Canada Announces New Rules, Eligibility for Spousal Open Work Permit

New regulations from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) affect the eligibility of spouses and partners of international students for a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP). This article explores the changes and what they mean for international students in Canada.

In a recent announcement, the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) unveiled significant modifications to Canada’s international students and changes to the eligibility of their spouses and partners for a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) as of March 19, 2024.

These changes aim to enhance opportunities for spouses and partners of international students, particularly in accessing work permits. Here are the key highlights:

What Is Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP)?

A Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) allows the spouse or partner of a temporary resident in Canada to work and live in the country without needing a specific job offer. It promotes family reunification and enables spouses to contribute to the Canadian workforce. Applicants must meet eligibility criteria and provide proof of their relationship and their partner’s status in Canada.

Eligibility Expansion

Under the latest amendments, spouses and partners of international students are now eligible for a spousal open work permit (SOWP). This permit allows them to work and reside in Canada alongside their partners.


New Eligibility Criteria

IRCC has refined the eligibility criteria for SOWP applicants. Previously limited to partners of students enrolled in master’s or doctoral programs, the eligibility now extends to partners of students enrolled in professional degree programs.

This includes various fields such as dentistry, engineering, nursing, law, optometry, education, pharmacy, medicine, and veterinary medicine.

Here are the eligible professional degree programs for applying for a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP):

  • Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS, DMD)
  • Bachelor of Engineering (B. Eng., BE, BASc)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN, BSN, BNSc)
  • Bachelor of Law or Juris Doctor (LLB, JD, BCL)
  • Doctor of Optometry (OD)
  • Bachelor of Education (B. Ed.)
  • Pharmacy (PharmD, BS, BSc, BPharm)
  • Doctor of Medicine (MD)
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)

Previous Eligibility No Longer Valid

Applications submitted before March 19, 2024, will still be considered if the international student spouse meets the previous eligibility criteria. This includes having a valid study permit and being enrolled full-time at a designated learning institution (DLI).

  • Possession of a study permit in good standing
  • Enrollment as a full-time student at a public post-secondary institution, college, or university, including CEGEP in Quebec, or a private college-level institution in Quebec
  • Attendance at a Canadian private school authorized to confer degrees under provincial legislation, such as bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees

Documents Required for SOWP Application

To apply for an SOWP under the new rules, spouses and partners will need to submit documents proving their relationship with the student and the student’s valid enrollment in a master’s or doctoral program. This may include:

  • A valid Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from a DLI for the student’s program
  • Proof of enrollment letter from the student’s DLI
  • Transcripts from the student’s current program

Important Note: Spouses and partners of international students in undergraduate or college programs remain ineligible for SOWP under these new regulations.

Considering Studying in Canada?

If you’re an international student planning to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in Canada, this update provides a welcome opportunity for your spouse or partner to work and contribute to the household income while you complete your studies.

For further information on SOWP eligibility and application procedures, visit the IRCC website.


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Manish Khandelwal
Manish Khandelwal

Manish Khandelwal, a travel-tech enthusiast with over a decade of experience in the travel industry. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of, he's passionate about writing.

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