Canadian spousal open work permit

How To Apply For A Canadian Spousal Open Work Permit

Spouse or common-law partner sponsorship applications take time to process. Meantime, you may have to live apart from your partner or face financial hardships. But not anymore!

The Canadian Spousal Open Work Permit allows spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens or permanent residents to obtain an open work permit while their permanent residence application is being processed. 

In other words, it allows you to  live with your partner and work in Canada to financially support yourself and your family during the immigration process.

This comprehensive spousal open work permit guide will teach you how to apply for a Canadian spousal open work permit.

In this article, we will cover:

What is a spousal open work permit?

A spousal open work permit, which is a part of the family class immigration program, allows spouses of temporary Canadian work permit holders to work in Canada with few restrictions. 

It is neither an employer-specific nor a job-specific work visa, unlike closed work permits. You can work for almost any Canadian employer without first obtaining a confirmed offer of employment. 

On top of everything, it allows you to gain work experience in Canada before even obtaining permanent residency in Canada, which can support your career growth. Other than that, you can also network in Canada, create meaningful relationships, and improve your language skills (if needed) in Canada.

Eligibility requirements for a spousal work permit and visa

Financial requirements

Your spouse must agree to support you financially and to do so, he must sign a letter of commitment. By signing, he obligates himself to provide for your basic needs. Such basic needs include: 

  1. housing, including utilities;
  2. food and personal hygiene items;
  3. clothing and other items necessary for daily living;
  4. medical expenses not covered by public health insurance, such as dental and eye care.

Plus, he remains responsible even if: 

  1. your relationship with him changes (e.g., divorce or separation);
  2. you become a Canadian citizen;
  3. his financial situation deteriorates (e.g., job loss or debts);
  4. he withdraws sponsorship, but IRCC received it after you became a permanent resident.

Income requirements

There are no special income requirements for spousal open work permit. Your spouse just needs to meet the financial requirements mentioned above. 

Please note: If your spouse receives employment insurance or disability benefits, he can still sponsor you, and those benefits will be counted in his income.

Proof of funds

Proof of funds is essential to your application. You must prove that you have sufficient funds for your stay in Canada. If the Canadian authorities are not sure you can support yourself in Canada, they may reject your application.

Medical exam

A medical examination is mandatory for all visa applicants. Only an IRCC-approved physician will perform the examination, which includes: 

  • Mental and physical examination. 
  • Medical reports from your personal doctor are unnecessary.

Other requirements

You may be eligible for an open work permit if you are:

  • a spouse of a skilled worker in occupation under the National Occupational Classification (NOC), skill type 0, A, or B, who is authorized to work in Canada for six months or more; 
  • a spouse of an international student at a public post-secondary school, such as a college or university or collège d’enseignement général et Professionnel (CEGEP) in Quebec; 
  • a family member of a foreign representative; or 
  • a family member of a foreign military member working in Canada.

Your spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner must be:

  • at least 18 years of age;
  • pass all background, security, and medical checks.


You must be in an authentic relationship with your spouse to receive a spousal open work permit. This is one of the most important requirements. An authentic relationship means that you and your spouse intend to build a future together and did not marry for visa purposes only.

Your relationship with your spouse must fall into one of three categories:

  1. Legal Marriage: two people get lawfully married in any region of the world that is valid there.
  2. Common-law relationship: two people who have been in a conjugal (marriage-like) relationship and living together for at least 12 consecutive months. Cohabitation is an important factor in a common-law relationship.
  3. Conjugal partners: two people who do not live together for valid reasons but have had a conjugal relationship for at least 12 months. 

Simply stating that you are in a relationship is not enough to prove that your marriage is authentic. You must provide a list of documents to prove an authentic relationship.

Steps to apply for a spousal open work permit

There are three ways to apply for a spousal open work permit: 

  1. Applying from OUTSIDE of Canada
  2. Applying from WITHIN Canada
  3. Applying at the Port of Entry (or upon arrival to Canada)

The first and second way to apply for a spousal open work permit is to apply from OUTSIDE of Canada and from WITHIN Canada.

You can apply for a spousal open work visa from OUTSIDE Canada, both online and in paper-based form. However, when applying WITHIN Canada, there’s no option to use a paper-based process.

The two methods are as follows:

  1. Paper-based method: You can physically submit your open work permit application and supporting documentation to visa application centers. Your application will only be accepted if you’re an eligible applicant.

You’re eligible to apply on paper-based application only if you: 

  • have a disability that prevents you from applying online, 
  • are applying under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, or
  • hold an identity or travel document for non-national residents, refugees, or stateless persons.

To apply on paper, you must include a note with your application notifying the visa application center that you’re eligible to apply on paper. If you aren’t eligible to apply on paper, your application will be returned to you.

