Exploring the benefits of a spousal open work permit

Edana Robitaille
Published: February 22, 2023

Canada hopes to welcome 82,000 new permanent residents to Canada per year under Spousal Partner and children sponsorship programs. However, it can take over a year for Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to process an application under this program. In the meantime, your spouse or partner may be able to obtain a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP).

If your partner is applying for permanent residence through inland spousal sponsorship, they may be eligible for a spousal open work permit.

What is an open work permit?

Unlike a closed work permit, that limits a person to one employer, an open work permit gives foreign nationals the right to legally live anywhere in Canada and work for any employer.

Working in Canada on an open work permit frees you from some of the requirements involved in other temporary work permits, such as a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Further, it is not necessary to have a job offer to apply.

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

Benefits of a spousal open work permit

In the short term, having an open work permit can mean that your partner is able to enter Canada’s workforce and therefore reduce the financial strain on your household while IRCC processes their permanent residency application.

Additionally, an open work permit allows couples to live together while they wait for a decision from IRCC. Without a temporary work permit of some kind, it is far less likely a foreign national will be allowed to stay in Canada for the entire length of the process.

Working in Canada while waiting for permanent residency allows an individual to improve their language skills, gain Canadian work experience and create professional and social networks. These are all factors that can work to someone’s advantage when applying for permanent residence.

The length of validity for an SOWP depends on when the lead applicant’s work permit expires. For example, if you are in Canada on a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP), your partner’s SOWP will no longer be valid when your PGWP expires. The same logic applies to all other types of temporary residency.

If the lead applicant is a Canadian citizen, your SOWP will expire when their passport does.

Eligibility for a SOWP

In order to get a spousal open work permit, there are certain criteria which must be met.

  • A spousal/common-law partner sponsorship application for permanent residence is submitted.
  • The applicant must have valid temporary resident status as a visitor, student or worker.
  • The applicant and sponsor must meet all eligibility criteria for the spousal/common-law partner sponsorship.

Notably, the person being sponsored must already be in Canada and living with their partner. Applicants who have applied for spousal sponsorship but are living outside of Canada are not eligible.

How to apply

Foreign spouses or partners can apply for a SOWP at the same time, or any time after, they apply for permanent residence through the spousal sponsorship program.

Once your partner has received notification from IRCC that they are eligible for permanent residence, or “approved in principle” they can apply for SOWP online. To be approved in principle means they meet eligibility criteria but have not passed medical, security or background checks.

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

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

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