For married couples, studying in Canada might seem a little complicated. Sometimes both want to study but more commonly couples want to be together with one studying and the other working. Canadian rules and regulations do make it possible for the spouse of a student to work.
Note that in Canada a « spouse » can include two people who have been living together long enough to establish a « common-law » marriage without obtaining a marriage licence. It can also include same-sex relationships.
Spouse of a student – work permit
If I have a study permit can my spouse come to Canada and work? There are two basic situations.
Situation One. The spouse who wants to work already is entitled to enter Canada when the spouse that wants to study is applying for a study permit. In this case, either the spouse has a passport where a visitor visa is not needed or already has a visitor visa to visit Canada. In each case the spouse can accompany the one studying using a Canada study permit.
Situation Two. The spouse who wants to work needs a visa to visit Canada and does not have one.
For those in Situation One: The spouse who wants to work can accompany the spouse who has a study permit. After arrival there is an on-line application process. It can take some months to get a decision. It is important to follow all the steps in this link:
For those in Situation Two: When the student is applying for the study permit the spouse who wants to work can apply for the visitor visa and a work permit at that time. Even if the student wanting to study in Canada is granted a study permit it does not mean for sure that the spouse who wants to work will be granted either a visitor visa or both a visitor visa and a work permit. The decision about the work permit for the one spouse will normally come at the same time as the decision about the study permit application for the other spouse.
Note that in some countries such as China, India, Viêt Nam and a few others, there is a Student Direct Stream or SDS and there is provision under the SDS for a spouse also to apply for a visitor visa and a work permit. The link is here:
Spouse of a student on a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)
Can the spouse work if the studying spouse gets a PGWP
Canada has established permission for the spouse of someone with a PGWP to also work in Canada. At the very bottom of the official link immediately below it says:
Spouses and common-law partners of post-graduation work permit holders may be eligible to apply for an open work permit under the C41 exemption for (spouses and common-law partners of skilled workers). https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-manuals/temporary-residents/study-permits/post-graduation-work-permit-program/permit.html
If you are preparing any application to Canada Immigration make sure to read all the guidelines, available in English or French, and to understand them fully. If after reading the official guidelines on-line, and there are still doubts, you can either contact Canada’s Immigration Department in Canada or one of its many offices overseas.
In some situations, you may think it advisable to contact a lawyer (Barrister & Solicitor) called to the bar in one of the Canadian provinces, or a licensed immigration practitioner (consultant). There is is a « law society » which can be contacted to check if really the lawyer is a recognized member.
To find the law society to contact about your lawyer, start with this link: