Inland Spousal/Common-Law Partner Sponsorship: Open Work Permit Pilot Program

This pilot program allows spouses and common-law partners of Canadians or Permanent Residents to be granted an open work permit while their inland sponsorship application for permanent residence is being processed.

The Spousal Sponsorship program is a subsection of the Family Class immigration category, under which a Canadian or permanent resident (the sponsor) may sponsor his or her spouse or common-law partner (the sponsored person) for Canadian permanent residence. Inland sponsorship is a type of spousal sponsorship available to couples who are already living together in Canada where the spouse/common-law partner has temporary status in Canada, either as a worker, student, or visitor.

IRCC aims to process applications submitted through the Spousal Sponsorship program within 12 months.The Open Work Permit Pilot Program can help to mitigate the economic and emotional hardships of a long application process by removing the need for a spouse to choose between being with his or her partner and being able to work. 

The holder of an open work permit can work for any Canadian employer, without first having a confirmed offer of employment. An open work permit is not job-specific. These work permits are valid for two years or until the date that the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first.

This pilot program was first introduced for a period of 12 months in December, 2014. It has been extended until December 21, 2017.

Eligibility Criteria

In order to be issued an open work permit, the following criteria must be met:

  • A permanent residence application must be submitted under the Spousal/Common-Law Partner Sponsorship Immigration Program;
  • A Canadian citizen or permanent resident spouse/common-law partner has submitted a sponsorship application on their behalf;
  • The applicant must reside at the same address as the sponsor (spouse/common-law partner);
  • The applicant must have valid temporary resident status (as a visitor, student, or worker); and
  • The applicant and the sponsor must meet all eligibility requirements under spousal or common-law partner sponsorship.

Accompanying spousal open work permit

Foreign nationals looking to study or work in Canada very often have loved ones that they would be hesitant to leave in their home country. Rather than forcing them to choose between their work or study plans, or being together with their partner, Canadian immigration authorities have put in place a process whereby this can be avoided.

This process involves a facilitated work permit that is exempt from the requirement for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This means that the employer does not have to prove that they tried to hire a Canadian for the job before the foreign national can apply for the work permit, therefore, saving considerable time and money. It also greatly increases the chances that the foreign national will ultimately acquire the work permit as the employer does not need to justify that the foreign national in question is better than each and every Canadian that wanted the job. This can be a hurdle that must be overcome as there often are many Canadians available and willing to do the job, making it difficult to rationalize the need to hire a foreign national.

In addition to being LMIA exempt, this work permit is exceptional in that it is an open work permit, meaning the holder of the permit is legally able to work for any employer in Canada. This is in opposition to the vast majority of Canadian work permits as they are usually closed, restricting the foreign national to a single employer. This allows the foreign national more flexibility and mobility as they are able to change employers and occupations seamlessly from an immigration law standpoint.