BP101: Studying in Canada

Change a Study Permit to a Work Permit in Canada

Change a Study Permit to a Work Permit in Canada
Written by: BorderPass Corp.
Last updated:  
April 2024

Change a Study Permit to a Work Permit in Canada

Every year, thousands of students from all over the globe decide that Canada should be the next step in their educational journey. While for some, enjoying the culture for a few years while studying is enough, many end up wanting to extend their stay past the end of their programs and become part of the Canadian workforce.

Initially, each international student enters the country on a study permit. This is the most important document throughout their studies. However, for the ones who want to work both during and after their programs end, there is another document they must possess - a work permit.

What is a Work Permit in Canada?

A work permit is an official document issued by the Canadian government that allows foreigners to legally work in the country for a specific period of time. It is a very important document for any individual who wants to get employed while they are residing in a country. It is important to note that a study permit does not automatically grant the right to work full-time in Canada. However, international students with study permits can still work while studying, but with certain caveats. For example, there are restrictions when it comes to how many hours they can work.

There are two types of work permits in Canada: employer-specific work permits and open work permits. Employer-specific permit lets an individual work according to the conditions such as:

  • the name of the specific employer they can work for
  • how long can they work
  • the location where they can work

On the other hand, open work permits let the individual work for any employer in Canada, except for:

  • ones that are listed as ineligible
  • ones that regularly offer striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages

Applying for a work permit can be done from both outside of Canada and within the country. When the application is done from outside, it is done online through a government website. The application fee for the work permit is $155 CAD, and the application fee for an open work permit holder fee is $100 CAD. Additionally, anyone who wants to work in Canada has to have a Social Insurance Number (SIN). This means that all international students who are considering getting a work permit must first apply for SIN. BorderPass can also help students with SIN registration.

Why Switch to a Work Permit?

Switching from a study permit to a work permit in Canada offers several advantages for international students. First and foremost, it removes the work hour restrictions for off-campus work, which can help any student who is having financial troubles. Secondly, it allows students to work full-time with little to no restrictions when it comes to the type of work. This provides them with an opportunity to gain valuable Canadian work experience, enhances their chances of getting employed later, and increases their chances of qualifying for permanent residence.

Changing to a Work Permit After Completing Your Studies

Post-Graduation Work Program (PGWP)

The primary option for transitioning from a study permit to a work permit is the Post-Graduation Work Program (PGWP). This program allows international students who have completed their studies at a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada to work in the country for up to three years after graduation. The work permit's duration depends on the program's completion length.

To be eligible for the PGWP, international students must be 18 years old and fulfill the following criteria:

  • have not previously held a post-graduation work permit
  • had authorization to study in Canada that expired in the 180-day period immediately preceding the PGWP application
  • have graduated from an eligible designated learning institution (DLI)
  • have completed an eligible program that lasted at least 8 months and led to a degree, diploma or certificate
  • have maintained full-time student status in Canada during each academic year of the program (with certain exceptions)
  • have received confirmation of completion of their program of study
  • applied for the permit within 180 days of the completion of their studies

The following levels of study and programs are eligible for PGWPs:

  • a public post-secondary institution such as a college, trade or technical school, university
  • a Canadian, private institution authorized by provincial statute to award degrees for the applicants who were enrolled in a program of study that leads to a degree
  • a private post-secondary school that operates under the same rules as public schools (in Quebec) private or public secondary or post-secondary institutions in Quebec offering qualifying programs of 900 hours or longer leading to a diploma of vocational studies or an attestation of vocational specialization
  • CEGEPs (College of General and Professional Teaching)

Like with other documents, there is processing time for PGWPs and an application fee that must be paid. Generally, it takes anywhere between 80 and 180 days to process the permit. When it comes to the application fee, applicants have to pay $255 CAD for the application and $350 CAD to restore their status as a student. It is also required for them to submit a degree or diploma, transcript or an official letter from their school to confirm that they’ve attended and completed a program.

Applications can be made from inside Canada or from outside of the country.

Changing to a Work Permit Before Completing Your Studies

While the PGWP is a popular option for post-graduation work, some students may wish to switch to a work permit before completing their studies despite already being able to get some work with their study permit. This could be due to various reasons, such as finding a job offer or wanting to gain work experience while still enrolled in their program.


