I’m coming to Canada on a TRV. Can I bring my family with me?
In many cases, both international students and temporary foreign workers (TFWs) coming to Canada want their family members to accompany them.
Fortunately, Canada has made it possible for both work permit and study permit holders (together classified as temporary resident visa (TRV) holders) to bring their family members – including spouses, common-law partners and dependent children – with them into this country.
At the same time, many of these temporary residents seek to explore pathways for their family members to work and earn money themselves during their stay in Canada. To allow for this, the Canadian government has implemented Open Work Permits (OWPs) for family members of Canadian international students and temporary foreign workers.
Since these OWPs work differently based on the type of permit held by the principal applicant (work or study permit holder) and the family member in question (spouse, common-law partner or dependent child), the following will outline the work permit rules that apply in each situation.
OWPs for the family of a Canadian work permit holder
As of January 30, 2023, a new policy from the Canadian government temporarily allows the family members of certain work permit holders to obtain an OWP in Canada.
Among the newly eligible family members are the spouses and common-law partners of TFWs who:
- Work in a job that falls under any Training, Education, Experience and Responsibilities (TEER) category (0 to 5)
- Are the principal applicant on a Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) or International Mobility Program (IMP) application and have an open work permit.
Previously, only family members of TFWs in high-skilled occupations (or international students, but more on that below) were eligible for work permits.
Note: Family members of TFWs working in TEER 4 or 5 jobs under the low-wage stream of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and the Agricultural Stream of the TFWP are not eligible for an OWP at this time
Dependent children of TFWs who meet the above criteria may also be eligible for an OWP. For a dependent child of a TFW in Canada to be eligible for an OWP, they must:
- Be the child of the TFW themself, the TFW’s spouse or the TFW’s common-law partner
- Be under 22 years of age*
- Be unmarried and without a common-law partner
- In some cases, pass a required medical examination (details here)
*Children above 22 years of age will qualify as dependent if the child has been reliant on the financial support of their parent(s) since before the age of 22 and they cannot support themselves due to a physical or mental condition.
Note: The physical or mental condition in question must persist until the application has been processed completely
Alongside the above, there are several other key things to note for dependent children of TFWs looking to work in Canada:
- Dependent children whose age eligibility was established on or before October 23, 2017, may benefit from a prior definition of dependent children
- Dependent children of TFWs who want to work in Canada can apply for their work permit either with their family or separately. In this case, the child may be eligible for an OWP if they are being sponsored by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or if they are foreign workers in Canada
- Dependent children who are not eligible for an open work permit may need their employer to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)**
- Dependent children looking to work in this country should review the minimum age requirements for the type of job they are seeking (and in the province or territory they plan to work in)
**LMIAs are documents that an employer needs to obtain to prove that the hiring of a temporary foreign worker will either have a neutral or positive impact on Canada’s labour market
OWPs for the family of a Canadian study permit holder
Full time students with a valid study permit can sponsor their spouse or common-law partner for an OWP, as long as they are attending:
- A public post-secondary institution
- A private post-secondary institution that operates under the same rules and regulations as a public institution and receives half of its overall operations budget from government grants
- A private institution authorized by provincial statute to confer degrees
More key information about bringing your spouse/common-law partner to work in Canada
Generally, Canadian visa offices around the world can process a spousal open work permit simultaneously alongside a study permit application. In this case, processing and ancillary fees for both applications must be included at once.
Otherwise, spouses or common-law partners of international students attending a Canadian institute can arrive in the country as visitors and apply for an OWP post-arrival. In this case, citizens of countries that do not require a TRV can complete this work permit application at a Canadian Port of Entry while citizens of visa-required countries will need to complete their application prior to arriving in Canada.