The benefits of a spousal open work permit

Shelby Thevenot
Published: April 4, 2022

Canada offers an open work permit to foreign nationals who are waiting for a decision on their inland spousal or common-law sponsorship application.

The Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) specifically provides inland sponsorship applicants with the opportunity to work while their immigration application is processing.

The following are among the major benefits of getting a SOWP:

Sponsor your spouse for Canadian immigration

Work in Canada while you wait

The SOWP allows spousal sponsorship applicants to stay in Canada while they wait for a decision on their immigration application. It can take Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) about 12 months to process a spousal sponsorship application. The SOWP allows foreign nationals to work in Canada during this time.

Work anywhere, skip the LMIA

As opposed to closed work permits that only allow foreign nationals to work for one employer or in one type of occupation, open work permits allow holders the freedom to do any job for any employer in Canada.

Further, employers who hire SOWP holders do not need to get a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

Live with your partner

Without the SOWP, or another form of temporary status, spousal sponsorship applicants would have to complete the process outside of Canada. The SOWP makes it easier for couples to live together while their sponsorship application is pending.

Gain Canadian experience

Getting Canadian work experience before you become a permanent resident can help support your career growth in Canada. If you do get permanent residence, you will already have some work experience under your belt. Studies have shown that more Canadian work experience translates to higher earnings.

Not only that, being in Canada provides you with the opportunity to network, create meaningful relationships, and improve your language skills if needed.

Eligibility for the SOWP

Inland sponsorship is for spouses and common-law partners who are already living together in Canada. The foreign partner needs to already have temporary status in Canada as a worker, student, or visitor.

In order to get a spousal open work permit, sponsorship candidates need to meet the following requirements:

  • submit a permanent residence application under the Spouse Common-Law Partner Class;
  • have a Canadian citizen or permanent resident spouse or common-law partner who has submitted a sponsorship application on their behalf;
  • live at the same address as their sponsor; and
  • have valid temporary resident status in Canada or an approved application for restoration status with authorization to work.

Foreign spouses can apply for the open work permit at the same time or any time after they apply for permanent residence through spousal sponsorship.

If applicants have already received approval in principle on their permanent residence application, they can apply for the SOWP online. Approval in principle means the spouse or partner has received a letter from IRCC stating that they meet the permanent residence eligibility requirements, but they have not yet passed the medical, security, and background checks.

The SOWP may be extended if the immigration decision has not been made before it expires. SOWP holders will have to apply to extend their permits before the expiry date.

If you are eligible, getting a SOWP can be a major benefit. Not only can you stay with your partner in Canada, but you can work and start building your career here.

Schedule a Free Work Permit Consultation with the Cohen Immigration Law Firm

© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Visit to discover your Canadian immigration options.

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