We get a lot of questions about International Experience Canada (IEC) work permits, especially from people going to Canada with a Working Holiday or Young Professionals permit.
“I just got my Working Holiday permit, can my partner come to Canada too?” “I’m heading to Canada on a Young Professionals work permit—what about my spouse?”
There’s no single answer but there’s a handy exemption and several options. Read on!
I’m an IEC work permit holder, can my spouse or common-law partner come with me to Canada?
Is it easier for the spouse or common-law partner of an IEC permit holder to come to Canada?
The rule for the three IEC work permit categories (Working Holiday, Young Professionals and International Co-op—Internship) is simple—each applicant must submit a profile in an IEC pool and applications are assessed separately. There is no guarantee that you will both be invited to apply for a work permit. If you do get an invitation to apply, your spouse or common-law partner will NOT automatically get a work permit under IEC to come with you.
That said, your spouse or common-law partner may be eligible for a student visa or an open work permit. They could also come to Canada as a visitor. And in a few cases, their status as spouse or common-law partner of an IEC permit holder might help… read on!
What’s a common-law partnership?
In the context of immigration, a common-law partnership means that a couple has lived together for at least one year in a conjugal relationship. Evidence to support their cohabitation in a conjugal relationship may be required, e.g. both names on bills, joint lease, bank account, etc. The onus is on the applicant to prove that they have been living as common-law partners for at least one year.
A couple who lives with other roommates or at their parent’s place may not be considered as a common-law partnership.
What’s an open work permit?
An open work permit is a work permit that is not job-specific, i.e. you don’t need to have a job offer and you can work for any employer anywhere in Canada.
Is my spouse or common-law partner eligible?
Your spouse may be eligible to apply for a work permit if:
- you are studying at a public post-secondary school, such as a college or university or collège d’enseignement général et professionnel (CEGEP) in Quebec (for more info, read Who can get a work permit as the spouse or common-law partner of a student?).
- you are working in an occupation under the National Occupational C lassification (NOC) skill type 0, A or B.
What are NOC skill type 0, A or B jobs?
Skill type 0, manage ment jobs: These occupations are at the top of the organizational hierarchy of workplaces and businesses. Job title examples: financial manager, information systems manager, school principal, purchasing manager, etc.
Skill level A, professional occupations: : These are professional jobs that usually call for a degree from a university. Job title examples: financial analyst, HR professional, marketing professional, chemist, biologist, civil engineer, landscape architect, computer programmer, web designer, etc.
Skill level B, technical and trade occupations: These jobs usually call for a college diploma or training as an apprentice. Job title examples: administrative support worker, executive assistant, event planner, administrative assistant, bookkeeper, claim adjuster, biological technician, industrial designer, computer network technician, chef, cook, paralegal, early childhood educator, butcher, coach, baker, hairstylist, etc.
What’s “exemption C41”?
This is what the Government of Canada says regarding spouses or common-law partners of skilled workers [C41]:
Spouses or common-law partners of skilled people coming to Canada as foreign workers may themselves be authorized to work without first having an offer of employment. A dependent spouse is eligible to apply for an open work permit if the principal foreign worker:
- holds a work permit that is valid for a period of at least 6 months, or, if working under the authority of section R186 without a work permit, presents evidence that they will be working for a minimum of 6 months;
- is employed in an occupation that falls within National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill levels 0, A or B (which generally include management and professional occupations and technical or skilled trades [see the NOC website]);
- physically resides or plans to physically reside in Canada while working.
The spouse or common-law partner’s work permit will be valid for the same period of time as the work or study permit of the holder. For example, if Mary is a two-year Young Professionals permit holder, her common-law partner may be eligible to apply for a two-year open work permit. If Ben has a six-month work permit, his wife, Jane, may only be eligible for a six-month open work permit.
When can a spouse or common-law partner of an IEC permit holder apply for an open work permit?
Young Professionals permit holders
To apply for a Young Professionals work permit, the applicant must have a job offer in Canada that contributes to their professional development and work for the same employer in the same location during their stay in Canada. The job offered in Canada must be classified as a National Occupational Classification (NOC) Code Skill Type Level 0, A or B to be considered as contributing to your “professional development.” A NOC C job might be accepted if a post-secondary diploma, certificate or degree, is submitted with the work permit application.
- If a Young Professionals applicant gets a NOC Skill Type Level 0, A or B job offer with at least a six-month contract, their spouse or common-law partner is eligible to apply for an open work permit as per exemption C41.
- However, if the job offer is for a skill level C position, exemption C41 doesn’t apply and the spouse or common-law partner is NOT eligible to apply for an open work permit.
Working Holiday permit holders
Things get a bit more complicated for Working Holiday permis holders because most of them travel to Canada without a job offer. Therefore, exemption C41 doesn’t apply—the spouse or common-law partner of a Working Holiday permit holder is only eligible to apply for an open work permit when the Working Holiday permit holder secures a NOC Skill Type Level 0, A or B job.
The three following requirements must be met before the spouse or common-law partner of a Working Holiday permit applies for an open work permit:
- The Working Holiday permit holder must have started working in Canada.
- The Working Holiday permit holder must have a minimum six-month contract for a skilled position.
- The Working Holiday permit holder must have received their first Canadian pay slips.
