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Work Permits for Spousal Sponsorship Applicants

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As part of its commitment to family unification, Canadian citizens and permanent residents may sponsor their spouses or common-law partners for permanent residency. For many couples, it is important that the sponsored spouse is able to work in Canada while waiting for their permanent residency to be finalized.

Permanent resident visa applications for sponsored spouses are processed in two categories: Inland and Outland. Spouses who are living in Canada at the time of application, and who will remain in Canada during the application process, apply through Inland sponsorship. Spouses who are living outside of Canada, or expect to be outside of Canada when their permanent resident visa is finalized, apply through Outland sponsorship.

For many couples, the chance for both partners to live and work together in Canada while their application is processed is an important factor in deciding whether to pursue Inland or Outland sponsorship. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) helps to facilitate work permits for spouses being sponsored under the Inland process. There is no special treatment for spouses who have applied using the Outland process.

Work Permits for Inland Sponsorship Applicants

CIC processes Inland sponsorship applications in two stages. First, the immigration office assesses the Canadian partner’s ability to sponsor his or her spouse. If they are approved, the office then proceeds to assess the foreign spouse’s admissibility to Canada.

Once the first stage of the application has been approved, the person being sponsored is eligible to apply for an Open Work Permit. An individual holding an Open Work Permit may work for any employer in Canada, or may be self-employed, while they wait to hear the results of their permanent residency application.

Typically, the immigration office will inform applicants when they are eligible to apply for open work permits. To reduce waiting time, a work permit application may be included with the initial permanent residency application. In this way, the work permit can be issued as soon as the first stage is approved. This method is particularly useful for spouses who are already working temporarily in Canada, because their pending Open Work Permit application grants them ‘implied status’. Under implied status, an applicant can continue to work past the expiration date of their existing work permit, until they receive the results of their pending application.

Work Permits for Outland Sponsorship Applicants

Outland sponsorship follows a two-stage structure similar to that of Inland sponsorship. However, unlike the Inland process, the first stage of Outland sponsorship does not make the sponsored spouse eligible for an Open Work Permit. A foreign spouse in this situation can still apply for a temporary work permit, but he or she will be subject to general requirements for work permit eligibility.

In order to be eligible for a standard work permit, an individual must typically receive a job offer from a Canadian employer. In most cases, the employer will have to receive a positive Labour Market Opinion (LMO)before the foreign worker can request a work permit. Depending on a spouse’s age, nationality, and profession, he or she may qualify for an LMO-exempt work permit through a program such as the NAFTA Professional or International Experience Canada.

Sponsored spouses applying for a work permit should be aware that, in general, temporary work permits are given to individuals who plan to leave Canada after their work permits expire. If a government official determines that a work permit applicant is coming to Canada to live with their partner, it is possible that their work permit application will be refused because they cannot demonstrate that they will leave Canada once their work permit expires.

Applicants in this situation can address this issue by acknowledging ‘dual intent’. The dual intent principle means that it is possible to receive a temporary visa while acknowledging that a permanent resident application is in process.

Should a spouse’s work permit be refused, this does not affect the outcome of his or her permanent residency application.

The Final Word

Spouses coming to Canada are making the brave decision to move to a new country in the name of love. Thankfully, the Canadian government recognizes that such a move should not come at the expense of one’s professional goals.

“When they come to Canada, many sponsored spouses expect to not only build a life with their partner, but to pursue a career,” said Attorney David Cohen. “Spouses who plan to work in Canada should carefully assess their career goals as well as their immigration options when determining what sponsorship program is best for them.”

To find out if you and your spouse are eligible for a sponsorship applciation, please fill out a free online assessment today.