Work Permit with an LMIA (Labor Market Impact Assessment)

The Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is a document issued by Canadian employers to demonstrate that there is a need for a foreign worker to fill a specific job position. This presents an opportunity for international students looking to switch to a work permit before completing their studies.

To secure a work permit through an LMIA, the following steps are generally involved:

  1. Job Offer - The first step is for a student to get a job offer from a Canadian employer who is willing to support the application for an LMIA
  2. Employer's Application - The employer then submits an application for an LMIA to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). This application assesses the impact that the hiring of a foreign worker will have on the Canadian labor market
  3. Positive LMIA - If the LMIA application is approved, it means that there is a positive impact on the labor market and that the employer can proceed with hiring a foreign worker
  4. Work Permit Application - With a positive LMIA, the student can then apply for a work permit. This step involves providing the necessary documents:
  • the job offer
  • a contract
  • A copy of a positive LMIA
  • the LMIA number

Obtaining a work permit through an LMIA is a viable option for international students, but it is important to understand that the process can be both very intricate and time-consuming. Students should carefully evaluate their eligibility and consult with immigration professionals to navigate this path successfully. But, once the process is completed, they will obtain the work permit that allows them to legally work in Canada for the specified employer and job.

Another important thing to note is that the obtained work permit will be valid for the duration specified in the LMIA and job offer. This typically corresponds to the length of the employment contract. If a holder wishes to extend their permit or change employers, they will need to go through appropriate processes, and these usually include obtaining a new LMIA.

Key Takeaways

International students living in Canada definitely have a couple of options if they want to work, even without obtaining a work permit. While studying, they can get a job with a study permit, but they’ll be limited in the number of hours they can work as well as the type of job they can get. For those who want to get a job off-campus, restrictions are harsher, and they’ll also have to apply for the Social Insurance Number.

Getting a work permit can be hard, but the result is that all the limitations get lifted. One way to obtain a work permit is after graduation through a post-graduation work program or PGWP. PGWP allows for up to three years of work experience in Canada, depending on the duration of the study program that the student completed.

Another option is to get a work permit with LMIA. This is for students who are looking to work in Canada before completing their studies obtaining a job offer with a positive LMIA. However, this is a very intricate process in which a lot of factors are outside of the student's hands, like the current status of the labor market. It also requires a lot of planning and coordination between students, employers and other authorities.


Are There Any Conditions on My Work Permit?

Yes, there are conditions attached to your work permit. In fact, there are quite a number of conditions, some of which have already been stated in previous paragraphs. Simply listing them all would be too long, so we’ll instead provide some of the most common ones:

  • general conditions related to temporary work imposed by operation of law
  • specific conditions related to temporary work imposed by the processing officer (period of authorized work, type of work, the employer etc)
  • conditions imposed during the implied status period
  • conditions imposed on the employer that overlap the work permit conditions (location, occupation)
  • the validity period for work permits

For Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)-exempt, employer-specific work permits, there are 2 different sets of conditions:

  • those imposed on the employer
  • those imposed on the temporary worker in regard to the work permit

You can find more information about conditions imposed on work permits on this page.


What is the Co-op Work Program?

The Co-op Work Program is an initiative that allows students to gain practical work experience related to their field of study while still enrolled in their academic program. The benefits of co-op programs are numerous, from simply gaining practical experience in the selected field of study making connections with industry professionals to earning money for work that is done. For students to participate in co-op programs, co-op work permits are required.


How may I Apply for a Co-op Work Permit?

To apply for a co-op work permit, students need to meet the following requirements:

  • to have a valid study permit
  • to be required to work in order to complete your study program in Canada
  • to have a letter from your school that confirms all students in your program need to complete work placements to get their degree
  • and that the co-op or internship makes up 50% or less of the total program of study
  • program of study cannot be an English/French as a second language course, a general interest course, or courses to prepare for another study program

Application can be done both online and in person. Another thing to note is that if the DLI indicates the co-op or internship requirement in the initial letter of acceptance, and this is included in the international student’s original application for a study permit, then the co-op work permit will be processed at the same time as the study permit.

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