So basically, there are two options for your spouse or common-law partner:
- Entering Canada as a visitor (check if you need a visa!), !), wait for the Working Holiday permit holder to meet all the above requirements and apply for an open work permit from inside Canada. Note that you cannot work in Canada with a visitor status.
- Staying “back home,” waiting for your spouse or common-law partner to find a job that will make them eligible for an open work permit and apply for an open work permit from outside Canada. However, common-law partners should know that if they live apart for more than 90 days, Canada may no longer consider them common-law partners (!).
Once the Working Holiday permit holder finds a six-month contract in a skilled position and starts getting pay slips, the spouse or common-law partner can apply for an open work permit. This open work permit will be valid for the same period as the Working Holiday permit.
Who can benefit from a spouse or common-law partner open work permit?
Exemption C41 is great when a spouse or common-law partner:
- applied for an IEC permit but didn’t receive an invitation to apply;
- isn’t eligible to apply for one of the IEC permit categories because their country of citizenship doesn’t have an agreement with Canada;
- is over the age limit for the IEC permit categories (30 or 35 years old, inclusive).
How can I apply for a spouse or common-law partner open work permit?
Even if you meet all the requirements, you won’t automatically get an open work permit at the border. You must gather several supporting documents and fill out an application.
What documents do I need?
Proof of relationship: If you’re married, you need to provide a photocopy of the marriage certificate or marriage licence (in English or in French or a certified translation if in another language). If you’re in a common-law relationship, you must fill out the Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union (IMM 5409) and send proof listed on the form to support your relationship. Acceptable proofs include a joint lease or mortgage, joint bank account, etc. Note that both same and opposite-gender marriage or common-law partnership are recognized in Canada.
A copy of your spouse’s or common-law partner’s work permit (i.e. Young Professionals permit, Working Holiday permit, etc.).
If your spouse or common-law partner is a Working Holiday permit holder, you will also have to present evidence of an eligible work contract (job offer confirmation, recent pay slips, a six-month contract minimum, etc.)
When should I apply for an open work permit?
Provided you’re eligible, you can apply from outside Canada, from inside Canada or even at a port of entry (i.e. at the land border or at the airport).
On the forum, many applicants reported driving to a land port of entry with their spouse/common-law partner and all the required documents. They successfully applied for their open work permit.
It’s a bit riskier to apply for the open work permit at the airport when the spouse or common-law partner is a Young Professionals permit holder. You have to make sure the job offer meets the requirements for exemption C41 and border officers occasionally refuse to deliver the open work permit for a number of reasons (e.g. missing supporting documents, etc.).
Note that if you decide to fly together to Canada, the spouse or common-law partner of an IEC permit holder must apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) before the trip, otherwise they won’t be allowed to board the plane.
If you can’t apply for an open work permit at the port of entry or if you’d rather not risk it, you can apply online. Simply create an account on the Government of Canada website and use the Come to Canada tool to check your eligibility. Answer “Yes” to the question “Will you be coming to Canada with a spouse or common-law partner who is, or will be, working in Canada as a foreign worker or who is, or will be, a full-time student at a university, community college, CEGEP or other authorized educational institution? (required),” and you should see the following message: “You may be eligible to come to Canada to work with an open work permit.” Click on “Continue” to get a personal checklist of all the documents you need to submit with your application after choosing “A work permit for a spouse or common-law partner of a skilled worker or international student” from the drop-down menu.
The tool will walk you through the application (for free!) and all the forms will be available to download.
How much are the fees?
The total price of the open work permit is CAD340.
This is the breakdown of all fees:
|Quantity||Price (CAD) per unit||
|Open Work Permit Holder Fee||1||$100||$100|
What if I’m not eligible for an open work permit?
If you’re not eligible for an open work permit because your spouse or common-law partner is a Working Holiday permit holder and doesn’t have a job yet, your spouse or common-law partner doesn’t meet the requirement for exemption C41 or you can’t prove your common-law status, you could travel to Canada as a tourist.
Most visitors get a six-month stay but the border services officer may allow you to stay for less. It’s a good idea to bring along a copy of your return ticket and a recent bank statement that shows you have enough funds for your stay (about CAD1,000 per month).
Read the basic requirements to enter Canada and take the short interview with the border officer seriously as they must be convinced you’re meeting all the requirements. Border officers typically want to make sure you will leave Canada at the end of your stay (which is why you should have your return ticket handy) and that you won’t work illegally. Do not travel with documents that suggest you could try to find a job in Canada. For instance, border officers can take a look at your computer or smartphone—Facebook post like “I hope I can get paid under the table!” or documents like “Canadian resume 2022” will NOT help your case…
For more info on Canada, read Finding a job and working in Canada, Finding Accommodation in Canada, Internship, YP and Working Holiday in Canada or download the free Guide to a Working Holiday in Canada!
Main articles about the WHV to Canada
Step-By-Step Guide to International Experience Canada Work Permits
Introduction to the Canada Working Holiday permit
Guide to Working Holiday in Canada (free download)
16 Good Reasons to Apply for a Working Holiday Visa
Globe WHV insurance policy highlights
The duration of your insurance coverage directly impacts your WHV
15 Tips for a Successful WHV Experience
The Working Holiday Visa Adventure as a Solo Traveller