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Exploring Alternatives Amid Canada’s Spousal Open Work Permit Changes: Opportunities for Indian Students


Recent changes in Canada‘s Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) regulations have sparked uncertainties among Indian students, especially those from Punjab. These modifications, affecting the number of international students and spousal visa rules, have raised concerns, particularly for students enrolled in diploma courses.
Opportunities Amidst Changes
Despite the new regulations, some avenues remain open for Indian students wishing to study in Canada with their spouses.Those who submitted applications before March 19, 2024, under any program, still have the option to bring their spouses along. Additionally, students in specific professional degree programs are eligible for spousal accompaniment.
Eligibility Criteria for Spousal Open Work Permits
To be eligible for an open work permit as the spouse or common-law partner of a student, your spouse or partner must meet the following criteria:
For Applications Submitted on or After March 19, 2024:
Commencing March 19, 2024, your spouse or common-law partner may qualify for an open work permit if you hold a valid study permit and are enrolled in one of the following programs:
• A master’s or doctoral degree program at a university or polytechnic institution.
• Specific professional degree programs at a university, including: Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS, DMD)
• Bachelor of Law or Juris Doctor (LLB, JD, BCL)
• Doctor of Medicine (MD)
• Doctor of Optometry (OD)
• Pharmacy (PharmD, BS, BSc, BPharm)
• Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
• Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN, BSN, BNSc)
• Bachelor of Education (B. Ed.)
• Bachelor of Engineering (B. Eng., BE, BASc)
How to Apply for a Spousal Open Work Permit
In most cases, spouses or common-law partners of students must apply online for a work permit. However, due to a technical issue with online applications, specific instructions must be followed:
• Open Work Permit Applications for Spouses or Common-Law Partners of Students:
• You’ll need to answer some questions to generate a personalized document checklist.
• Follow the instructions below based on whether you’re applying from outside or inside Canada:
If Applying from Outside Canada:
• When asked if you’ll be coming to Canada under an active public policy or special measure announced by IRCC, answer “No.”
• Answer “Yes” when asked if you’re a spouse or common-law partner of a person who holds a study permit.
• Select “A work permit for a spouse of an international student, or for a family member of a worker” when asked about the type of work permit you want to apply for.
If Applying from Inside Canada:
• Answer “No” when asked if you’re applying for an open work permit under an active public policy or pilot program announced by IRCC.
• Answer “Yes” when asked if you’re a spouse or common-law partner of a person who holds a valid work permit or is applying for one.
• Indicate “Yes” when asked if you’re a spouse or common-law partner of a person who holds a study permit.
Navigating Pending Applications
For students with pending spouse visa applications post-March 18, 2024, or rejected applications before this date, alternative pathways exist. They can bring spouses to Canada after completing their studies, becoming eligible for a work permit. Alternatively, switching to eligible programs like Masters or PhDs enables immediate spousal sponsorship.
Exploring Options for Ineligible Students
Students unable to switch programs can explore bringing spouses on a Visitor Visa or obtaining an LMIA for work permits. Though these options lack work rights for spouses, they offer temporary solutions.
Remaining Resilient
Despite the regulatory challenges, opportunities persist for Indian students determined to pursue education in Canada while ensuring their spouses’ presence. With strategic planning and exploration of available pathways, they can navigate these changes effectively.

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