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Working While Studying in Canada: Options for Students

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There are a number of possible options for international students to work while pursuing their programs of study in Canada. Depending on a student’s situation, s/he may be eligible to work on-campus, off-campus, or as part of an internship or co-op program. In addition, the spouses of international students can usually work in Canada if desired.

Working On-Campus

A foreign student does not need a work permit in order to work on-campus at a post-secondary educational institution in Canada. However, the student must hold a valid study permit, and be studying full-time at one of the following:

  • A public post-secondary institution; or
  • A private post-secondary institution that operates under the same rules and regulations as a public institution and receives half of its overall operations budget from government grants; or
  • A private institution authorized by provincial statute to confer degrees.

Most post-secondary institutions in Canada have career and placement services offices that can help students find and apply for on-campus jobs. In addition, there may be online job postings for specific faculties that will help students find jobs in specific fields of study.

Working Off-Campus

An international student requires a work permit in order to work off-campus. In order to be eligible for an off-campus permit, the student must be studying full-time at a participating, publicly funded educational institution or eligible privately funded institution. A list of eligible institutions can be found here.

It is important to note that students enrolled in some programs at private institutions will not be eligible to work off-campus. Students enrolled in private institutions should contact their schools directly to determine if their programs meet requirements.

Students who hold off-campus work permits may work up to 20 hours per week during the academic season. During breaks such as winter and summer holidays and spring break, they are permitted to work full-time. International students cannot begin to work off-campus until they have received work permits, and they must maintain status as full-time students in good academic standing in order to continue working.

Before applying for an off-campus work permit, a student must have studied for six months out of the year preceding their application. For more information, please click here.

Internship or Co-op Program

Some post-secondary educational programs include work experience as an important component of their curriculums. In these cases, the work being completed is considered a co-op or internship. In order to participate in a co-op or internship, international students need work permits in addition to their study permits.

To apply for a work permit, a student must hold a valid study permit, their intended employment must be an essential part of their academic program in Canada, and the employment must be a required component of the program. The employment requirement must be certified with a letter from a responsible academic official of the institution. In addition, the internship or co-op cannot constitute more than half of the total program of study.

Open Work Permits for the Spouses of International Students

The spouse or common-law partner of an international student is eligible to apply for an open work permit. The foreign student must hold a valid study permit and be studying full-time at one of the following:

  • A public post-secondary institution; or
  • A private post-secondary institution that operates under the same rules and regulations as a public institution and receives half of its overall operation sbudget from government grants; or
  • A private institution authorized by provincial statute to confer degrees.

The spouse’s open work permit will be valid for the same period as the study permit issued to the international student. The accompanying spouse or common-law partner is not required to obtain a job offer before receiving an open work permit.

Benefits of Working while Studying

In addition to the extra income, working in Canada may help students who plan to work or immigrate after their studies.

“Canada has a generous policy of allowing foreign students to work during their studies in Canada,” said Attorney David Cohen. “Not only does this allow these students to gain valuable Canadian work experience; it helps them to establish contacts for post-graduation employment. Such employment may later help them in an application for Canadian Permanent Residency.”

Working in Canada on a post-graduate work permit may enable students to apply for Canadian Experience Class, Quebec Experience Class, or one of the many Provincial Nomination Programs. Many of these programs have been created with facilitating Permanent Residency for foreign graduates in mind.

To learn find out if you are eligible to study in Canada, please fill out a free online assessment today.

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