Study Permit

Your Essential Guide to Navigating Work with a Study Permit in Canada

Canadian Immigration Lawyer
Updated on 
April 2, 2024
Published on 
April 2, 2024
Are you an international student in Canada wondering about your options to work while you study? Understanding the requirements is essential for those looking to support themselves financially and gain valuable work experience during their time at a Canadian institution. This guide will take you through eligibility requirements, the application process, and opportunities for on-campus, off-campus, co-op, and post-graduation employment.
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Key Takeaways

  • International students must study a full-time program of at least 6 months at a designated learning institution and maintain full-time enrollment with a valid study permit to be eligible to work on-campus and off-campus employment in Canada.
  • Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) provides opportunities for international students to work in Canada after graduation, with certain public-private partnership institution graduates becoming ineligible starting May 15, 2024.

Eligibility for Student Work Permits in Canada

Not all international students are eligible to work during their studies.

In order to study in Canada, it is necessary to be enrolled at one of the designated learning institutions. These institutions are authorized by provincial or territorial governments to host international students. But it’s not just about attending any program at a DLI. The study program needs to be a degree, diploma, or certificate program with a duration of at least 6 months.

As a full time student, maintaining full-time enrollment is another crucial criterion. Additionally, students must possess a valid study permit that carries conditions for on-campus or off-campus employment. This permit serves a dual purpose, allowing students to work in Canada without requiring an additional work permit.

Now let’s explore the different work opportunities available to international students within the framework of an international student program.

Working on Campus

One advantage of being an international student in Canada is the opportunity to work on campus without needing a separate work permit. However, this is subject to certain eligibility requirements, which include possession of a study permit that allows such employment.

Working on campus not only provides a source of income but also offers a convenient way to balance academic commitments with work responsibilities. From jobs in the university library to roles within administrative departments, there are numerous on-campus employment opportunities to explore. However, some students may prefer to work off campus for various reasons.

Off-Campus Employment

For those who wish to broaden their horizons beyond the campus boundaries, off-campus employment opportunities are also available. During regular academic sessions, eligible international students can work up to 20 hours per week off-campus.

Scheduled breaks in the school year, such as winter and summer holidays, allow students to work full-time, provided they are enrolled as full-time students before and after the break. This offers a fantastic opportunity to gain more extensive work experience and earn extra income.

Co-op and Internship Programs

In addition to on-campus and off-campus jobs, co-op and internship programs offer a fantastic way to gain practical Canadian work experience. Students whose academic programs include such components may be eligible for a co-op work permits. International students can apply for the co-op work permit at the same time as their study permit application and they need to provide proof that they need to do a co-op as part of their studies.

These college programs not only provide potential income during studies but also offer a deeper understanding of the Canadian workplace environment. By participating in these programs, students can experience various career fields and positions, enriching their academic journey with practical insights and exposure.

Post-Graduation Work Permit Opportunities

Graduating from a Canadian institution doesn’t mean the end of your Canadian journey. With a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), international students can continue to gain Canadian work experience after completing their education.

However, policy changes by the federal government affect who can avail of these opportunities. Starting May 15, 2024, students who begin a study program at a public-private partnership institution will no longer be eligible for PGWPs upon graduation. These changes aim to retain talented graduates from Canadian institutions who can contribute to the job market and economy and simplify qualification for permanent residence.

PGWP Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for a PGWP, students must have completed a full-time program of at least 8 months at a Designated Learning Institution in Canada. Furthermore, students are required to apply for a PGWP within 180 days of meeting their study program’s criteria, regardless of whether they are in Canada or abroad.

However, it is important to note that any time spent studying outside of Canada will shorten the length of a student’s PGWP grant from September 1, 2024, onwards. This change underscores the emphasis on gaining Canadian academic and work experience.

Length of PGWP and Extension Options

A Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) can be issued for various durations, up to a maximum of three years, depending on the length of the completed academic program. The duration of the PGWP is usually equivalent to the length of the academic program completed by the student.

However, students whose academic program was at least 50% in-person are eligible to receive a PGWP that reflects the actual duration of their studies. This is another factor that emphasizes the importance of on-campus, Canadian academic experience.

Spousal Open Work Permits for International Students

The Canadian government’s commitment to supporting international students extends beyond the students themselves. Spouses of master’s and doctoral students, as well as students enrolled in professional degree programs, are eligible for open work permits under section C42 in Canada, as part of the immigration refugees and citizenship policies. This change took place on March 19, 2024.

The eligibility for a spousal open work permit is directly linked to the study program and status of the student in Canada. This offers an opportunity for the spouses or common-law partners of international students to work in Canada, further enhancing the appeal of the Canadian study experience.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for a spousal open work permit, the spouse or common-law partner must be a full-time international student holding a valid study permit in Canada. The open work permit for spouses or common-law partners will generally have the same period of validity as the study permit of the international student.

It’s also worth noting that a medical exam may be necessary when applying for an open work permit in certain cases. Importantly, spouses or common-law partners do not need a job offer to qualify for an open work permit in Canada.

