Can I work in Canada as an international student?

Julia Hornstein
Published: October 4, 2022

An international student in Canada may be eligible to work in Canada while studying as long as their study permit includes a condition that says they can work on or off campus. The student may only start working once they begin studying and must all meet all the other eligibility requirements.

Discover your options to study in Canada

Off-campus work rules

A student may be eligible to work for an employer that is not located on the campus of the educational institution where they are registered. If the student is eligible, they may only work up to 20 hours per week during regular academic semesters, and full-time during scheduled academic breaks, like winter, spring and summer break.

In order to be eligible to work off campus, an international student must:

  • hold a valid study permit
  • be studying full time at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)
  • have started studying and remain in satisfactory academic standing as determined by their institution
  • be studying in an academic, vocational or professional training program that is at least six months in duration and leads to a certificate, diploma or degree
  • have a social insurance number (SIN)

If a student’s situation changes during their time working and they no longer meet any of the above eligibility requirements, they must stop working off-campus.

If a student is no longer studying full time, they may be able to continue working off-campus if they:

  • were registered as a full-time student since the beginning of the study program in Canada,
  • are now studying part time because it is the last semester of their study program, and a full-time course schedule is no longer required to finish the program.

Students that are not eligible to work off campus include:

  • students enrolled in an English as a Second Language (ESL) or French as a Second Language (FSL) program
  • students taking a general interest course or program
  • visiting or exchange students at a designated learning institution
  • students only taking courses required to be accepted into a full-time program
  • students taking an authorized leave from their studies
  • students switching schools and aren’t currently studying

On-campus work rules

A student may be eligible to work within the campus of where they are registered as long as the student meets certain eligibility criteria. They must:

  • hold a valid study permit
  • have a social insurance number (SIN)
  • be registered as a full time post-secondary student at a public post-secondary school (such as a college or university), a private college level school in Quebec that operates under the same rules as public schools and is 50% funded by government grants, or a Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law.

On-campus work means working for an employer located on the grounds of the educational institution where the student is enrolled. The employment can be for:

  • the school,
  • a faculty member,
  • a student organization,
  • a private business on campus,
  • a private contractor providing services to the school, or
  • self-employed on-campus.

Moreover, if a student is working as a teaching or research assistant or if the work is directly related to a research grant, the student may work at a library, hospital or research facility associated with the school, even if the location is not on campus.

Students that are not eligible to work on campus include:

  • students who stop studying full time, unless they are in their final semester and meet other requirements
  • students whose study permit has expired
  • students taking an authorized leave from their studies
  • students switching schools and aren’t currently studying

Co-op rules

A student who is studying at a DLI in Canada and requires a mandatory work placement or internship must apply for a co-op or intern work permit in addition to a valid study permit.

The co-op work permit is a separate, closed-work permit. It may only be used for work that is essential to the program of study. Work experience that is considered essential to the program of study is work undertaken for program credits and is required in order for the student to graduate.

Students may have a standard work authorization granted by their student permit as well as a co-op work permit, meaning they can simultaneously have a job unrelated to their study program and be working in a mandatory work placement.

Students may be eligible to apply for a co-op work permit if they:

  • hold a valid study permit
  • are enrolled in a study program that requires mandatory work placement in order to obtain credits for the program
  • have a letter from the educational institution authorizing the work placement, and confirming that the work placement is required for the study program

How your partner can work

The spouse or common-law partner of an international student may be eligible for an open work permit if the student:

  • holds a valid study permit
  • is eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)
  • is a full-time student at one of these types of schools: a public post-secondary school, a private college level school in Quebec or a Canadian private school that can legally award degree under provincial law.

How to work after you graduate

Once the student graduates, they may be able to obtain a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). The PGWP is an open work permit, allowing the holder to work for an employer of their choice and is valid for up to three years.

In order to be eligible for a PGWP, the international student must meet the following criteria:

  • completed studies in an academic, vocational or professional training program that is at least eight months long at a DLI
  • study program must have led to a degree, diploma or certificate
  • held full-time student status in Canada during every academic semester of the program of study completed and included as part of the PGWP application
  • received a transcript and an official letter from the eligible DLI confirming that the applicant has met the requirements to complete their program of study

The student must also have graduated from one of the following:

  • a public post-secondary institution,
  • a private post-secondary school, a private secondary or post-secondary school in Quebec that offers programs that result in the issuance of a diplôme d’études professionnelles (DEP) or an attestation de spécialisation professionnelle (ASP), or
  • a Canadian private school that can award degrees under provincial law (for example, Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctorate degree) but only if the student was enrolled in a study program that leads to a degree as authorized by the province.

The major benefit of the PGWP is that international graduates can gain professional work experience in Canada, which is helpful when they go on to apply for Canadian immigration. In general, a PGWP holder needs to gain one year of professional work experience in a National Occupational Classification (NOC) code of 0, A or B to be eligible for a Canadian permanent residence program.

Discover your options to study in Canada

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