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IRCC Updates Eligibility Criteria for Spousal Open Work Permits

Overview of Changes to Spousal Open Work Permits

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has provided additional information regarding adjustments to eligibility criteria for Spousal Open Work Permits (SOWP).








Revisions in Eligibility Requirements

Effective January 22, 2024, IRCC implemented several modifications to Canada’s international student



New Criteria for Eligibility

As of March 19, partners and spouses of international students qualify for a SOWP only if their sponsor is pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree program at a university or polytechnic institution in Canada.


Exceptions for Undergraduate Students

Some exceptions apply to spouses or partners of undergraduate students enrolled in specific professional degree programs at universities. These individuals remain eligible to apply for a SOWP.


Required Documentation for Application

Applicants for SOWPs must furnish documents demonstrating their relationship to the student and evidence of the student’s enrollment in a degree-granting program of study. Acceptable documents include a valid Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) or proof of enrollment letter from the DLI.


Continued Eligibility for Previous Applicants

Individuals who applied for a SOWP before March 19 remain eligible if their partner possesses a valid study permit, qualifies for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP), or is a full-time student at designated types of educational institutions.


Options for Ineligible Applicants

Spouses and partners of international students deemed ineligible for a SOWP may explore alternative avenues such as applying for another type of work permit or a visitor visa (TRV). However, it's important to note that visitors to Canada are not authorized to work.


Ministerial Insight

Immigration Minister Marc Miller, addressing the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) on February 28, mentioned the rationale behind limiting SOWPs to partners and spouses of master’s and PhD students. The decision aimed to address both volume and integrity challenges observed in the program.

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