How to Get a Canadian Work Visa
Thinking of studying in Canada, and interested in finding work during or after your studies? Read on for advice on applying for Canadian work visas and the eligibility requirements for international students.
Working in Canada during your studies
As an international student, you can work in Canada on- or off-campus for up to 20 hours per week during term time (and full-time during semester breaks) without the need for a work permit, as long as you meet the following criteria:
- You have a valid study permit.
- You’re a full-time student.
- You’re enrolled at a designated learning institution at the post-secondary level or, in Quebec, a vocational program at the secondary level.
- You’re studying in an academic, vocational or professional training program which is at least six months in duration and leads to a degree, diploma or certificate.
- You have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN) (read more on this below).
You must stop working as soon as you no longer meet any of these requirements, for example if you stop being a full-time student.
You’ll need a work permit as well as a study permit if you’re studying an academic, professional or vocational training program at a designated learning institution that involves work experience such as a co-op program or internship. To apply for this work permit, you’ll need to prove that your work experience is crucial for completing your program (this proof could be in the form of a letter from your university or a copy of the curriculum). The work experience cannot take up more than 50% of your total study program. You’re not eligible to apply for the co-op work permit if you’re studying English or French as a second language (ESL/FSL), or taking part in general interest or preparatory courses.
Working in Canada after graduating
Your Canadian study permit will expire 90 days after graduation, so if you’d like to stay and seek work in Canada after graduating, you’ll need to apply for a work permit under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) within this time. This allows you to gain post-graduation work experience that can help you qualify for permanent residence through Express Entry. You can apply for this if you studied continuously full-time for at least eight months.
If you’ve studied in Canada for more than eight months but less than two years, your work permit will be valid for the same length of time as your studies. If you studied for two years or more, your work permit will be valid for three years.
The other eligibility requirements of the PGWPP are:
- You must be 18 or over.
- You must have a valid study permit before applying.
- You must have completed and passed your study program and have a written confirmation, such as a transcript, that proves you’re eligible to be awarded your degree, diploma or certificate.
- You graduated from a public or private post-secondary institution.
To apply for the post-graduation work permit, you should first read the guide and documents checklist. You can apply online or via mail, answering all the questions carefully and truthfully and paying the application fees. Your passport must be valid for longer than the duration of the work permit you are applying for.
Becoming a Canadian permanent resident with Express Entry
If you’d like to stay to work in Canada as a permanent resident, you may be able to immigrate as a skilled worker through the Express Entry program. International students who have graduated in Canada are likely to already have many of the qualities needed for permanent residency – including English and/or French proficiency, familiarity with Canadian society, and qualifying work experience. You can check your eligibility for the Express Entry program here.
To apply, you’ll need to complete an Express Entry profile, providing information about your identity, employment skill level, language test results, work experience and any family members who would join you in Canada. If you don’t already have a job offer or a nomination from a province or territory at this stage, you must apply for the Government of Canada’s Job Bank, an online job search tool which connects eligible skilled candidates with Canadian employers and jobs.
You should update your Express Entry profile if your situation changes, for example if you get a different language test result or there are changes to your work experience/education.
After you’ve applied for Express Entry, your profile will be ranked against others, using the points-based Comprehensive Ranking System. Points are given for factors such as a valid job offer, previous study in Canada, French/English language skills and nominations by a province or territory. You can view more details here.
The highest-ranking candidates receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence within 90 days. If you do not receive this invitation, you can stay in the pool of applicants for up to 12 months, and can re-enter the pool with a new profile after this time.
Your job offer may require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This is acquired by Canadian employers to support your job offer by showing that no Canadian worker is available for the role. However, some job offers are exempt from this.
Social Insurance Number (SIN)
The Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a nine-digit number you’ll need in order to work in Canada or receive benefits and services from government programs. To apply, international students need to provide their original study permit, which must state that they “may accept employment” or “may work” in Canada. If your study permit doesn’t have any of these conditions or remarks, you must contact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to find out if you are eligible to apply for an amended study permit.
If your study permit clearly states that you are not permitted to work in Canada, this may change if you change your program of study. In this case, you must apply to change the conditions of your study permit and pay the appropriate fee.
Want more content like this? Register for free site membership to get regular updates and your own personal content feed.
This article was originally published in January 2017 . It was last updated in May 2023