Spouse Open Work Permit (SOWP) Canada

If your spouse is currently working or studying in Canada, or if you have applied to be sponsored for permanent residence by your spouse or partner in Canada, you may be eligible for an open work permit.

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Spousal Open Work Permit Overview

Spouse Open Work Permit Application

FAQ

If a foreign national is successful in their work permit application, they will be issued an open work permit authorizing them to work for multiple employers in any location in Canada while their permanent residency application is processing, or while their spouse has valid status in Canada. The application procedure for the spousal sponsorship open work permit varies depending on the applicant’s status in Canada or the stage of their permanent residency application. Foreign nationals cannot work in Canada without the appropriate authorization. Engaging in any form of employment in Canada without the proper work permit is unlawful and can jeopardize future immigration applications.

What is a spouse open work permit?

A spouse open work permit allows the spouse of certain temporary Canadian permit holders to work anywhere in Canada, for any employer, with few restrictions.

Who can apply for a spouse open work permit?

Individuals who have applied to be sponsored by their spouse, or those whose spouses are in Canada on a study or work permit may be able to apply for a spousal open work permit. The requirements for applying for a spousal open work permit depend on the type of status your spouse has in Canada. For information, use the table below:

CategoryPrincipal applicant's occupational skill level requirementPrincipal applicant's minimum work permit length
Spouses or common-law partners of Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP) work permit holders0, A, or B6 months
Spouses or common-law partners of Quebec selection certificate (CSQ) holdersAny occupational skill level6 months
Spouses or common-law partners of provincial nomineesAny occupational skill level6 months
Spouses or common-law partners of bridging open work permit (BOWP) holdersVaries depending on program principal applicant applies under6 months
Spouses or common-law partners of open work permit holders other than BOWP0, A, or BN/A
Spouses or common-law partners of study permit holdersN/AN/A
In Canada spousal/common-law sponsorship applicantsN/AN/A

Can I apply for an open work permit if my spouse or partner has applied to sponsor me?

In order to be eligible to apply for a spousal sponsorship open work permit, a foreign national must have applied for permanent residency sponsorship from within Canada through the in Canada stream of the spousal sponsorship program.

  • If you have not submitted your sponsorship application: The sponsorship, permanent residence, and open work permit applications may all be submitted together in a single envelope in hard copy. Ensure that all supporting documentation and required proof of payments for all applications are included. The applications should be submitted to the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga (CPC-M), Ontario.
  • If your permanent residence application is submitted but has not yet received approval in principle: The open work permit application may be submitted in hard copy to the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville (CPC-V), Alberta.
  • If your permanent residence application has been approved in principle: The open work permit application may be submitted online or in hard copy to the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville (CPC-V), Alberta.

Approval in principle (AIP) means that a person’s permanent residence application has been cleared by IRCC as meeting the eligibility requirements, but the application has not yet passed through processing for medical exams and security/background checks. While this means the application has successfully passed through several stages of processing, permanent residency may still be denied after receipt of the AIP.

A foreign national must have valid status in Canada (visitor, student, worker, etc.) in order to submit a work permit application at the same time as their permanent residence application. If an applicant is out of status in Canada, they must wait until their permanent residence application has received approval in principle to submit their work permit application.

Eligibility requirements for a spousal work permit and visa

In order to qualify for a spousal open work permit, you must meet certain minimum requirements, including:

  • Must be in a genuine relationship with a qualifying foreign national principal applicant, permanent resident, or citizen;
  • Must be eligible to apply as the spouse of a qualifying foreign national, or as an in Canada sponsorship applicant (see above); and
  • Are not criminally or medically inadmissible to Canada

Additional criteria will vary depending on the category of SOWP you are applying under.

How long does a spouse open work permit take to process?

The processing time for a spousal open work permit will depend on what type of permit your spouse applied for. To check the approximate processing time for a particular application, visit Canada’s dedicated webpage.

Can a spouse open work permit be extended?

A SOWP is tied to the permit of the spouse, or ‘lead applicant’, and will only be valid for as long as the lead applicant’s permit. If your SOWP expires, you will need to reapply based on your spouse’s permit.

Spouse open work permit fees

The fee for a spouse open work permit is $255 CAD – $155 for the processing fee, and $100 CAD for the open work permit holder fee.

How long is a spouse open work permit valid?

A spousal open work permit can only be issued for as long as the lead applicant’s permit. If the applicant’s passport is expiring soon, it will not be issued beyond the validity of their passport.

How long does it take to get a work permit after getting married?

There is no minimum amount of time that an applicant must wait before applying for a permit after getting married.

Can I work anywhere in Canada on a spouse open work permit?

Holders of spouse open work permits may work anywhere in Canada, for any employer, with limited restrictions.

Can I add my dependents on my spouse open work permit?

