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  • Writer's pictureHossein Alavi, RCIC

Canada’s Open Work Permit Explained: Who Qualifies?

Updated: Apr 10

Understanding your options for working in Canada – A detailed look at Open Work Permit eligibility.

Navigating the Canadian immigration system can be complex, especially when it comes to work permits. One flexible option for many individuals is the Open Work Permit (OWP), which allows you to work for any employer in Canada. Let’s break down who can apply for this permit.

In this blog post, we will delve into the specifics of who can apply for an Open Work Permit in Canada. We aim to simplify the complexities of the eligibility criteria, providing you with a clear, comprehensive understanding of whether this permit aligns with your immigration and employment goals. Whether you're a recent graduate, a family member of someone working in Canada, or someone seeking refuge, the OWP might be your key to unlocking a world of opportunities in one of the most dynamic and welcoming countries in the world.

1. Graduates from Canadian Institutions

For international students graduating from designated Canadian institutions, the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) serves as a vital pathway to obtaining an Open Work Permit (OWP). This program offers a unique opportunity to gain valuable Canadian work experience, which can be a stepping stone towards permanent residency.

Key Highlights:

  • Eligibility: Graduates of programs from Designated Learning Institutions (DLI) in Canada, lasting at least eight months, are eligible.

  • Duration of Work Permit: The duration of the PGWP generally matches the length of your study program. Notably, as of February 15, 2024, graduates from master’s degree programs of less than two years but at least eight months are eligible for a 3-year PGWP.

  • Flexibility in Employment: PGWP holders can work for any employer in Canada, in any occupation, providing a broad platform to build professional experience.

  • Application Timeline: It’s crucial to apply for the PGWP within 180 days of receiving your program completion confirmation from your institution.

Strategic Advantage: The PGWP is more than just a work permit; it's a bridge connecting your educational achievements in Canada to meaningful employment and potential pathways to permanent residency.

2. Students Facing Financial Hardships

Canada's commitment to supporting international students extends beyond educational opportunities. In certain circumstances, students who face unforeseen financial hardships during their stay may qualify for an Open Work Permit (OWP) under humanitarian grounds. This provision is particularly designed for study permit holders who find themselves temporarily destitute due to circumstances beyond their control.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Study Permit Holders: Students who experience sudden financial distress, which hinders their ability to continue their studies, can apply for an OWP. This financial distress must be due to unexpected circumstances, such as a natural disaster in their home country or a family crisis that impacts their financial support.

  • Temporary Resident Permit Holders: Those holding a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) valid for at least six months are also eligible under this category. They must demonstrate a need for financial support and that their circumstances warrant the issuance of a work permit on humanitarian grounds.

3. Workers Facing Job Abuse

Canada offers protection to foreign workers facing abuse in their employment through the provision of an Open Work Permit (OWP). This is particularly relevant for those holding an employer-specific work permit but experiencing job-related abuse.


  • Current Work Permit Holders: You must have a valid employer-specific work permit.

  • Experience of Abuse: Eligibility extends to those who are being abused or are at risk of abuse in relation to their job in Canada. Abuse can be physical, mental, financial, or involve unsafe working conditions.

4. Family Members of Permanent Residence Applicants

Dependents of individuals who have applied for permanent residence in Canada under the Economic Class may be eligible for an Open Work Permit (OWP). To qualify, the principal foreign national must be a work permit holder and the principal applicant in an Economic Class permanent residence application. Eligible family members include the spouse or common-law partner, dependent children of the spouse or principal foreign national, and dependent children of these dependent children. This policy aims to support Canada's economic competitiveness and the well-being of families awaiting permanent residence decisions.

5. The Spouse or Common-Law Partner and Dependents of a Canadian Worker

If you are the spouse, common-law partner, or dependent child of a worker in Canada, you might be eligible for an Open Work Permit (OWP). The eligibility criteria include:

  1. Relationship with a Canadian Worker: You must be the spouse, common-law partner, or dependent child of a worker whose occupation falls under the TEER categories 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 of the National Occupational Classification (NOC) system.

  2. Duration of Work Authorization: The principal foreign worker must be authorized to work in Canada for at least six months after you apply for your work permit.

  3. Exceptions to Eligibility: This includes being the spouse, common-law partner, or dependent child of an Economic Class permanent resident work permit holder, such as those accepted through the Atlantic Immigration Program or Quebec Selection Certificate holders eligible for International Mobility Program Plus. Additionally, family members of foreign representatives or foreign military members working in Canada may also be eligible.

  4. Genuine Relationship: You must be in a genuine relationship with the principal foreign worker.

  5. General Eligibility for a Work Permit: Meeting the standard requirements for obtaining a work permit in Canada.

  6. Documentation Requirements: If the principal foreign worker holds an open work permit (e.g., a post-graduation work permit holder), specific documentation related to the type of work the family member is engaged in may be required.

  7. Type of Work Permit Application: When applying, select "Open work permit" in the work permit application under the “Details of intended work in Canada” section. The employer section should be left blank.

  8. Validity of Work Permit: Your OWP will not be valid beyond the expiry date of the principal foreign worker’s work permit or your passport, whichever comes first.

6. The Spouse or Common-Law Partner of an International Student

Partners of International Students Spouses or common-law partners of international students in Canada can apply for an OWP. The eligibility criteria include:

Current Scenario: Spouses or common-law partners of international students in Canada have been eligible to apply for an Open Work Permit (OWP), allowing them to work in Canada for the duration of their spouse's or partner's study permit. This has been a significant benefit for families of international students, fostering a supportive environment for academic and professional growth.

Important Upcoming Change: In the weeks ahead, the Canadian government is implementing a pivotal change to this policy. Open Work Permits will soon be available exclusively to spouses of international students enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs. This shift represents a narrowing of the eligibility criteria, as follows:

  1. Eligibility Limited to Master’s and Doctoral Students' Spouses: The new rule restricts OWPs to spouses or common-law partners of students pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees in Canada.

  2. Exclusion of Spouses in Undergraduate and College Programs: Significantly, spouses of international students enrolled in other levels of study, including undergraduate and college programs, will no longer be eligible for an OWP.

7. Partners in the Atlantic Immigration Programs

If your spouse or common-law partner has applied for residency under the Atlantic Immigration Program, you may be eligible for an Open Work Permit (OWP). This is a significant opportunity for families looking to immigrate to Atlantic Canada, allowing the accompanying spouse or partner to work in Canada while the primary applicant’s application is being processed.

8. Refugees and Their Families

Refugees, refugee claimants, protected persons, and their family members in Canada often have the eligibility to apply for an Open Work Permit (OWP). This provision is an essential aspect of Canada's humanitarian approach, allowing those seeking refuge and their families to work and support themselves while in Canada.

9. Individuals with Unenforceable Removal Orders

Individuals in Canada who are facing unenforceable removal orders may find themselves in a complex legal and immigration situation. However, in certain circumstances, these individuals may be eligible to apply for an Open Work Permit (OWP).

Eligibility Criteria:

  1. Unenforceable Removal Order: This typically applies to individuals who cannot be removed from Canada due to reasons beyond their control, such as lack of travel documents or unsafe conditions in their home country.

  2. Compliance with Conditions: Applicants must have complied with all immigration requirements and conditions set forth by Canadian immigration authorities.

10. Temporary Resident Permit Holders

Holders of a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) in Canada may have the opportunity to apply for an Open Work Permit (OWP) under certain conditions. This possibility extends to those who have been granted a TRP for reasons that warrant their stay in Canada despite inadmissibility or other issues.

Key Eligibility Criteria:

  1. Valid TRP: Applicants must hold a valid Temporary Resident Permit. The TRP should be for a significant duration, typically six months or more.

  2. Reason for TRP Issuance: The reasons behind the issuance of the TRP play a crucial role in determining eligibility for an OWP. This is often assessed on a case-by-case basis.

11. Participants in Special Programs

Young workers who are participating in special programs in Canada, often facilitated through international agreements or specific youth exchange programs, might be eligible for an Open Work Permit (OWP). These programs typically aim to provide cultural exchange, professional development, and educational opportunities.

Key Programs and Criteria:

  1. International Experience Canada (IEC): This includes working holiday, young professionals, and international co-op internship categories. Participants in these categories are generally eligible for an OWP.

  2. Cultural Exchange Programs: Participants in cultural exchange programs, often sponsored by educational institutions or cultural organizations, may qualify for an OWP.

  3. Other Special Programs: Occasionally, Canada enters into bilateral or multilateral agreements that include provisions for youth work opportunities, under which participants may be eligible for OWPs.

12. Sponsored Individuals and Their Families

Individuals being sponsored for Canadian residency as a spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner, or accompanying dependent child may be eligible for an Open Work Permit (OWP). This provision is particularly relevant in the context of family reunification and spousal sponsorship programs.

Key Eligibility Points:

  1. Sponsorship Application: The individual must be involved in an ongoing sponsorship application process for permanent residency.

  2. Relation to Sponsor: Applicants can be spouses, common-law partners, conjugal partners, or dependent children accompanying the primary applicant.


In this blog, we have explored the various scenarios under which individuals can apply for an Open Work Permit (OWP) in Canada. This permit offers a flexible work opportunity for a wide range of individuals including spouses of international students, partners in the Atlantic Immigration Programs, refugees and their families, individuals with unenforceable removal orders, temporary resident permit holders, participants in special programs, and sponsored individuals and their families.

What We Offer at Immigrative

Understanding the specifics of each eligibility category and the accompanying criteria can be complex. However, with the right guidance, obtaining an OWP and embarking on your Canadian work journey is achievable.

This is where our expertise at Immigrative Visa Services Inc. comes into play. As a team of dedicated Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs), we specialize in offering tailored immigration solutions. Our in-depth knowledge and experience in Canadian immigration laws enable us to provide comprehensive support to our clients.

  • Eligibility Assessment: We review your individual circumstances to determine your eligibility for an OWP under the various categories.

  • Customized Consultation: Our consultations are specifically tailored to your situation, offering clarity and direction in your OWP application process.

  • Application Preparation and Submission: We assist in preparing and submitting your application, ensuring compliance with all requirements.

  • Guidance and Support: We provide ongoing support and guidance throughout your application process, keeping you informed of any changes in immigration policies that might affect your eligibility.

  • Strategic Advice: Our team offers strategic advice to maximize your chances of obtaining an OWP, considering the latest regulations and policies.

Starting your work journey in Canada with an OWP is a significant step. It’s crucial to navigate this process with accuracy and expertise. Schedule a consultation with us at Immigrative Visa Services Inc. to review your circumstances and embark on your journey to obtaining an Open Work Permit in Canada. Together, we can turn your Canadian work aspirations into reality.


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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