Canada is one of the most desirable destination for international students to continue their academic journey, not only because of the high quality of many universities and colleges, the overall safety that the country provides but also because enrolling in the right academic programs could create a pathway for permanent residence (“PR”). Given the fact that studying in Canada is an expensive journey, when it comes to planning their finances to cover their studies and living costs in Canada, many study permit applicants factor in their plans working part-time or full-time when possible.
In relation to their “working-while-studying” plans study permit applicants must keep in mind probably two things. The most important one is that at the time they submit their study permit application and at the time they arrive in Canada they must be able to satisfy visa officer/CBSA officer that they have available funds to cover their tuition, transportation to and from Canada, as well as their living costs – including that of accompanying family members – without having to work at all, as per s.220 of the IRPR.
Secondly, not every study program in Canada will allow the international student to work off-campus without first obtaining a work permit. An international student can work on-campus full time provided he/she is enrolled full-time at a post-secondary designated learning institution (“DLI”) and maintains full-time status at the institution, as per s.186(f) of the IRPR. On the other hand, an international student can work part-time (max. 20 hours per week) off-campus during academic sessions or full-time during scheduled breaks if the student is enrolled full-time in a post-secondary academic, vocational, or professional training program, or a vocational training program at the secondary in Quebec, as long as the program lasts six months and leads to a degree, diploma or certificate at the DLI, pursuant to s.186(v) of the IRPR. It is worth mentioning that English or French programs as a secondary language (“ESL/FSL”) do not meet the criteria to be able to work off-campus without a work permit.
As a way to tackle the labour shortage that many employers are struggling with nationwide, on October 7, 2022, the Minister Sean Fraser announced new measures through a temporary public policy to tackle this problem by allowing international students to work full-time while in their academic session from November 15, 2022 to December 31, 2023. However, this apparent good news should be tread lightly to avoid potential pitfalls that could jeopardize the long term plans of international students.
The main question could be, which international students can benefit from this public policy?
First of all, this policy does not include any future international student until December 31, 2023. This policy applies only to international students who on October 7, 2022 already were in possession of a valid study permit or had submitted his/her study permit application, either for the first time or as an extension application as long as they applied before the study permit expired.
Secondly, only international students whose program of studies allowed them to work part-time (max. 20 hours) off-campus during academic sessions and enrolled full-time in their programs can benefit from this temporary public policy. Examples of international student who cannot benefit from the public policy are ESL/FSL students, part-time students, students enrolled in programs that are shorter than six months, just to mention some common examples.
Lastly, it is worth highlighting that although this public policy allows eligible international students – as described above – to work full-time off-campus during the academic sessions, it does not exempt them from complying with s.220.1(1) of the IRPR, specially subsection s.220.1(1)(b) which refer to the international student’s obligation to be actively pursuing their program of study. Several factors are taking into account by an immigration officer to assess if an international student is actively pursuing his/her course, one of which is “progress toward completion of courses”. Therefore, working more than an international student cam handle, missing classes and getting poor grades and/or failing subjects could be reasons for an immigration officer to be of the opinion that the international student is not being compliant with s.220.1(1) of the IRPR, which in turn could lead to drastic consequences such as the work permit being revoked and the international student be declared inadmissible to Canada under s.41 of the IRPA and be issued an exclusion order pursuant to s.228(1)(c)(v) of the IRPR.