Spouses and Common-Law Partners of foreign workers and students are often eligible to apply for a Spousal Open Work Permit. As a result, they can join their loved ones in Canada and avoid long-term physical separation. There are several types of situations that make a spouse or a common-law partner eligible. Each of which has slightly different rules. See below what may apply to you.

Spouses and Common-Law Partners of Skilled Workers

Spouses or Common-Law Partners of skilled foreign workers who are coming to Canada or are already in Canada may be eligible to work without having a job offer. Your spouse is eligible to apply if you:

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Spouses and Common-Law Partners of Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP) holders

Foreign workers in Canada who have applied for permanent residence under one of the eligible programs may be issued a BOWP. This kind of work permit is designed to overcome the period of time between the applicant’s expiring work permit and the time the permanent residence application is approved. Spouses and Common-Law Partners of such applicants may be eligible for an open work permit of their own.

Spouses and Common-Law Partners of Open Work Permit Holders

Providing that the principal applicant (i.e. Foreign Worker) in Canada is a holder of an open work permit, such as Post-Graduation Work Permit or Working Holiday Work Permit, the spouse or common-law partner must attached to his/her application for open work permit a proof that the principal applicant is employed in a skilled occupation, NOC level 0, A or B.

Aceptable proofs are:

Spouses and Common-Law Partners of Provincial Nominees

Spouses and Common-Law Partners of provincial nominees are a rare exemption, which allows them to obtain an open work permit regardless of the skill level of the occupation of the principal applicant. In other words, the principal applicant can work in low and high skilled occupations (NOC 0, A, B, C and D) and the spouse or common-law partner is eligible for an open work permit. Note that the spouse can obtain a work permit only after the principal applicant receives a nomination from a province.

Spouses and Common-Law Partners of International Students

Spouses or Common-Law Partners of international students who study or intend to study in Canada are, under certain conditions, eligible to apply for an open work permit. They can qualify without having an employment offer or a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This regulation allows couples to live together in Canada while one of them is pursuing studies.

For a spouse or common-law partner to qualify, the principal applicant (i.e. the international student) must:

A Designated Learning Instutution (DLI) is either:

  • a public post-secondary institution, such as:
    a college
    trade/technical school
    CEGEP in Quebec
  • a private post-secondary institution that operates under the same rules and regulations as a public post-secondary institution in Quebec
  • a private or public secondary or post-secondary institution (in Quebec) offering qualifying programs of 900 hours or longer leading to a diploma of vocational studies or an attestation of vocational specialization
  • a Canadian private institution authorized by provincial statute to confer degrees (for example, a bachelor’s degree, master’s or doctorate) but only if the student is enrolled in one of the programs of study leading to a degree, as authorized by the province and not in just any program of study offered by the private institution.

Eligibility Is Not a Guarantee

Applicants for a spousal open work permit must be aware that the fact that their partner works or studies in Canada does not award them automatically an open work permit. All applicants must meet the requirements for admissibility to Canada. Most importantly, officers will review each application for the genuineness of the applicant’s intention to stay in Canada only as long as permitted by the work permit. In order to demonstrate the genuineness, applicants are advised to provide evidence of their ties to the home country, previous travel history and more.