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Open work permit program for sponsored spouses has been extended

Open work permit for spouses sponsored from within Canada? Immigration Canada has just extended the open work permit program for sponsored spouses and common-law partners with the intent to make the program a permanent one. Spousal sponsorship applications can be submitted both to a Canadian Visa Office outside Canada and to an Immigration Processing Centre inside Canada. However, only the latter allows for a concurrent application for an open work permit. If you and your sponsor are found eligible, you will be issued an open work permit, i.e. not tied to specific employers, so you can work in Canada while waiting for a decision on your sponsorship application.

Processing times

If you are considering the inside Canada option, you must be aware that there is no right to appeal a refusal. On the other hand, the opportunity to have an open work permit will inevitably convince many to submit their applications inside the country. If you submit your application for the open work permit and your sponsorship application at the same time, usually your work permit will be issued within four months. Normally, your work permit will be issued for up to 2 years or until your passport validity.


However, in order to be eligible, you must meet certain requirements of the program. For example, you must first submit a complete inside Canada sponsorship application. You must be married to or be in a common-law relationship with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. You and your Canadian spouse must reside at the same address in Canada and you must have legal temporary resident status in Canada. If your status in Canada has expired, you must be within the restoration period and submit the restoration application with your sponsorship application. Temporary resident status is also maintained during implied status, i.e. when you have applied to extend your temporary resident status in Canada but you have not yet received a decision on your application. Persons who are inadmissible and who have a temporary resident permit may also be eligible for an open work permit provided they first submit their sponsorship applications.

Some sponsored spouses may not be able to qualify for the open work permit. For example, if you did not have a legal status in Canada at the time of your sponsorship application, you may not apply for an open work permit until you receive a so-called approval in principle. Likewise, you cannot apply for an open work permit if you submitted your application at a Canadian visa office overseas, even though you may be living in Canada with your Canadian spouse. And you cannot apply for this type of work permit at a port of entry.

When and where to apply

New work permit applications can be submitted along with sponsorship applications in one package. These applications must be submitted by mail or courier to the Immigration Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. If you have already submitted your sponsorship application but have not yet applied for an open work permit, you should mail your work permit application to the Immigration Centre in Edmonton, Alberta or apply on-line.

For more information about the open work permit program, please feel free to contact our office.