How Many Hours Can an International Student Work in Canada?

December 13, 2023

If you’re an international student or looking to study in Canada, you might be wondering how many hours you are allowed to work to support your studies.

Canada has regulations on working hours for international students that dictate how many hours they legally may work! These are divided into on and off-campus work, and in this article we’ll cover:

  • The regulations around work eligibility
  • How many hours you may work as an international student
  • The differences between on and off-campus work
  • Different work restrictions

Don’t worry, we’ll also cover everything else you need to know to work and study in Canada as an international student. Make sure to read on, because these laws will help you understand how to support yourself while you study in Canada.

What are student work hours?

Student work hours are the number of hours an international student is permitted to work in Canada. An international student must always work in accordance with their study permit or visa.

Overview of Canada for international students

Canada hosts over 500,000 international students. They are largely full-time students, and many of them work part-time hours to supplement their income. International students must work in compliance with laws designed to regulate the balance of work and studies, which we’ll cover below.

Importance of understanding work regulations

The most important thing to understand is that these work regulations attached to your study permit must be followed or you can lose your legal status and may have to leave Canada. This will certainly interrupt your studies and can affect future entry into Canada.

It is important that a student working part-time understands the rules and complies with regulations according to Canadian law.

How many hours can an international student work in Canada?

So what determines eligibility to work while studying? International students in Canada who are part of a full-time program at an official designated learning institution (DLI) may be permitted to work on and off campus at different rates.

Firstly, on-campus work hours are not restricted. On-campus work is any paid work you do on school grounds where you take most of your classes. This can be for the school, or for an employer with a business on school grounds like a coffee shop.

Off-campus work is limited to the hours outlined in your study permit conditions.

Apart from a temporary relaxation of the rules between November 2022 and April 2024 which allowed international students to work unlimited hours during their school year, international students must work no more than 20 hours a week during their study periods and can only work full-time during official breaks lasting no longer than 150 days.

It’s important that a student tracks work hours and checks work limits so that they don’t exceed these limitations.

Eligibility to work in Canada as an international student

There are strict criteria in Canada that determine eligibility for work for international students. These requirements are outlined in your study permit, but we’ll cover them here too.

Study permit requirements

First, to become an international student in Canada you will need to obtain a study permit. You can apply for one with BorderPass!

A study permit requires you to have evidence that you can fund your tuition fees and living expenses, have a clean criminal record, and most importantly, that you are enrolled at a DLI. Once you get a study permit you will be issued an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) or a temporary resident visa (TRV) which allows you to enter Canada.

Once you have your study permit, you will be allowed to study at a Canadian institution.  

Enrollment in a designated learning institution (DLI)

Designated learning institutions (DLIs) are the institutions that offer certificates, diplomas, or degrees in Canada. You must be enrolled at a DLI to get a study permit, doing so abides by guidelines and makes it possible to work while studying.

Conditions on the study permit

Maintaining your study permit requires you to adhere to a few set requirements. You must make progress towards your qualification, must not take authorized breaks longer than 150 days, must remain enrolled at a DLI, and must inform IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) if you change from one institute to another.

If you lose your study permit, you will no longer be able to attend classes and you will not be allowed to remain in Canada.

A study permit application takes approximately 10 weeks to process.

On-campus work

There are no restrictions for any students when it comes to on-campus work. You simply need to balance your work with your studies.

Definition and benefits

On-campus work might be any sort of student service or administration work for your institute, or it might be course-related work like being an assistant or taking part in research work. It can also be for a business on school grounds, such as a cafe or bookstore.

The benefit of on-campus work is that you can work unrestricted hours and you can gain more experience in your field of study.

Hours allowed and restrictions

There are no restrictions on the amount of hours for on-campus work. You are, however, only allowed to work on-campus during your study period and not outside of the school year. If your school has multiple campuses, you may only work on the campus where you study most.

Types of on-campus jobs

On-campus jobs come in all shapes and sizes. You might work for the university you study at in an admin or support role. You can work for a faculty member as part of a research project or help with one of their projects.

You can work for a student organization or for an employer that provides services to the university. As long as your work is on school grounds, it qualifies as an on-campus job.

