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Can My Spouse Apply For an Open Work Permit in Canada?

If you are a migrant worker living in Canada, you may have permission to work but your spouse or partner may not. This doesn’t mean they are not allowed to work, but they will need to request permission first before doing so. In this article, we will take a look at how a spouse or partner of a migrant living in Canada can apply for an open work permit.

What Is An Open Work Permit?

There are two main types of work permit available in Canada; an employer-specific work permit, and an open work permit. The former is provided on the basis that the holder only works for one employer for whom they have been approved to work. The latter allows the individual the right to work for any employer and to change employers without any restriction. As such, the open work permit provides a great deal more freedom and flexibility.

Open work permits provide additional benefits for employees and employers; in particular, you will not need the following when you apply:

  • a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada; or
  • proof that an employer has submitted an offer of employment through the Employer Portal and paid the employer compliance fee.

Having to undergo an LMIA adds a degree of uncertainty and additional time to the application process, meaning that those with open work permits can be hired faster and with less paperwork for the employer.

Can I Apply For An Open Work Permit As A Spouse/Partner In Canada?

Unfortunately, not all spouses or partners are eligible for an open work permit in Canada. Open work permits are available to the following:

  • international students who graduated from a designated learning institution and are eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program
  • students who are no longer able to meet the costs of their studies (destitute student)
  • those on employer-specific work permits and are being abused or at risk of being abused in relation to their job in Canada
  • those who have applied for permanent residence in Canada
  • dependent family members of someone who has applied for permanent residence
  • spouses or common-law partners of a skilled worker or international student
  • spouse or common-law partners of an applicant of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program
  • refugees, refugee claimants, protected persons or their family members
  • those under an unenforceable removal order
  • temporary resident permit holders
  • young worker participating in special programs

The two spouse/partner eligibility criteria for an open work permit are underlined above. If neither of these apply to your situation, you may be eligible under one of the other criteria (e.g. if you have applied for permanent residency or your partner has). If not, then you will most likely need to apply for an employer-specific work permit.

If you do fit into one of the eligibility criteria listed above, you will also need to meet the general requirements for a work permit; specifically, you will need to:

  • show that you have enough money during your stay in Canada
  • be law-abiding and have no record of criminal activity (you may be asked to provide a Police Clearance Certificate),
  • not be a danger to the security of Canada,
  • be in good health and complete a medical examination, if required,
  • not intend to engage in employment with an employer on the List of Ineligible Employers,
  • provide any additional documents requested by the officer to establish your admissibility.

How Can I Apply For An Open Work Permit If I Am Eligible?

The application for an open work permit from inside Canada is completed online. For the full set of instructions on how to apply, see the instruction guide provided by the Canadian government. The steps to apply for an open work permit are as follows:

  • Ensure you have access or camera to take copies of your forms and documents
  • Ensure you can pay the $100 application fee using a debit or credit card
  • Complete the Application to Change Conditions or Extend Your Stay in Canada form [IMM 5710]
  • Create an online account
  • Complete a series of questions which will be used to create a personalised list of documents you will need to provide with your application
  • Pay your fees
  • Upload your forms and documents

Once submitted, the progress of your application can be monitored on your online account on the ‘check status and messages’ page.

It is essential that when you apply, you provide all of the information and documents requested. As the work permit guidance states, “There are certain things you can do to help ensure that your application is processed as fast as possible:

  • Ensure that all the documentation and information requested are provided with your application
  • Tell us if your contact information changes, including:
    • mailing address
    • telephone numbers
    • facsimile number (fax)
    • email address”

Unfortunately, if your application form is not complete, there is a risk that it will be rejected as ‘incomplete’, meaning that you will need to apply from scratch. In some situations, if a decision cannot be made, the application will be referred to a local immigration office in Canada who will make contact with you, perhaps to seek clarification or further information. If your open work permit application is granted by the Canadian immigration authorities, you will receive your immigration documentation by post.

Final Words

If you are unsure if you can apply for an open work permit if you are the spouse or common-law partner of a migrant living in Canada, speak to an immigration lawyer who will be able to advise you. If you are not eligible, you may need to apply for an employer-specific permit. Either way, an immigration lawyer will be able to guide you through or handle the application process for you, allowing you to focus on other matters, including finding suitable employment in Canada.

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