Can a foreign national hold a valid study permit and work permit simultaneously?

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: February 21, 2024

Provided certain requirements are met, it is indeed possible for a foreign national to hold both a study permit and a work permit simultaneously.

Since work permits and study permits have different eligibility criteria and conditions, foreign nationals interested in possessing both permits at the same time will have to comply with eligibility requirements for each permit separately.

Click here for more information about study permit eligibility and visit this link for further details about work permits.

Additionally, while applying for both permits at once, applicants must be able to convince an immigration officer that they can work and study at the same time.

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

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), this can be accomplished by including a letter of explanation as part of the permit application*. This letter of explanation, intended to prove how the applicant will work and study at the same time, should provide “details about how you’ll balance your work schedule with your studies.”

*Online permit applicants are advised to upload their letter of explanation in the Client information portion of their document checklist.

Key things to know about holding two permits

While it is possible to apply for and hold two permits simultaneously, some foreign nationals may be able to study in Canada, without a study permit, while holding a valid work permit.

Additionally, holding two permits at once may have some important impacts on a newcomer’s eligibility for other programs, including the Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) program.

Foreign workers who can study without a study permit

Specifically, some work permit holders in Canada may be eligible to study without a study permit if:

  • They have a valid work permit that was issued on or before June 7, 2023
  • They were issued a work authorization letter* (for work while their permit application is processed) on or before June 7, 2023

*IRCC notes that this letter can also be used by individuals waiting on a work permit extension decision.

Note: Click here for more information to see if you may be eligible to study without a study permit.

Possible impact on eligibility for other programs

Permanent Residence (PR)

For those looking to eventually apply for PR in Canada, IRCC notes that “work experience [acquired] while [holding] a study permit doesn’t count toward the work experience requirements for most [PR] programs.”

One key example of an exception to the above statement is the eligibility for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP). None of the three programs managed by the Express Entry application management system count work experience gained in Canada, while the applicant is a full-time student, toward their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score.

Note: CRS scores are used to rank Express Entry candidate profiles against one another before an Express Entry draw from IRCC. Click here to use a CRS calculator for Express Entry.

However, unlike the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), the FSWP conditionally allows applicants to use Canadian work experience acquired, while holding a study permit, toward meeting the program’s minimum requirements and eligibility.

It is important to remember that minimum eligibility points are distinct from CRS scores. While this type of work experience may increase minimum eligibility points, it will not boost CRS scores.

For an applicant’s work experience to count toward the FSWP’s minimum requirements, the work must:

  • Have been full-time or part- time paid by wages or commissions
  • Have been continuous (no gaps in employment) for at least one year
  • Meet all the other requirements of the program

PGWP

International students planning to apply for a PGWP after their studies must ensure they continue to meet all PGWP program eligibility criteria while they hold two permits at once.

Most importantly, dual permit holders must make sure they maintain full-time student status during all semesters of their study program, even while working.

Next steps

The process of holding two permits at once can be complex due to the different eligibility criteria for both permit types. In addition, it can be difficult to write a convincing letter of explanation, which is key to proving to IRCC that a candidate can work and study in Canada simultaneously.

For those seeking help and advice before pursuing two permits at once, an immigration lawyer can be very helpful with this process. Specifically, immigration lawyers are regulated professionals who can help newcomers with a variety of permit-related tasks including:

  • Helping newcomers fully and accurately complete applications
  • Communicating with the Canadian government on behalf of work/study permit applicants
  • Making sure applicants avoid crucial mistakes during the permit process

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

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