Staying in Canada with your spouse

Shelby Thevenot
Published: May 19, 2020

Spouses and common-law partners of Canadians who are applying for permanent residence have the option to stay in Canada legally with an open work permit.

The Open Work Permit Pilot allows spouses and common-law partners of Canadians to work in Canada while they are applying for permanent residence through spousal sponsorship. In order to be eligible, they must already be living in Canada on legal status at the same address as their partner, among other criteria. They do not need to have a job offer already.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) extended the pilot for the fourth time last January until July 31, 2020. So far there has been no word on whether or not the pilot will be extended this year.

Learn more about Canadian family sponsorship

The key difference with open work permits is that they allow foreign nationals to work for any employer in Canada. Some work permits are employer-specific, where the foreign national may only work for the employer named on their permit for their duration in Canada.

IRCC has extended the pilot every year since it was first implemented in 2014. The program allows spouses and common-law partners to work while waiting to obtain permanent residence.

How to get an Open Work Permit as the spouse or common-law partner of a Canadian

You can apply for the Open Work Permit Pilot and Inland Spousal/Common-law Sponsorship at the same time, or separately.

If you are applying at the same time, send everything by mail including all documents and proof of payment. If this is not possible due to the coronavirus pandemic, IRCC asks that you explain why and they may hold your application for 90 days. If the application is still incomplete in 60 days, IRCC will request the missing documents with an additional 90-day deadline.

If you have already applied for sponsorship and received the approval in principle on your permanent residence application, you can apply for the open work permit online.

The approval in principle is a letter from IRCC stating that the permanent residence eligibility requirements have been met, but medical, security and background checks still need to take place.

If you have not received the approval in principle, then IRCC says to send the application for the work permit by mail. You should include all documents and proof of payment.

Learn more about Canadian family sponsorship

Need assistance with the Temporary Work Permit application process? Contact

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