Canada’s Spousal Open Work Permit Changes

Highlights of the News Story:

  • Recent changes in Canada’s spousal open work permit policy are creating new opportunities for Indian students.
  • The amendments aim to streamline the process for spouses of international students to obtain work permits, enabling them to contribute to Canada’s workforce.
  • Indian students and their families are optimistic about the potential for increased economic stability and career advancement.

As of March 19, partners and spouses of international students are eligible for a SOWP (Spousal Open Work Permits)  only if their sponsor is enrolled in a master’s or doctoral degree program at a university.

Earlier on January 22, the department announced several modifications to Canada’s international student program. One major change is that the spouses of international students enrolled in undergraduate and college programs will no longer qualify for SOWPs.

There are some exceptions for the spouses or partners of undergraduate students. Spouses of undergraduate students in one of the following professional degree programs at a university are also eligible to apply for a SOWP:

  • Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS, DMD)
  • Bachelor of Law or Juris Doctor (LLB, JD, BCL)
  • Doctor of Medicine (MD)
  • Doctor of Optometry (OD)
  • Pharmacy (PharmD, BS, BSc, BPharm)
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN, BSN, BNSc)
  • Bachelor of Education (B. Ed.)
  • Bachelor of Engineering (B. Eng., BE, BASc)

Spouses and partners applying for an SOWP must provide documents that prove a relationship to the student and one document showing proof of their partner’s enrollment in a degree-granting program of study. IRCC accepts:

  • a valid Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)
  • a proof of enrollment letter from their spouse or partner’s DLI
  • transcripts from  their spouse or partner’s current program

According to IRCC those who applied for a SOWP before March 19 are still eligible if their partner:

  • Has a valid study permit.
  • Is eligible for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP).
  • Is a full-time student at one of these types of schools:

What if you’re not eligible?

Spouses and partners of international students who are no longer eligible for an SOWP have the option to apply for an alternative type of work permit or a visitor visa (TRV). However, individuals who enter Canada as visitors are not authorized to work.

Industry leaders and academic institutions alike have welcomed the changes, recognizing the benefits of a more inclusive and diverse workforce. Employers stand to gain access to a pool of skilled professionals, while universities anticipate enhanced appeal for international students considering Canadian institutions. The amendments align with Canada’s broader strategy to position itself as a hub for innovation and talent, positioning the country competitively on the global stage.

Canada’s updated spousal open work permit policy marks a progressive shift in its immigration landscape, particularly benefitting Indian students and their families. As the country continues to prioritize diversity and innovation, these changes signal a commitment to fostering an inclusive environment that welcomes global talent and strengthens its position on the world stage.

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