Off-campus work

A student working off-campus must evaluate work restrictions and enquire about work hours before starting their job. Be sure your employer complies with regulations.

Definition and benefits

Off-campus work is any work you engage in that takes place away from campus. Things like retail, hospitality, or any other job not associated with your DLI are off-campus jobs.

Hours allowed and restrictions

You are only allowed to work up to 20 hours in an off-campus job as an international student if your study permit allows. Further, you will need to apply for a Social Insurance Number to work off campus.

You are welcome to work more than one job to meet your 20 hours, but the limit applies to total hours worked, not hours worked for each job.

Adhering to the 20-hour limit

You are required to keep track of your hours. If you work over 20 hours a week, you may lose your study permit.

Co-op and internship programs

If your study program includes work experience, you may need to get a co-op permit for your internship or work experience.

Overview of co-op and internship programs

Co-op student jobs and internships can be part of certain study programs. These programs can be paid roles that also count toward your course credits.

Work permit requirements

Working as a co-op student or as an intern for your course requires you to apply for a co-op work permit. A co-op work permit requires you to already have a study permit, and you must require a co-op or internship in order to pass your course load.

Hours allowed and restrictions

There is no restriction on the number of work hours for co-op work permits.

Post-graduation work permit (PGWP)

Overview of the PGWP Program

After you complete your study you may be able to continue to live and work in Canada as a graduate. This requires a post-graduation work permit, and BorderPass makes it easy to apply for yours.

Eligibility criteria

If your course is two years or longer, you can get a PGWP that will last up to three years. You must have completed at least 50% of your studies in Canada either in-person or online. You will have 180 days from the completion of your studies to apply for a PGWP, which you can do with your diploma, degree, or transcript.

If you get a PGWP to work in Canada, your spouse or common-law spouse may be eligible for their own work permit.

Hours allowed and restrictions

Once you have a post-graduation work permit you will be able to work full-time without restrictions. You can work full-time while your application is being processed as well.

Consequences of overworking

While you may find yourself needing to work to help pay your living costs, there are consequences to overworking that could put your study permit at risk.

Impact on immigration status

If you work longer than your 20-hour limit, you may lose your study permit and be unable to study or live in Canada.

Importance of adherence

It is important to stick with the requirements of your study permit. You will not be refunded the cost of your courses if you are required to leave part way through for breaking your study permit regulations, and you may not be able to enter Canada again.

Tips for international students seeking employment in Canada

Now that you understand the process of obtaining a study permit and the range of different permits you can apply for, you may want to begin searching for a job.

Understanding and adhering to regulations

You must adhere to any regulations associated with your study permit. A successful student gaining employment investigates work rules, clarifies work policies, and figures out work eligibility.

Guidance from the international student office

Get in touch with the international student office at your DLI. They will be able to offer you material outlining different roles you might take on both on and off-campus, and they will help you stay in line with your requirements.

Job search and career development resources

International students can apply for work the same way as anyone else, using recruiters, temp agencies, job boards, or in-person applications.

Remember that you may not begin working until your course starts, but you will be able to apply before then.

Impact of working more than allowed

How working too many hours can impact hour studies

Working too many hours may set you back on your studies. If you’re too tired to attend lectures or you find your work is eating into your hours for school, you may fall behind.

Balancing work and school responsibilities

Balancing your work and your studies is crucial to maintaining good grades for your course. Although it may be tempting to work extra hours to create more income for your own recreation or to send home, if you are unable to maintain your academic requirements, you may lose your study permit.

Key takeaways

The most important takeaways from this article are that you need to be sure that you are adhering to the requirements of your study permit or you could lose it.

Whatever work permit you apply for, you must also adhere to all of the requirements it sets out.

If you are studying in Canada as an international student, remember that you can work unlimited hours on-campus, but only 20 hours in an off-campus role.

Frequently asked questions

Why does Canada allow international students to work?

Canada allows international students to work so that they have the money to support themselves while studying and enjoying everything Canada has to offer.

What happens if I exceed the allowed work hours?

You could lose your study permit and be sent home. To prevent this, a diligent student learns about work regulations and calculates allowable work hours.

Can I work full-time during school breaks?

You may work full-time during authorized breaks that last no longer than 150 days.

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