I applied to sponsor my spouse for permanent residence. Can they work in Canada while the application processes?
If you submitted an inland application to sponsor your spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, they have an option to work while the application processes.
This does not apply to applications that are filed at visa offices outside of Canada, even if your spouse or partner is living in Canada. However, they may still qualify for a work permit under another category.
Spouse or Partner in Canada Class
Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their spouse, common-law or conjugal partners for Canadian permanent residence. The sponsored partner must be at least 18 years of age, and you must demonstrate a genuine relationship. Under the inland category, you must reside with your partner in Canada.
There are two steps in the sponsorship application process: (1) the sponsor eligibility stage; and (2) the application for permanent residence.
During the first step, immigration officers will assess the sponsor’s eligibility to sponsor their partner. Once approved, the partner’s application for permanent residence will be sent to another inland immigration office for processing.
Open Work Permit Applications
Inland partners being sponsored may qualify for an open work permit while the application for permanent residence is being processed.
We strongly suggest that the open work permit application is submitted at the time the sponsorship, and permanent residence application is filed; however, you can also submit the work permit application after if you missed it during your initial filing. The partner being sponsored will need to submit a work permit form and supporting documents.
The open work permit application will be processed within four months from the time the sponsorship application is filed. Your partner is not authorized to work while they wait for processing and will need to receive their approved work permit before they can start work in Canada.
The open work permit option is not available for partners with applications being processed at immigration offices outside of Canada.
Once your partner receives their open work permit, they will be able to work in any province or territory across Canada in almost any occupation.
Open Work Permit Restrictions and Duration
The restricted occupations include jobs in healthcare and child or elderly care. To have this restriction remove from the work permit, your partner will need to undergo an Up-Front Medical Examination and request that their work permit be unrestricted.
If your partner has an open work permit with these restrictions, they can request to amend the work permit and have the restriction lifted once they have undergone their medical examination.
The duration of the open work permit will depend on the validity of your partner’s passport and other factors, including discretion of the immigration officer reviewing the application; however, the work permit will cover the period until a decision is made on the permanent residence application. It can take at least one year (for applications filed on or after December 7, 2016) for an application to be processed under the in-Canada category.
If you are sponsoring dependent children along with your partner, the children will not be eligible for open work permits while the application processes. They may be eligible for a work permit or study permit under other categories.
Tips for In-Canada Sponsorship Applications
Given that it can take a year or longer for an application to process inland, it is important to ensure that you have all of the required information and documents when you file so you do not experience significant delays.
If the sponsor does not include all required details to process the first stage of the application, they could get refused and have to start all over again, including paying the spousal sponsorship application fee a second time. Similarly, you may need to reapply if your partner’s application is refused at the second stage or you may lose time if the reviewing immigration officer needs to request additional documentation.
We strongly suggest ensuring that you have all mandatory documents as well as substantial evidence of your relationship. Even if you and your partner are married and have children, you will demonstrate that your relationship is genuine and the documents to submit can be extensive.
We also tell our clients to maintain a file with ongoing proof of their relationship after the application is filed. This way, if an immigration officer does request an additional proof, you will be ready to submit further documents quickly and will not have to spend time gathering this information.