Canada has no shortage of incredible academic institutions within its borders, and every year, students from across the globe flock to Canadian cities to pursue their higher education.

Many undergraduate and postgraduate students decide to work while they study in order to pay their bills, but if you’re on a study permit, your employment eligibility can be tricky to understand. The good news is, foreign students in Canada can absolutely get a job while they’re in school – it’s simply a matter of which route is best for you.

Working on or off campus

Both of these options are available to international students, as long as they have:

  • a valid study visa,
  • a social insurance number,
  • and are enrolled in a full-time program that is currently in session at a Designated Learning Institution.

On-campus work

Students who meet the above criteria can be employed by their school, a faculty member who works at the school, or a student organization. They may also work for themselves if they are running a private business, a business that is located on-campus, or if they are providing campus services as a private contractor.

Off-campus work

Students who meet the above criteria will be able to work for a maximum of 20 hours per week during the regular semester, and on a full-time basis during holiday periods. They are also required to meet the following criteria:

  • Be enrolled in a post-secondary program or secondary-level vocational training program (only for students in Quebec)
  • Be enrolled in a program that lasts at least 6 months and leads to a degree, diploma, or certificate
  • Possess a study visa that specifies they can work off-campus in the “comments” portion of the permit

Working as an intern

You will need to apply for a work permit alongside your study permit if you wish to take on an internship or co-op placement. The internship in question must be deemed essential for the completion of your studies, and you will need a letter from an academic official attesting to this fact. If you know in advance that your program requires an internship, you can apply for a work permit in tandem with your study permit.

Working after graduation

If you intend to remain in Canada after you graduate, there are a couple of different avenues you can explore in order to avoid a lapse in your ability to work.

Obtaining a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)

True to its name, this program makes it easy for graduates to transition into the Canadian job market. The PGWP gives graduates the ability to work anywhere in Canada for three years after they finish school, as long as the application is submitted before their study permit expires.

Pursuing further education

If starting a new study program in Canada is in the cards for you, you will continue to be able to work as you did during your previous studies. Between programs, students are able to continue working if they:

  • Were eligible for off-campus work during their previous academic program
  • Still have a valid study visa or applied for an extension before it expired
  • Possess written confirmation that their program has been successfully completed
  • Possess an acceptance letter for a new full-time study program at a DLI
  • Will be starting their new program within 150 days of completing the previous one

Is a student’s spouse or common-law partner able to work?

Many foreign students who pursue higher education in Canada arrive with a spouse or common-law partner in tow. Luckily, the government has made it easy for partners to earn a living while their significant other is in school. If you are a full-time student who has a study permit and is enrolled at a public institution (or a private one that adheres to the same rules as a public one), your spouse or common-law partner will be eligible for an open work permit that is valid for the duration of your program.

Ace your immigration process with Exeo

Want to study in Canada or the United States? Exeo knows all the ins and outs of immigrating as a student: our attorneys take all the guesswork out of the process so you can stay on track and achieve your academic dreams. Reach out to our team to learn more about how we can help you work and study in Canada.

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