How to Get a Spousal Open Work Permit in Canada
It’s not easy to move to Canada by yourself, especially if you have to leave your family behind. If you are in Canada temporarily to study or work, you might wish your spouse or common-law partner could come with you. If you have a work permit or study permit to work or study in Canada, your spouse or common-law partner may also be able to work in Canada.
Having your partner with you can help you adjust to your new life in important ways, both emotionally and financially. In this article, we explain what a spousal open work permit (SOWP) is, who is eligible for one, and how to get one in Canada.
What is a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP)?
With a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP), the spouse or common-law partner of a person with a work permit or study permit can work for any employer who meets the requirements in Canada. The SOWP is not tied to a certain employer, so you don’t need a job offer in Canada to apply for one. Instead, you can come to Canada and keep looking for work once you get there.
Employers also don’t need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada to hire applicants with an open work permit. This makes it easier for a SOWP holder to find a job in Canada.
General Eligibility Requirements to Apply for a SOWP
To get a work permit for your spouse, you must meet the following conditions.
Must be in a genuine relationship
If you are the foreign national’s spouse or common-law partner, you must be in a real relationship with the foreign national. If you got married to get temporary or permanent resident status in Canada, you won’t be seen as a spouse or common-law partner. You’ll have to show proof that you’re in a relationship, like a lease showing that you’ve lived together for at least a year.
Valid work permit or study permit holder
For you to be eligible for a SOWP, your spouse or common-law partner must have either an employer-specific or open work permit (in a non-spouse category) or work in Canada without a work permit. Or, they must have a valid study permit and be a full-time student at a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada.
Duration of primary foreign national’s work or study permit
When you send in your SOWP application, your spouse or common-law partner’s work or study permit must have at least six months left on it.
Type of occupation
Until recently, a SOWP could only be applied for by the spouses of people who worked in high-skill jobs. But from January 2023 to January 2025, no matter how skilled they are, the Canadian government will let the spouses of most people with work permits work in Canada. Step by step, this policy is being put into place.
You might be eligible for a SOWP if your spouse or common-law partner:
- Works in any job in Canada in TEER category 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 (except a TEER 4 or 5 job in the low-wage stream of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and the Agricultural Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker program),
- Has an open work permit in Canada,
- Has applied for permanent residence through an economic class immigration program, and has a valid work permit.
Check the government website before sending in your application for a spousal open work permit to see if the rules have changed.
Documentation required to apply for a SOWP
Once you know you’re eligible to apply for a spousal open work permit, you can gather the documents you’ll need to complete the process quickly.
Here are the papers you’ll need to get started:
- Proof of a real relationship: Marriage or common-law declarations are required. You may need to show that you have lived together for at least a year by owning or renting a property or having other important documents with the same address.
- Proof of your spouse or common-law partner’s status in Canada: A copy of the job offer or contract from the current employer of your spouse. If your spouse has a study permit, you may need to provide the following:
- A letter of enrollment showing that your spouse goes to a certain school
- Proof that your spouse is a full-time student in a program and school that qualify for the PGWP
- Copy of their study permit.
- Acknowledgment of Receipt (AOR) letter: If you’ve applied for PR and your application is still being processed, you’ll need to show your AOR, which says that the IRCC has received your application and is working on it.
- Your passport: Check your passport expiration before applying for a SOWP. When your passport or spouse or common-law partner’s work permit expires, so does your work permit.
- Biometrics: You’ll need to give your biometrics unless you did so as part of a previous application within the last 10 years and they’re still valid.
- Medical or criminal background check: You may have to submit a medical or criminal background check.
- Proof of payment: You’ll need to pay the processing fees and show proof that you did so with your application.
How to Apply for a Spousal Open Work Permit
You can apply for a SOWP either from within Canada or from outside the country. The IRCC requires everyone who wants to apply to do so online, but there are some exceptions.
All set to apply? Here are the steps you have to take:
- Have a scanner or camera on hand to make electronic copies of your documents, passport, or other form of ID if you don’t have a passport.
- Before you fill out your application, you should read the instructions. The guide will tell you how to fill out each section of the form.
- Get together all the documents you need. When you apply online, you will get a personalized document list.
- Fill out the document checklist and the forms you need.
- Sign up for a secure IRCC account or log in to an account you already have.
- Fill out the forms with care and accuracy.
- Sign and date the papers.
- Pay the required fees and send your application and all of the documents that support it online.
Application fee for a spousal open work permit
If you want to apply for a spousal open work permit, you’ll have to pay a processing fee of $340. This includes a processing fee of $155, a fee of $100 for an open work permit, and a $85, biometrics fee. Keep in mind that your application may come with extra costs, such as the cost of renewing a travel document or passport, a courier, photocopies, printing, or other costs.
Processing time for a Spousal open work permit
Your SOWP’s processing time depends on factors like your spouse or common-law partner’s permit or visa and your country of origin. Check the processing times page for the most recent information.
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