How a spousal open work permit can allow you to work in Canada

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: November 24, 2022

Spousal sponsorship is an integral component of Canada’s family class immigration efforts, as Canada places a big emphasis on keeping loved ones together in this country.

The larger category of spousal sponsorship breaks down into two similar but still distinct sub-sections — inland spousal sponsorship and outland spousal sponsorship.

Understanding the different kinds of spousal sponsorship

We will not be delving into the details of either subsection at this time but for the moment, it is important that we highlight two key differences between inland and outland sponsorship.

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

The primary difference between these subsections of spousal sponsorship is the following.

Outland sponsorship allows a Canadian to sponsor their spouse or common-law partner living abroad for permanent residence (PR) in Canada while inland sponsorship necessitates that the sponsor and foreign national being sponsored already live together in this country.

For our purposes, however, there is one more pertinent difference that must be identified.

Unlike the outland sponsorship stream, inland spousal sponsorship provides the foreign national being sponsored with the opportunity to receive an open work permit while their application for PR in Canada is being processed. This is called a Spousal Open Work Permit.

What is a spousal open work permit?

The service standard for the processing of spousal sponsorship applications by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is approximately 12 months.

Accordingly, spousal open work permits allow sponsored spouses and common-law partners who are living with their Canadian partner to seek work with any Canadian employer of their choice as a decision is being made on their PR application.

Created to ease the economic and emotional burden that may result from a long and arduous application process, the spousal open work permit enables the sponsored individual in the relationship to earn money without being tied to a specific employer or job, as is the case with some of Canada’s other work permit options.

Open work permits under this program can be obtained without having an existing employment offer in place and these permits will be valid for either two years or until the expiry date on the permit holder’s passport, whichever is sooner.

Eligibility for a spousal open work permit

Eligibility for the spousal open work permit requires that:

  • The foreign national and Canadian sponsor in a spousal or common-law relationship submit a permanent residence application through the inland sponsorship stream of the Spousal/Common-Law Partner Sponsorship Immigration Program
  • The foreign national work permit applicant has valid temporary resident status as either a visitor, student, or worker in Canada
  • Both the foreign national applicant and the Canadian sponsor meet all eligibility requirements under the spousal or common-law partner sponsorship program

The application process for spousal open work permits

Spousal open work permit hopefuls must first wait for an acknowledgement of receipt letter from IRCC regarding their sponsorship application before applying for a work permit.

Once that letter is received, foreign nationals can apply for a spousal open work permit online.

The steps in the application process for this work permit are as follows.

Step 1: Create or Sign In to Online Account with IRCC

Step 2: Answer the Questions Online to Receive a Personalized Document Checklist

Step 3: Fill Out the Online Application Form

  • Select “Open Work Permit” to Q: What Type of Work Permit Are You Applying For?
  • Select “SCLPC OWP” in the “Job Title” Box
  • Select “Spouse and Common-Law Partner in Canada Pilot Program” in the “Brief Description of Duties” box

Step 4: Upload Documents

Step 5: Submit Application

Getting assistance with a spousal open work permit

Navigating the world of work permits can be confusing. Although an immigration lawyer is not required to submit a work permit application, a legal professional in this space can help applicants by:

  • Helping to prepare an application
  • Ensuring applicants avoid mistakes
  • Responding on an applicant’s behalf to the Canadian government
  • Using their expertise to avoid unnecessary delays throughout the different application steps and application processing

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

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