Canada is one of the most popular student destinations in the world for undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Not at all unexpected for a vast country with so many top-class universities, unparalleled quality of life, and a long history of multiculturalism.
Yet, besides the excellent education and high living standards, there's another significant reason for Canada's popularity among foreign nationals. It's how simple it is for someone to work while studying.
In a few words, Canadian policies for foreign labor enable international co-eds to easily combine working and learning according to their financial needs. Meanwhile, Canadian schools offer many on-campus and off-campus work opportunities to provide students with financial independence and a direct link to their industry's job market. All it takes for someone to get a job in Canada is a valid work permit.
What is a work permit
A work permit is an official document allowing someone to work legally in a country different from their place of origin. It is issued by the destination country's government to foreign workers or students. Since immigration and foreign labour policies are different from one country to another, so are the requirements and conditions for obtaining a work permit.
In some cases, like in the US, foreign adults can even be legally employed without a special permit. However, most of the time, some kind of official document is necessary for someone to work outside their country to ensure both the employer's and the employee's rights.
So, international students who want to work while studying must do their research on their destination's specific rules and regulations. If finding work is critical to supporting their studies, they should know beforehand whether they need a permit to work and how to get one.
In Canada, our country of focus, foreign nationals need some type of work permit to get employment, though there are a few exceptions.
Read more: Why study in Canada: The 10 best reasons
Do students in Canada need a work permit?
To study in Canada, international students must first apply for and obtain a study permit. A student's permit is their legal license to stay in the country for the length of their studies. But a study permit also doubles as a work permit (albeit with specific restrictions, like the duration of their undergraduate or postgraduate program).
In other words, international students don't need a Canadian work permit to get on-campus and off-campus work (part-time or full-time). Nor do they need a work permit to receive co-op placements and internships through their university's services.
Yet, someone's study permit may have specific restrictions regarding the types of employment they can get. For example, not all students can work off-campus without applying for an additional work permit.
What are the types of a Canadian work permit
Proceeding with a work permit application in Canada is a relatively straightforward process. You just have to know what kind of work permit is right for your case. That depends on factors like the job you've been employed for, your reason for entering Canada, etc.
In some cases, you don't need a work permit at all (e.g., if you're in Canada as a member of a foreign TV crew). But if you are required by Canadian law to have it, then you'd have to apply for one of the following:
A closed work permit
A closed work permit requires that the applicant has already gotten a job offer, and it's only valid for that job. So, to acquire such a permit, someone must provide proof that they have a job waiting for them in Canada. That's provided in the form of an electronic job offer submitted by their future employer.
In some cases (e.g., temporary work), employers also have to apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) before they are allowed to hire a foreign national. That's an official certification that no Canadian citizen or permanent resident could fill the position.
Work permits are usually closed, allowing their holder to work for the employer listed on the license and none other unless they re-apply.
But there are cases where someone can first submit a work permit application in Canada and find a job afterward.
A Canada open work permit
An open work permit in Canada is not job-specific and does not require the applicant to have a job offer pending before getting their license. Therefore, with an open work permit, someone can search for any job and work for any employer across Canada.
As mentioned above, closed permits are the norm for foreign employers, so not all job-seekers entering the country are eligible for a Canada open work permit. Eligibility status is mainly granted to university students and graduates, spouses of students or citizens, refugees from war-ridden districts or other vulnerable groups, special employment program participants, permanent residence applicants, etc.
University graduates, especially, are given a unique opportunity to stay in Canada and work for an acclaimed employer in their field of study.
A post-graduation work permit
A post-graduate work permit in Canada is optionally provided to most international students who graduate from a post-secondary institution. It may be valid from 8 months for up to 3 years, depending on the length of the applicant's studies. A PGWP is an open permit enabling graduates to seek employment in any position, anywhere in Canada, as well as apply for permanent residency if things work out professionally.
As you can see, students in Canada are treated as potential residents and members of the elite workforce. This is more than enough reason to consider working during your studies in a Canadian school.
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How to apply for work permit in Canada
Before applying for a work permit in Canada, you should check if you’re eligible for one (and which type) by answering the official Canadian government questionnaire. If yes, then you must generally meet some or all of the following requirements:
The application process for a Canadian work permit takes place online before entering Canada. When acquired, a work permit also includes certain conditions to be met at all times by the holder. These may be:
What’s the average work permit processing time in Canada
As expected, the processing time for a Canadian work permit may vary depending on permit type, special conditions (e.g., the Covid-19 pandemic), as well as possible case-specific factors. In general, obtaining a work permit in Canada might take a few weeks up to several months.
So, if you are fully aware of your employment needs while studying in Canada, you best find out if you need a work permit and what type early and apply as soon as possible.
Why apply for a post-graduate work permit in Canada
Now that we have established that students can work in Canada with their study permit or an appropriate work permit, let's take a moment to highlight the benefits of the open post-graduation work permit.
Graduates that choose to stay in Canada and work under a PGWP have the chance to gain valuable work experience from top employers across all industries. That way, they can launch their career from the get-go and amass some excellent credentials for the international job market.
Also, they can test the waters of what's it like to live and work in Canada. If it works out for them, they can then apply for permanent residence and become bonafide Canadians.
In that light, everyone considering studying in Canada should know that some study programs may not be eligible for a PGWP. So, that's one of the things they should confirm early in the university-picking stage to keep their career options as broad as possible.
How to apply for post-graduate work permit in Canada
After you graduate you have 180 days to apply for a PGWP by submitting the paperwork that confirms:
Note that you may have to provide more documents after applying.
If your study permit expires before getting your official degree, you can apply for a permit to extend your stay or leave Canada and apply for a post-graduate work permit online from your country.
Getting a work permit in Canada as a student: a quick review
The first thing you need to know if you plan to work while studying in Canada is that students are eligible to work legally with only their study permit. However, study permits carry specific restrictions.
If those restrictions prevent you from getting the job you need off-campus, you can always opt for a closed work permit that allows you to work in a specific job that fits your requirements.
When picking your studies, you should also keep in mind that after you graduate, the Canadian state gives you the option to get an open post-graduation work permit for up to 3 years.
Can you think of a better way to kickstart your career before you get out of your academic dress?
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