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  • Writer's pictureImmergity Immigration Consultant

Spousal Open Work Permit Extension (SOWP) Canada

Updated: Aug 26, 2023


Spousal Open Work Permit Extension (SOWP) Canada

A Spousal Open Work Permit Extension in Canada refers to the process by which individuals, who have previously been granted a Spousal Open Work Permit allowing them to work in Canada due to their spouse's status (e.g., a student or a specific kind of worker), seek to renew or prolong the validity of this permit. This extension ensures the continuity of the right to work in Canada without disruption once the initial work permit nears its expiration. The procedure typically involves submitting a fresh application, along with any required documents and fees, to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) before the current permit expires.


The Basics of Spousal Open Work Permit Extension

What's an Open Work Permit?

An open work permit, in a nutshell, allows the spouse or common-law partner of a temporary foreign worker or international student to work in their partner's host country without being tied to a specific employer. It's the ticket to freedom and flexibility for couples chasing their dreams together.


Who can apply for Spousal Open Work Permit Extension in Canada

A Spousal Open Work Permit Extension in Canada can be applied for by individuals who currently hold a valid open work permit and their spouse or common-law partner has a valid study or work permit. It allows the spouse or common-law partner of a temporary foreign worker or international student to work in Canada without being tied to a specific employer. Additionally, international students who have graduated from a designated learning institution and are eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program may apply for an open work permit.


Why Extend Your Spousal Open Work Permit?

Life's full of surprises, and sometimes your plans may change. You might need more time to complete your studies, find a job that aligns with your passion, or simply enjoy the life you've built together. The spousal open work permit extension helps you achieve these goals without breaking a sweat.


Spousal Open Work Permit Extension: Eligibility and Requirements

Before you jump on the extension bandwagon, you must meet certain eligibility criteria. As a dependent family member, the open work permit applicant (the primary applicant) must have a legitimate relationship with the principal foreign national. To qualify under administrative codes C41 or C46, the principal foreign national must fulfill all of the following criteria:

  1. Possess authorization to work in Canada through:

  2. Be authorized to work in Canada for at least six months beyond the receipt of the family member's open work permit application.

  3. Hold a job in a high-skilled occupation (TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3 or prior to November 16, in National Occupational Classification (NOC) 0, A, or B).

  4. Reside or intend to reside in Canada physically during their employment.

The principal foreign national may be employed part-time for the dependent family member to qualify for this labour market impact assessment (LMIA) exemption. Although there is no standard minimum of hours required, officers have to be satisfied the principal foreign national’s wages or available funds will be sufficient to financially support themselves and their family members while they are in Canada.


Documents You'll Need

Gather up the following documents to ensure a smooth application process:

  • A copy of your spouse's or common-law partner's valid work or study permit

  • A letter from your spouse's employer or educational institution confirming their status

  • Proof of relationship (marriage certificate or common-law partnership declaration)

  • A copy of your valid open work permit

If the principal foreign national holds an open work permit or is authorized to work without a permit under section R186 (excluding paragraphs R186(v or w)), the occupation skill level cannot be determined solely through the work permit. Therefore, the occupation skill level of the principal applicant must be provided to ensure correct administrative coding and eligibility.


In addition to the above requirements, the family member applicant must provide a letter from the principal foreign national's current employer confirming employment and their occupation, with a description of duties or a copy of their employment offer or contract. They must also show evidence that the principal foreign national is employed in a TEER category 0, 1, 2, or 3 occupation at the time of the family member's work permit application until a decision on the application is made.

Applying for Your Spousal Open Work Permit Extension

Online vs. Paper Application

You've got two options for submitting your application: online or on paper. While the online application is the faster and more convenient route, the paper application might be your cup of tea if you prefer tangible forms.


Application Fees

Don't forget to factor in the application fees! You'll need to pay for the open work permit fee and the extension fee.

  • $155 work permit processing fee

  • $100 open work permit holder fee

When to apply for a spousal open work permit extension in Canada?

If you want to extend your spousal open work permit in Canada, it's important to apply before the current permit expires, and the duration of the extension must match that of the principal applicant's permit. To apply for the extension, the spouse must provide proof of employment, including at least three pay periods. It's crucial to apply for the extension before the current permit expires to stay legal in Canada. If the permit expires before the extension is granted, the applicant may need to restore their status before applying for a new work permit.

Can I request for urgent processing of a spousal open work permit extension application?