While applying for a spousal open work permit, dependent children may also accompany the permit holder by applying for a visitor record.

How to apply for a spouse open work permit

The spouse open work permit application procedure will differ depending on which type of spouse open work permit you need. The first step is determining which work permit is best for you. If you need help figuring out the application, simply contact us and a member of our team will assist you with scheduling a consultation.

When to apply for a spouse open work permit

When you can apply for a spouse open work permit will depend on which category you are applying under. For more information on when you can apply, contact us to set up a consultation.

Spouse open work permit document checklist

The documents required for a Canadian spouse work permit will depend on the category you are applying under. Applicants may need to provide the following documents as part of their work permit application:

  • Acknowledgement of Receipt (AOR) letter
  • Provincial nomination certificate (if applicable)
  • Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) (Quebec Acceptance Certificate) (if applicable)
  • Completed application forms
  • Proof of status in Canada
  • Proof of spouse’s status in Canada
  • Marriage certificate or proof of common-law status
  • Proof of relationship to the principal applicant
  • A valid copy of your passport
  • Medical exam results (if requested)
  • Proof of payment for applicable government fees

Spouse open work permit medical request

You may require a medical exam when applying for a spousal open work permit. If required, candidates may choose to take the medical exam upfront, or after receiving a medical exam request from IRCC. Upon receiving a request, you must complete the exam with a panel physician designated by IRCC. You can find a panel physician near you on IRCC’s Find a Panel Physician webpage.

Spousal open work permit proof of funds requirement

Spousal open work permit candidates should be able to demonstrate that they have sufficient funds for their stay in Canada. If an officer is not convinced that an applicant will be able to support themselves while in Canada, this may result in a refusal.

How to renew your spouse open work permit

It is not possible to renew a spousal open work permit. If your permit expires, but your spouse or partner still has eligible status in Canada, you may re-apply for a new SOWP.

How to check your spouse open work permit application status

If you submitted your spousal open work permit application online, you may check the status through your account. If you submitted a paper-based application, you may check the status by linking it to an online IRCC account.

How can I transition from a spouse open permit to PR?

There are many options for candidates working in Canada to transition to permanent residence status. For a full evaluation of your options, start by completing our free online assessment form.

Why was my spouse open work permit refused?

One of the main reasons spousal open work permits are refused is that the applicant is unable to demonstrate sufficient proof of their relationship to their eligible spouse. If your application was refused, contact us to learn more about your options.

What happens if my spouse open work permit is refused?

If your spousal open work permit is refused, you may be eligible to re-apply. You should only re-apply if you can provide additional information or documentation to address the reason or refusal. Contact us to learn more about your options.

Can I stay in Canada if my visitor permit expires while waiting for my SOWP to process?

If you applied for In-Canada sponsorship on a visitor permit that is expiring, and you have applied for a spousal open work permit, you will be on maintained status. This means you can remain in Canada without a valid permit under the same conditions while awaiting a decision on your SOWP application.

Reasons spouse open work permit are rejected

There are many reasons a spousal open work permit may be rejected. Here are six of the most common reasons:

  1. Principal applicant is living outside Canada – Your spouse must be living inside Canada on eligible, legal status in order for you to apply for a spousal open work permit. If your spouse lives outside Canada, this may be a reason your application is refused.
  2. No evidence that your spouse is attending a DLI – If you are applying for a SOWP as the spouse of a student, your spouse will need to provide sufficient evidence that they are studying at a Canadian Designated Learning Institute (DLI) and are actively enrolled in class. Excluding this documentation could result in a refusal.
  3. Lacking proof of funds – If the officer reviewing your case is not convinced that you and your spouse will have sufficient funds to support your stay in Canada, your application may be refused. For this reason, it is important to include financial documents with your application that will satisfy the officer of your financial stability.
  4. Missing proof of employment – If you are applying for a SOWP based on your spouse’s employment, it is important to provide documents that support their employment in Canada.
  5. Insufficient ties to home country– When applying for temporary status in Canada, the officer must be satisfied that you will leave by the end of your authorized stay. For this reason, it is important to include proof of any ties you may have to your home country. If the officer is not convinced that you will leave Canada by the end of your authorized stay, your application may be refused.
  6. Absence of proof of a genuine relationship– Since the spousal open work permit is based on your relationship to your spouse or common-law partner, it is important to provide sufficient proof of your genuine relationship. If the visa officer is not satisfied that your relationship is genuine, this could be a reason for refusal.

What happens to my spouse’s open work permit application if my spouse and I separate or divorce?

If you and your spouse divorce or your common-law relationship ends after you’ve received your spousal open work permit, your permit will not be revoked. However, if your relationship ends while your application is still processing, you must inform IRCC of your updated relationship status, and will no longer be eligible for a SOWP.

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