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Can I work in Canada as an international student?

An international student in Canada may be able to work while studying if their study permit includes a provision allowing them to work on or off campus. The student may begin working only after they begin studying and must meet all other eligibility requirements.

Off-campus work rules

A student may be able to work for an employer who is not on the campus of the educational institution where they are enrolled. If the student is eligible, he or she may only work up to 20 hours per week during regular academic semesters and full-time during scheduled academic breaks such as winter, spring, and summer vacation.

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.
  • 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 while they are working and they no longer meet any of the eligibility requirements listed above, they must stop working off-campus.

If a student is no longer enrolled full-time, they may be able to work off-campus if they:

  • were registered as a full-time students in Canada since the start of the study programme,
  • are now studying part-time because it is the final semester of their studies and a full-time course schedule is no longer required to complete the programme.

Students that are not eligible to work off campus include:

  • students studying English as a Second Language (ESL) or French as a Second Language (FSL)
  • students enrolled in a general education course or programme
  • Exchange or visit students at a designated learning institution
  • Only courses required for admission to a full-time programme are taken by students.
  • students on approved leave from their studies
  • students who are changing schools and are not currently enrolled

On-campus work rules

A student may be eligible to work on the campus where they are enrolled if they meet certain eligibility criteria. They are required to:

  • possess a valid study permit
  • have a social security number (SIN)
  • be enrolled full-time in 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 receives 50% of its funding from 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.

Furthermore, 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 school-affiliated library, hospital, or research facility, even if the location is not on campus.

Students that are not eligible to work on campus include:

  • Students who discontinue full-time study, unless they are in their final semester
  • as well as meet other requirements
  • students with expired study permits
  • students on approved leave from their studies
  • students who are changing schools and are not currently enrolled

Co-op rules

In addition to a valid study permit, a student studying at a DLI in Canada who needs a mandatory work placement or internship must apply for a co-op or intern work permit.

A separate, closed-work permit is required for co-op work. It may only be used for work that is required for the course of study. Work experience considered essential to the programme of study is work completed for programme credits and required for the student to graduate.

Students may have both standard work authorization granted by their student permit and co-op work authorization, which means they can work in a job unrelated to their study programme while also 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

An international student’s spouse or common-law partner may be eligible for an open work permit if the student:

  • possesses a valid study permit
  • is able to obtain a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)
  • is a full-time student at one of the following schools: a public post-secondary school, a private college-level school in Quebec, or a Canadian private school authorised by provincial law to award degrees.

How to work after you graduate

After graduation, the student may be able to obtain a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). The PGWP is an open work permit that allows the holder to work for any employer they want for up to three years. To be eligible for a PGWP, an international student must meet the following requirements:

  • completed at least an eight-month academic, vocational, or professional training programme at a DLI
  • The research programme must have resulted in a degree, diploma, or certificate.
  • maintained full-time student status in Canada during each academic semester of the programme of study completed and included in the PGWP application
  • received a transcript and an official letter from the eligible DLI confirming that the applicant has completed their programme of study requirements

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

  • a public postsecondary educational institution,
  • a private secondary or post-secondary school in Quebec that offers programmes leading to the award of a diplôme d’études professionnelles (DEP) or an attestation de spécialisation professionnelle (ASP), or
  • a Canadian private school that can grant degrees under provincial law (for example, an Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctorate degree) but only if the student is enrolled in a degree-granting study programme approved by the province.

The main advantage of the PGWP is that international graduates can gain professional work experience in Canada, which will be useful when applying for Canadian immigration. To be eligible for a Canadian permanent residence programme, a PGWP holder must have one year of professional work experience in a National Occupational Classification (NOC) code of 0, A, or B.

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