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Canada’s Immigration Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) has shared more information concerning modifying Spousal Open Work Permits (SOWP) conditions.

On 22 January 2024, IRCC introduced some significant changes in Canada’s international student program earlier this year. The department said that spouses of undergraduate international students would no longer be eligible for Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP).

In the latest development, IRCC has introduced a new rule allowing common-law partners and spouses of international students to be eligible for SOWP if their sponsor is admitted to a post-graduate or doctoral degree program at a university or polytechnic institution in Canada.
Spouses or common-law partners of undergraduate students of specific professional degree programs can also apply for SOWP. These professional degree programs are:

  • 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)

What is the Application Process for Spousal Open Work Permit?

Spouses and common-law partners can apply for SOWP from within or outside Canada. The application process involves submitting the required forms, proof of marriage, or proof of common-law relationships. There are also three primary documents required to produce the application:

  • A valid Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI).
  • Proof of admission of spouses or common-law partners in the Designated Learning Institution (DLI).
  • Transcripts from their spouse or partner’s current program.

Important Points To Be Noted

You must pay the applicable fees at the time of application. Also, applicants may need to undergo medical examinations or provide biometrics depending on the country of origin.

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What if I already applied before March 19, 2024?

Spouses or common-law partners who have already applied for SOWP before March 19, 2024, will need to fulfil the following criteria:

  • Must have a valid study permit.
  • Must be eligible for a post-graduate work permit (PGWP).
  • Must be a full-time student of the following institutions:
  • A public post-secondary college or university or CEGEP in Quebec.
  • A private institution with college-level education programs in Quebec.
  • A private school that can legally award bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

What will be the processing time?

The time taken to process spousal open work permits may differ based on factors like the immigration office’s workload and the extensiveness of your application. Submitting your application well before your planned work start date is recommended to allow for processing times.

Are there any other options?

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) on February 28, Immigration Minister Marc Miller stated that the volume and integrity challenges were the primary concerns.

The primary motive of SOWP is family reunification, but if a person is not eligible for the work permit, he or she can apply for another type of work permit, such as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP).

Spouses and common-law partners can also apply for a visitor visa, which is easier to receive. However, people who arrive in Canada as visitors are not allowed to work.

Please feel free to reach out to our experts for any queries related to the Spouse Open Work Permit.

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