Exploring the Benefits of a Spouse’s Open Work Permit

Canada is expected to welcome 82,000 new permanent residents to Canada per year under the spousal partner and child sponsorship programs. However, it can take more than a year for Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to process an application under this program. In the meantime, your spouse or partner may be able to obtain a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP).

If your partner is applying for permanent residency through inland spousal sponsorship, they may be eligible for a Spousal Open Work Permit.

What is Open Work Permit?

Unlike a closed work permit, which limits a person to one employer, an open work permit entitles foreign nationals to legally live anywhere in Canada and work for any employer.

Working in Canada on an open work permit exempts you from some of the requirements included with other temporary work permits, such as the Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Also, it is not necessary to have a job offer to apply.

Benefits of Spouse’s Open Work Permit

In the short term, having an open work permit may mean that your partner is able to enter the Canadian workforce and therefore ease the financial strain on your home country while IRCC processes their permanent residence application.

Additionally, an open work permit allows couples to live together while they await a decision from the IRCC. Without some type of temporary work permit, there is little chance that a foreign national will be allowed to stay in Canada during the entire process.

Working in Canada while waiting for permanent residency allows a person to improve their language skills, gain Canadian work experience, and build professional and social networks. All of these factors can work to one’s advantage when applying for permanent residency.

The period of validity of the SOWP depends on when the principal applicant’s work permit expires. For example, if you are in Canada on a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP), your partner’s SOWP will no longer be valid when your PGWP expires. The same logic applies to all other types of temporary residence.

If the main applicant is a Canadian citizen, your SOWP will end when their passport expires.

Eligibility for a SOWP

In order to get a Spouse’s Open Work Permit, there are certain criteria that must be met.

  • A spousal/common-law partner sponsorship application is submitted for permanent residency.
  • The applicant must have valid temporary resident status as a visitor, student or worker.
  • The applicant and sponsor must meet all eligibility criteria for spousal/common-law partner sponsorship.

Specifically, the person being sponsored must already be in Canada and living with their partner. Applicants who have applied for spousal sponsorship but are living outside of Canada are not eligible.

how to apply

Foreign spouses or partners may apply for a SOWP at the same time, or at any later time, they may apply for permanent residency through the Spousal Sponsorship Program.

Once your partner has received notification from the IRCC that they are eligible for permanent residence, or “approved in principle,” they can apply for the SOWP online. Being approved in principle means they meet eligibility criteria but haven’t passed medical, security or background checks.

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