Since 2014, newly arrived full-time international students with valid study permits have been allowed to work in Canada without a work permit. They can work on-campus for an unlimited number of hours and, if their program lasts at least six months, they can work off-campus up to 20 hours per week while school is in progress, and full-time during study breaks.
International students who wish to work while studying must obtain a Social Insurance Number (SIN) from Service Canada. They can work as soon as they have their SIN.
International students in Canada are also allowed to work as part of a co-op or internship program as long as the work is part of their educational program. Students in these programs will require a work permit in addition to their study permit.
After university: working and gaining permanent residency in Canada
The Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) allows international students who have graduated from a program of at least eight months’ duration at a Canadian university to get work experience in the country. This permit allows students to work for the same period of time that their university program lasted, up to a maximum three years. If certain criteria are met, a student’s spouse may be able to obtain an Open Spousal Work Permit.
Canadian experience as a skilled worker through the PGWPP helps graduates qualify for permanent residence in Canada through a process called Express Entry, the system through which most immigrants obtain permanent residence in the country. And under new rules introduced in November 2016, getting a degree in Canada also makes it easier to gain permanent residence. With permanent resident status, you get most of the social benefits, including health-care coverage, that Canadian citizens receive. Permanent residents can subsequently apply for Canadian citizenship after having lived in Canada for a predetermined number of years.
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