Canada New Spousal Open Work Permit in 2024

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Attention all spouses and common-law partners of international students in Canada! Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has recently updated the Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) eligibility requirements.

As of 19 March 2024, if you’re the spouse or partner of an international student, you’re only eligible for an SOWP if your partner is enrolled in a master’s degree or doctoral program at a Canadian university or polytechnic institution. This means spouses of undergraduate students will generally no longer be eligible for open work permits.

There are some exceptions to this new rule for Canada SOWP published by IRCC on 19 March 2024

Exceptions on Spousal Open Work Permit

If you are an international student in Canada and your spouse wants to apply for SOWP, then you must study any one of these levels of programs

  • master’s or doctoral degree program in a university or polytechnic institution or
  • one of the following professional degree programs at a university:
    • 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 additional documents require for Spousal Open Work Permit visa application?

Your spouse or common-law partner must provide one of the following documents to prove your enrolment in a degree-granting program of study:

  • valid letter of acceptance from your designated learning institution (DLI)
  • a proof of enrolment letter from your DLI
  • transcripts from your current program

IRCC will ask to provide additional documents, such as

  • proof of their relationship to you, the student

Canada has been one of the most immigration-friendly countries in the world so far, but things are changing rapidly with time. The misuse of the immigration system puts them in an awkward situation, requiring them to implement some harder rules like restricting spousal open work permits for international students, caps on student numbers, provincial allocation, and so on. 

Now, we will discuss a few real-life situations after the new IRCC law was announced. 

We have a student studying at Centennial College with a 3-year advanced diploma, and she has a boyfriend in Banani, Dhaka. Her plan was to go to Bangladesh, marry her BF, and bring him on a Spousal open work permit. Now, things have totally changed, and she's aware that she can't get anyone as her study program doesn't allow her to invite her spouse to Canada on a work permit any longer. 
One of our other students from Gazipur is studying for a Postbaccalaureate Diploma at Cape Breton University in Canada. He recently went to Bangladesh to travel and got married to his fiancé. Now, he was asking us this morning if his situation allows him to bring her Spousal open work permit. 

The answer from us was NO, you can’t. Unfortunately, you can not bring your spouse on an Spousal open work permit (SOWP) after 19 March 2024. However, you can still apply for your spouse on a Visitor permit. 

But what could be the ultimate solution if you are in this kind of situation? So our agency in the Dhaka office strongly recommends avoiding getting married at a very early stage, e.g., undergraduate or Diploma, because Canada and many other countries don’t allow spouses on undergraduate student visas.

These are prevalent scenarios nowadays for International students in Canada, and many may not be eligible to bring their spouse on an Spousal open work permit. Usually, undergraduates are longer duration than Masters degrees, and also people are in the very early years of their educational career unless they’ve had some huge study break. However, the normal expectation is that students start college or university at the age of 18/19 years of old and have no breaks between their studies.

It is also helpful for immigration purposes to prove your true intention. Unfortunately, our socio-economic (Bangladesh) scenarios do not always speak the truth. Students from Bangladesh have many barriers to starting their university or college life right away, such as selecting the right career path, fear of preparing an English language assessment for higher studies, preparation for public university admissions, delayed arranging fees for higher studies, etc. 

All these ups and downs have let our undergraduate students begin their journey a bit lately. Usually, by the time they are caught, they are already caught with 1-2 years of study break. That gives them emotional support while studying abroad. So, it’s becoming a usual practice for many students from Bangladesh to get married at an early stage of their academics and careers if they are pursuing education in Canada or abroad. 

But this is not the only case; many other nationalities are also doing the same (bringing a spouse on a student visa at the UG level). To many, it has become a more common way to support themselves in Canada, with spousal open work permit rights that allow them to work full-time and earn to support themselves while others study. 

This update may significantly impact the lives of many international student families. Stay informed, explore your options, and don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance if needed.pen_spark

I want to study 2 years Diploma in Canada. Can I include my spouse on open work permit?

No you can’t include them with your application on Spousal Open Work permit But you still can include them with visitor visa with your application.

I’m a BBA student enrolled in College. If I get married now can I bring my spouse from my country?

Again the answer is NO. But you can bring your spouse on visitor permit and will not have any work rights during their stay in Canada.

Can Post-Graduate Certificate students bring their spouse on SOWP visa category?

Well, this is degree is not considered a Masters or PhD level degree so international students not eligible to bring spouse on Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP).

Can a Diploma or Bachelor degree student bring spouse in Canada?

They can’t bring their spouse or common-law partner on Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) but their spouse can come to Canada on visitor permit where they will have no rights to stay longer than six months and will have no rights to work.

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