March 29, 2023

Examining the Advantages of an Open Work Permit for the Spouse

Canada is a country that values family reunification, and the government has several programs to help bring families together. The Spousal Partner and Children Sponsorship Programs are some of the most popular ways for Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their spouses, partners, and children to come and live with them in Canada.

However, the immigration process can be long and complex, and it can take over a year for Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to process an application under this program. In the meantime, your spouse or partner may be able to obtain a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP).

In this article, we will examine the benefits of an open work permit for the spouse, the eligibility criteria, and how to apply for it.


What is an Open Work Permit?

An open work permit is a type of work permit that allows foreign nationals to work for any employer in Canada, without the need for a job offer or a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Unlike closed work permits, which are tied to a specific employer, open work permits give foreign nationals the freedom to live and work anywhere in Canada.


Benefits of a Spousal Open Work Permit

Short-term Financial Relief

If your spouse or partner is waiting for their permanent residency application to be processed, having an open work permit can help reduce the financial strain on your household. It allows them to enter the Canadian workforce and start earning a salary, which can help cover expenses such as rent, groceries, and bills.

Staying Together

An open work permit also allows couples to live together while they wait for a decision from IRCC. Without a temporary work permit of some kind, it is far less likely that a foreign national will be allowed to stay in Canada for the entire length of the process. By allowing spouses to work, Canada is helping to keep families together.

Building Networks and Gaining Experience

Working in Canada on an open work permit also provides an opportunity for spouses to improve their language skills, gain Canadian work experience, and create professional and social networks. These are all factors that can work to their advantage when applying for permanent residence.

Length of Validity

The length of validity for a SOWP depends on when the lead applicant's work permit expires. For example, if you are in Canada on a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP), your partner's SOWP will no longer be valid when your PGWP expires. The same logic applies to all other types of temporary residency. If the lead applicant is a Canadian citizen, your SOWP will expire when their passport does.


Eligibility for a SOWP

To be eligible for a Spousal Open Work Permit, the following criteria must be met:

  1. A spousal/common-law partner sponsorship application for permanent residence is submitted.
  2. The applicant must have valid temporary resident status as a visitor, student, or worker.
  3. The applicant and sponsor must meet all eligibility criteria for the spousal/common-law partner sponsorship.

It is important to note that the person being sponsored must already be in Canada and living with their partner. Applicants who have applied for spousal sponsorship but are living outside of Canada are not eligible for an open work permit.


How to Apply

Foreign spouses or partners can apply for a SOWP at the same time or any time after they apply for permanent residence through the spousal sponsorship program. Once the applicant receives notification from IRCC that they are eligible for permanent residency or "approved in principle," they can apply for a SOWP online. To be approved in principle means that they meet eligibility criteria but have not yet passed medical, security, or background checks.


Validity of SOWP

The validity of a SOWP depends on the expiry date of the lead applicant's work permit. For instance, if the lead applicant is on a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP), the SOWP will expire when the PGWP expires. The same logic applies to all other types of temporary residency. If the lead applicant is a Canadian citizen, the SOWP will expire when their passport does.

In conclusion, a spousal open work permit can be a valuable tool for sponsored partners waiting for permanent residency in Canada. It provides the opportunity to work and contribute to Canadian society, establish a sense of routine and normalcy, and gain Canadian work experience. Additionally, it can help to reduce the financial strain on the household during the waiting period. However, it is important to note that not all sponsored partners are eligible for a spousal open work permit and it is important to consult with an immigration lawyer or consultant to determine the best course of action.


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