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  • Writer's pictureHossein Alavi, RCIC

Changes to Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) Eligibility for International Students in Canada

Updated: Apr 10

Navigating the 2024 Changes in Spousal Work Permits (SOWP) for Student Partners in Canada

The landscape of Canadian immigration is continually evolving, and recent changes by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have significantly altered the eligibility requirements for Spousal Open Work Permits (SOWP).

Effective March 19, 2024, the IRCC has revised the eligibility criteria for SOWPs. Previously, spouses of international students in both undergraduate and college programs were eligible for SOWPs. However, under the new rules:

1- Spouses of Master’s and Doctoral Students:

Only partners and spouses of international students enrolled in master’s or doctoral degree programs at universities or polytechnic institutions in Canada will be eligible for SOWPs.

2- Spouses of Certain Undergraduate Students:

Additionally, spouses of undergraduate students in specific professional degree programs at universities are also eligible. These programs include:

  • 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)

Eligibility for Those Who Applied Before March 19, 2024

If your spouse or common-law partner applied for an SOWP before March 19, 2024, they may still be eligible if you meet certain criteria:

  • You possess a valid study permit.

  • You are eligible for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP).

  • You are a full-time student at an eligible educational institution.

Extension of Existing Open Work Permits

Your spouse or common-law partner may be eligible to extend their existing open work permit under this stream if you meet these requirements:

  • You have a valid study permit.

  • You’re eligible for a PGWP.

  • You’re a full-time student at one of these types of schools:

  • a public post-secondary school, such as a college or university, or a CEGEP in Quebec

  • a private college-level school in Quebec

  • a Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law (for example, a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree)

Options for Non-Eligible Spouses or Partners

If your spouse or partner does not meet the new eligibility criteria, they may consider applying for a different type of work permit or a visitor visa. However, it’s important to note that visitors to Canada are not permitted to work.


The revision in the SOWP eligibility requirements indicates a more targeted approach by the IRCC towards international students and their spouses. This move could potentially impact the decision-making process of students considering Canada for higher education, especially those in undergraduate and college programs.

These changes in the Spousal Open Work Permit eligibility requirements reflect the dynamic nature of Canadian immigration policies. For international students and their partners, it's crucial to stay informed and adapt to these updates.

How Immigrative Visa Services Can Assist with the New SOWP Changes

In the wake of the recent policy changes regarding Spousal Open Work Permits (SOWP) in Canada, Immigrative Visa Services stands ready to offer expert guidance and support. As a consultancy licensed both federally and provincially, we understand the complexities these changes bring to international students and their spouses.

  • Personalized Strategies: Our approach begins with an initial consultation to assess the impact of these policy changes on your unique situation. We don't just look at the immediate implications; we explore all available options, including study permits, and tailor our strategy to align with your specific needs and goals.

  • Comprehensive Support: Navigating the provincial requirements, such as obtaining a Letter of Attestation, can be challenging. Our team excels in preparing strong applications, ensuring that each candidate is positioned favorably in the light of new policies. We pay meticulous attention to detail, ensuring compliance with the latest immigration regulations.


This blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For personalized advice regarding your specific immigration situation, it is recommended to consult with an authorized immigration professional.

About the Author:

This blog post is authored by Hossein Alavi, RCIC, a seasoned Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant and the founder and CEO of Immigrative Visa Services Inc. and EduPal Canada. With over ten years of experience in the education and immigration sectors, he is dedicated to assisting individuals and companies with their Canadian immigration needs. Contact Immigrative Visa Services Inc. today to schedule your consultation and take the first step toward realizing your Canadian dream.


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