Estimated processing times give an idea of how long an application could take to be processed. However, if something beyond your control requires urgent processing, you can contact IRCC through their web form to inquire if it is possible. Keep in mind that it may take up to two weeks to receive a response.


If you or your spouse/common-law partner have already applied for new permits from within Canada and have status in the country, you can remain in Canada under "maintained status" (previously known as "implied status") while waiting for a response.

However, if your spouse/partner currently has visitor status in Canada, they can only begin work once their work permit is issued. If they need to start work earlier than the estimated processing times allow, they may be able to apply for it when entering Canada from the United States.

Spouses/partners who can enter the United States can complete the process on their return to Canada (either at a land border or at the airport where they arrive in Canada). Those who cannot enter the US can still complete the process at a land border crossing, also known as "flag-poling." However, if your spouse/partner is not eligible to enter the US, they can expect to be denied entry at the border before being able to return to Canada. But it should not have long-term negative consequences as long as they answer "yes" if asked in the future whether they have been denied entry to the US.

Keep in mind that flag-poling at some border crossings, including the Peace, Queenston-Lewiston, and Rainbow Bridges in the Niagara region (closest to Toronto), is only limited to specific days and hours. Even if your spouse/partner goes during the identified days and times, Border Services Officers may choose not to process an application at the border. Therefore, it is recommended that your spouse/partner visit the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) office on the Canadian side before leaving Canada to confirm that they have everything necessary for the process and whether the Border Services Officers will be able to help them on their return.

It is important to note that even if your spouse/partner has an in-Canada application in process, flag-poling requires them to submit a new application upon entry. That means they must have the supporting documentation and the ability to pay the fees again. If the work permit is issued, they can cancel the in-Canada application. If IRCC had not yet started processing their in-Canada application, they will get the whole fee refunded. If IRCC had started processing their application, they should get the $100 open work permit fee refunded.


Lastly, if you plan to work in fields that involve close contact with people (such as health care settings, child care or educational settings, or elder care) or agricultural work, you must complete an Immigration Medical Exam before applying at the border (preferably at least one month prior). Without the medical exam, your work permit may exclude work in these and similar areas. IRCC provides details about the medical exam requirements. Regardless of how you complete the process, you should be prepared to meet Canada’s entry requirements.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How long does it take to process a spousal open work permit extension?

Processing times may vary depending on the country and the specific circumstances of your application. Generally, it takes between 60 to 90 days.


2. How long is the extension valid for?

The extension will be valid for the same duration as your spouse's or common-law partner's work or study permit.


3. Can I travel while my extension application is being processed?

Yes, you can travel. However, you'll need a valid temporary resident visa or an electronic travel authorization to return to the host country.


4. Can I work while waiting for my extension to be approved?

Yes, you can continue working under the same conditions as your existing permit, as long as you applied for the extension before your current permit expired.

5. What if my application is refused?

If your application is refused, you'll need to stop working and leave the host country once your current permit expires.


6. Can I apply for permanent residency while holding a spousal open work permit?

Yes, you can apply for permanent residency while holding a spousal open work permit. If you are being sponsored by your spouse or partner under the Spouse or Common-law Partner in Canada class, you can apply for an open work permit if Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has confirmed that your application for permanent residence is complete. Foreign spouses can apply for the open work permit at the same time or any time after they apply for permanent residence through spousal sponsorship.


7. Can I change employers while on a spousal open work permit?

Yes, with a spousal open work permit, you can work for any employer without needing a new permit.


8. How long is a spousal open work permit valid for?

A spousal open work permit is typically valid for the same duration as the principal applicant's work or study permit.

9. Can I renew my spousal open work permit?

You cannot renew a spousal open work permit, but if your spouse or partner still has eligible status in Canada, you may re-apply for a new spousal open work permit.


10. How can I check the status of my spousal open work permit application?

If you submitted your spousal open work permit application online, you can check the status through your online account.


11. Can I apply for a spousal open work permit if my spouse loses their job or finishes their studies early?

Yes, your work permit will remain valid for the entire period it was initially issued for, even if your spouse's situation changes.


Ready to take the next step towards working in Canada? Let Immergity Immigration Consultant guide you through the work permit application process, ensuring a smooth and successful experience. Our team of dedicated professionals is here to help you navigate the complex immigration system and find the best pathway tailored to your unique situation.


Book your appointment with Immergity Immigration Consultant today and embark on your exciting journey to a fulfilling career in Canada!

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