Seebird International

Seebird International

Empowering Global Migration

Spouse Visa Canada (SOWP)

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Starting March 19, 2024, your spouse or common-law partner may be eligible for an open work permit if you have a valid study permit and you are studying in either

  • master’s or doctoral degree program in a university or polytechnic institution, or
  • one of the following professional degree programs at a university:
    • Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS, DMD)
    • Bachelor of Law or Juris Doctor (LLB, JD, BCL)
    • Doctor of Medicine (MD)
    • Doctor of Optometry (OD)
    • Pharmacy (PharmD, BS, BSc, BPharm)
    • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
    • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN, BSN, BNSc)
    • Bachelor of Education (B. Ed.)
    • Bachelor of Engineering (B. Eng., BE, BASc)

Your spouse or common-law partner must provide one of the following documents to prove your enrolment in a degree-granting program of study:

  • a valid letter of acceptance from your designated learning institution (DLI)
  • a proof of enrolment letter from your DLI
  • transcripts from your current program

We will ask them to provide additional documents, such as

  • proof of their relationship to you, the student

How to Apply for SOWP

Applying for a Spouse Open Work Permit (SOWP) involves several steps. Here’s an overview of the process:

  1. Determine Eligibility: Ensure that you and your spouse or common-law partner meet the eligibility criteria for the SOWP. Generally, the main applicant must hold a valid study permit or work permit in Canada, and you must be their spouse or common-law partner.

  2. Gather Documents: Collect all required documents for the application. These typically include:

    • Completed application forms (available on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada – IRCC website)
    • Passport or travel document
    • Marriage certificate or proof of common-law partnership
    • Proof of the main applicant’s status in Canada (copy of study permit or work permit)
    • Photos meeting IRCC specifications
    • Other supporting documents as required
  3. Complete the Application: Fill out the application forms accurately and completely. Ensure that all required fields are filled, and all supporting documents are included.

  4. Pay Fees: Pay the application processing fee and any other applicable fees. Fees can be paid online through the IRCC website.

  5. Submit the Application: Submit the completed application package to the appropriate IRCC office. In most cases, SOWP applications are submitted online through the IRCC website. Follow the instructions provided on the website for submission.

  6. Wait for Processing: Once the application is submitted, it will be processed by IRCC. Processing times can vary depending on various factors such as the volume of applications and the complexity of the case.

  7. Receive Decision: You will be notified of the decision on your application. If approved, your spouse or common-law partner will receive the open work permit.

  8. Comply with Conditions: Ensure that you and your spouse or common-law partner comply with any conditions attached to the open work permit, such as maintaining valid temporary resident status in Canada.

  9. Renewal (if applicable): If the open work permit has an expiry date and you wish to continue working in Canada, you may need to apply for a renewal before the permit expires.

If they’re not eligible for this open work permit, they may be able to get another type of work permit. Find out about other work permit options.

Who will not be eligible for an open work permit?

The spouses and common-law partners of international students in other levels of study, including undergraduate and college programs, will no longer be eligible for an open work permit unless they already hold an open work permit under this stream. 

Who will be eligible for an open work permit?

Eligibility is limited to the spouses and common-law partners of students in graduate (master’s and doctorate) and professional degree–granting programs only.

Once these changes are in effect, spouses and common-law partners of international students seeking to extend their existing work permit will continue to be eligible under this stream.

PGWP eligibility for public-private partnership college programs

Some provinces allow public colleges to license their curriculum to be delivered by an affiliated private college. In these cases, students physically attend a private college, but graduate with a diploma from a public institution. Concerns have been raised with regard to the quality of education provided by these institutions, as well as the lack of sufficient student supports. The Auditor General of Ontario has also raised concerns about a lack of oversight into program quality and student services at these institutions.

As such, IRCC has made a change to restrict PGWPs for these institutions, anticipating that without the ability to apply for a PGWP, there will be a reduction in the number of international students enrolling in them.

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