It may come as a surprise that students who are in Canada on a valid study permit should stop working as soon as they receive written notice that they completed their program. Read on to learn more.
Here is a simplified reference table based on current IRCC guidance
|Important time periods|
Work off-campus while on a SP?
|During FT studies at a DLI|
Can work PT during session and
Can work FT during academic breaks
When classes end/exams complete (before you get written notice of completion of your program)
|Can only work PT|
When student receives transcript/official letter or email from school that program is complete
|Cannot work at all|
If student submits complete PGWP and has a valid SP
|Can work FT until receive a decision from IRCC|
When can students normally work off-campus?
According to regulation 186(v) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, SOR/2002-227 (IRPR), if a foreign national is a full-time student at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI), and actively engaged in a program of studies longer than 6 months that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate, that person is eligible to work off-campus:
- up to 20 hours a week during a regular academic session; and
- full-time during regularly scheduled breaks between academic sessions.
Part-time work between when classes end and before marks are received
What happens when a post-secondary student has finished classes and exams but has not yet received their final marks? Immigration’s policy interpretation is that a full-time student can continue to work only part-time up until the earliest of when they receive:
- transcripts; OR
- an official letter; OR
- an email,
from their school that gives written confirmation of program completion.
Therefore, if a student was working part-time under authorization of R. 186(v) of IRPR, that student can generally continue to work part-time until the day they receive any written confirmation from their school that their program of studies is complete.
Work must cease once transcripts arrive or school sends an official letter or email
The day that written confirmation of program completion arrives, students must stop working completely or risk being found by Immigration authorities to have worked without authorization.
Illegal work and consequences for students and employers
Working without authorization is a contravention of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, SC 2001, c 27 (IRPA) and can have serious consequences.
Working without authorization can it make you inadmissible and it is also an offence under IPRA s.124(1)(c) for a Canadian employer to employ a foreign national who is not authorized to be employed. Employers are deemed to know that unauthorized work is not authorized under s.124(2).
A person, including a corporation, who violates s.124(1) is liable on conviction on indictment to a fine of up to $50,000 and/ or to jail for up to 2 years. A person or corporation who is liable on summary conviction faces a fine of up to $10,000 and/or to jail for up to 6 months.
Also, if you have worked without authorization, an officer is not allowed to issue you a work permit until 6 months after the day you worked without authorization.
Unauthorized work can also jeopardize your permanent residency application under one of the economic streams (Provincial Nominee Program, Express Entry) and also under the new International Graduate and Essential workers streams.
Full-time work is possible if a student applied for PGWP before their SP expired
If a student still has a valid study permit and is eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), they would apply online within 180 days of receiving written confirmation from their DLI that they completed their program.
A student who completed studies and has not yet submitted their complete PGWP cannot work.
If you want to work, it is important to apply for a PGWP as soon as you receive transcripts or an official letter or email from your school to confirm that you completed your studies.
As soon as a student submits a complete PGWP application, Immigration’s interpretation is that the student is now authorized to work full-time under R.186(w) until they receive a decision on their PGWP application if certain conditions are met.
Applying for Permanent Residency and counting periods of work
If your long-term goal is to apply for PR, make sure to carefully keep records of:
- proof that your school is a DLI (the school should have a DLI number),
- proof that your program is PGWP eligible (if applicable),
- exactly when your classes and exams ended,
- exactly when you received written notification of completion of your program of studies,
- validity dates of your study permit,
- proof that you applied for PGWP or a different type of work permit,
- validity dates of your PGWP, and
- paystubs and time sheets showing all the hours that you worked part-time and full-time for Canadian employers.
Book a consultation
If you would like specific advice about your situation, please book a legal consultation and we would be happy to answer your questions.
 Beware of unauthorized work and its consequences and make sure to check all current laws and policies.
 Check carefully with your DLI before applying for a study permit to ensure your program is PGWP eligible.
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