Application Process

The application process for spousal open work permits involves providing supporting documentation to evidence their relationship to the student. This can be done either before or after they arrive in Canada, and the permit’s validity usually aligns with the student’s study permit duration. Errors and mistakes can lead to a refusal. Its important to carefully review your work permit application form, such as the IMM5710.

When applying from abroad, spousal work permit applications may be processed at the same time as study permit applications if an additional fee is included with the completed application. If a spouse or partner does not require a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), they have the option of applying for a work permit upon arrival in Canada at a border crossing or an airport.

Financial Support and Living Expenses for International Students in Canada

Studying and working abroad comes with financial considerations. The updated cost of living requirement for international students in Canada, excluding tuition fees, is $20,635. In Quebec, individuals are required to demonstrate a minimum proof of financial support of $15,078, except for those under 18 who must show access to at least $7,541. These are the established requirements for financial support in the region.

It’s important to remember that working during your studies cannot be relied upon as a primary source of income to support yourself in Canada. This underscores the importance of planning finances meticulously before starting your Canadian journey.

Scholarships and Grants

Financial support is available to international students to help ease the financial burden. Global Affairs Canada oversees international scholarship programs for students coming to Canada. The Study in Canada Scholarships, for instance, allow students from select countries to engage in short-term study or research in Canadian institutions.

The Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program offers exchange opportunities for students from Latin America and the Caribbean for study or research in Canada. These scholarships and grants can significantly reduce the financial burden on students, making studying in Canada a more accessible dream.

Budgeting for Living Expenses

Living in a new country requires careful budgeting. Students should allocate approximately 40% of their budget to housing and accommodation expenses. Monthly food and grocery costs can range from $240 to $480, and utilities and internet expenses can add more than $150 to monthly living costs.

Health insurance costs for international students range from $75 to $120 monthly, and public transportation passes can cost between $80 to $156 monthly. Entertainment and personal care are also important budget considerations, with costs starting around $120 per month. These figures provide a rough estimate of the costs involved, helping students plan their finances effectively.

Navigating the Canadian Job Market as an International Student

Securing a work permit is just the first step. Navigating the Canadian job market as an international student involves understanding tax requirements, work authorization terms, and permanent residency options. For instance, if employed in Canada, international students may need to file a Canadian income tax return.

Scholarships or bursaries received by international students are exempt from taxation in Canada. After the expiration of a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), international graduates have the opportunity to continue their career in Canada by applying for another type of work permit or employment. They also have multiple avenues to obtain Canadian permanent residency after completing their studies, including federal and provincial programs.

Networking and Job Search Strategies

Navigating the job market involves more than just applying for jobs online. Networking can be a crucial asset for international students, as many job opportunities are not advertised. Gaining Canadian work experience through part-time jobs and volunteering can significantly improve job prospects for international students.

International students should ensure their job search documents align with Canadian standards and promote unique attributes they bring, like multilingualism and understanding of global markets. Awareness of work authorization terms allows international students to confidently inform potential employers about their eligibility to work in Canada. Improving language proficiency and engaging with native speakers is vital for enhancing employability.

Adapting to the Canadian Workplace Culture

Adapting to a new workplace culture is integral to succeeding in a new job. In Canada, direct communication is highly valued, and being clear and concise is considered respectful. Canadian workplaces often have a flat organizational structure, promoting open communication across levels, but recognizing authority and responsibility is still important.

Respect for personal time and work-life balance is prevalent, and most Canadian employers are accommodating with flexible scheduling. Participating in team lunches, after-work gatherings, and company events like holiday parties or summer picnics are common and serve as an opportunity to bond with colleagues. Punctuality and active participation in social functions reflect well on an employee’s dedication and team spirit.


The journey of an international student in Canada goes beyond classrooms and textbooks. From acquiring a study permit to navigating the Canadian job market, each step is a learning experience. While the process may seem daunting, the comprehensive guide above provides a roadmap to make this journey smoother. Remember, every challenge is an opportunity for growth. Here’s to your success as an international student in Canada!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a student with a valid study permit in Canada without a work permit?

Yes, as an international student in Canada, you may be eligible to work on or off campus during your studies, and after you graduate, without needing an additional work permit if you meet specific criteria. This can be indicated on your study permit.

Can we convert Canada student visa to work permit?

Yes, after completing your studies in Canada, you can apply for an open work permit within 180 days. This can be done both from overseas and within Canada. Certain conditions apply.

Can student work more than 20 hours in Canada?

No, international students in Canada are generally not allowed to work more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session, as doing so could lead to consequences such as losing their student status. Working more than 20 hours per week is a violation of study permit conditions and can result in loss of student status and potential future permit approvals.

Can an international student work in Canada?

Yes, international students can work in Canada on-campus, off-campus, or through co-op and internship programs, as long as they meet certain eligibility requirements.

What is a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)?

A Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) is an open work permit that allows international students to gain Canadian work experience after completing their education. It provides an opportunity to work in Canada for a specified period after graduation.

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Disclaimer: The information in this blog is general informational and it is not legal advice. Do not rely exclusively on this blog. Always conduct your own research and due diligence. The information in this blog not a substitute for professional legal advice, and it may not be appropriate for you. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, immigration laws and regulations can vary and change over time. It is important to consult with an immigration lawyer if you are unsure how to proceed.

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