or (w)

Off-campus vs. On-campus Work Permits

Prior to changes made in 2014, student work permits were divided into two categories:

  1. Off-campus work permits allowed students to work anywhere outside of their institution.
  2. On-campus work permits allowed students to work only at buildings on the campus of their school.

Following the new regulations, the vast majority of study permits authorize international students to work both on- and off-campus. While it is uncommon, it is possible that an international student may face restrictions regarding working on- or off- campus. The study permit will indicate the student’s employment authorization, specifying where the student can and/or cannot accept employment. If an international student believes that they should have the authorization to work during their study program, but this authorization is not explicitly listed on their study permit, then they should submit a request to have the permit updated before undertaking any employment.

Post-Graduation Work Permit

A post-graduation work permit allows an international student who has graduated from a designated learning institution (DLI) to remain in Canada for a while after their period of study. It is an open work permit, which authorizes them to work for any employer in Canada. Canadian work experience can help a person to qualify for Canadian permanent residence as well, usually through the Canadian Experience Class or an employer-driven Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

Pay Attention!

Please note that not all programs offered at DLIs are eligible for a post-graduation work permit. Be sure to verify PGWP eligibility before selecting a program.

Work Permits for Co-Op Students and Interns

Some educational programs in Canada require students to complete a paid or unpaid co-op or internship work placement in order to complete their program of study. International students enrolled in these programs may apply for a co-op or intern work permit, provided that they meet the following requirements:

  • The student has a valid study permit.
  • Working is a required part of the study program.
  • The student has a letter from their school confirming that all students in the program must complete work placements to obtain their degree.
  • The co-op or internship makes up 50% or less of the total program of study.
  • The program of study cannot be an English/French as a second language course, a general interest course, or courses to prepare for another study program.

If the student meets the above criteria, they can apply for a co-op or intern work permit either online or via a paper-based application. Note: If the school indicates the co-op or internship requirement in the initial letter of acceptance and this is included in the foreign national’s original application for a Canadian study permit, then the work permit will be processed at the same time as the study permit.

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