  1. Online method: You can set up a secure IRCC account to access online immigration and citizenship services. This will allow you to apply, submit your application and pay the fee, receive messages, check the status of your application, and update your information.

Follow the step-by-step approach to applying for a spousal open work visa through the online process (each step describes the process for OUTSIDE and WITHIN Canada): 

Step 1: Register for a secure IRCC account

Register yourself on the IRCC website. With your IRCC account, you can register in one of two ways:

Option 1: Register with a GCKey: A GCKey gives you secure access to the Government of Canada’s online services. It includes a username and password that you choose.

It also requires you to ask security questions. With these steps, your data will be safe, and you will be able to recover your account.

Option 2: Register with a Sign-In Partner: A secure way to log in to your online account using the information you already have.

Sign-in partners are groups like banks and credit unions that partner with SecureKey Technologies (a company that provides online identity services).

Let us say you are a customer of a bank or credit union. In this case, you can use the same sign-in you use your bank’s services to access services offered by  the Government of Canada.

Step 2: Check your eligibility, and apply to come to Canada

Fill out all the information and check if you are eligible to apply. The information you provide will be used to determine if you qualify for entry into Canada.

Step 3: Create your personal document checklist

Assuming you are eligible to apply, you still need to answer a few questions. Based on your answers, you will be given a personal checklist of all the documents you need to submit along with your documents.

Step 4: Submitting your documents

You will only need to upload your documents in electronic form. When prompted, upload your passport and attach the stamped pages of your passport (ALL), which should all be scanned into one document.

If you were required to do a medical examination as part of your work permit application, upload the relevant proof (e.g., a receipt) in the additional documents section. You do not need to sign your application by hand. Instead, you will be prompted to provide a digital signature when you are ready to submit your documents.

Step 5: Wait for your notice of approval for your open work permit (Letter of Introduction)

Periodically check the status and processing time of your application. Processing times vary depending on the scope and time of year. Upon successful submission of your application, you will receive an acknowledgment from IRCC.

Third way to apply for a spousal open work permit is to apply at the Port of Entry (or upon arrival to Canada).

Follow the step-by-step approach to apply for a spousal open work permit at the Port of Entry (or upon arrival to Canada):

Step 1: Apply for an eTA

An Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is an entry requirement for foreign nationals who are visa-exempt and traveling to Canada by air. With a valid eTA, you can travel to Canada as often as possible for short stays (usually up to six months).

Applying for an eTA is a simple online process that takes only a few minutes. Most applicants receive their eTA approval (via email) within minutes.

Step 2: Arrive at the Port of Entry

Apply for your work permit (for spouses) at the border or port of entry – and obtain it the same day.

The nearest land borders where work permits are processed are:

  1. Lacolle/Champlain 
  2. St. Armand/Phillipsburg 
  3. Stanstead 
  4. Trudeau Airport in Montreal – but only if you fly into Montreal from an international destination.

Tell the immigration officer that you want a work permit. The officer will check the following.

  1. your passport or other travel documents 
  2. you meet the eligibility requirements
  3. your medical certificate is valid if you need one.

Step 3: Receive your open work permit

After reviewing all documents, the immigration officer at the port of entry will confirm your open work permit and allow you to enter Canada.

Documents required for a Canadian spouse open work permit

Although you will receive a personalized document checklist, you should know in advance all the documents you will need for a Canadian spouse work permit.

Here’s the list:

  • Acknowledgment of Receipt (AOR) letter
  • Provincial nomination certificate (if applicable)
  • Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) (Quebec Acceptance Certificate) (if applicable)
  • Completed application forms
  • Proof of status in Canada
  • Proof of spouse’s status in Canada
  • Marriage certificate or proof of common-law status
  • Proof of relationship to the principal applicant
  • A valid copy of your passport
  • Medical exam results (if requested)
  • Proof of payment for applicable government fees

Fee and Validity for Spouse Open Work Permit

The processing fee for the spouse open work permit ranges from CAD 155 – CAD 255, and CAD 100 for the open work permit holder fee.

And the validity for the spousal open work permit is for two years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. If your passport is about to expire, the permit will not be issued beyond the validity period of your passport.

Provincial Nominee Programs – Moving To Canada As A Permanent Resident (PR)

Reasons for Refusal of Spouse Open Work Permit

Many people face rejection to obtain a spousal open work permit. There could be many reasons for denying it. You must know some of them so that you do not do anything that might cause you to face rejection. 

Some of the most common reasons for refusal of spousal open work permit include: 

  1. Principal applicant lives outside Canada: To apply for an open spouse work permit, your spouse must live within Canada with valid legal status. If your spouse lives outside of Canada, this may become a reason for denying your application.
  2. No proof that your spouse attends a DLI: If you are applying for a spousal open work permit as the spouse of a student, your spouse must provide sufficient proof that they are studying and actively attending classes at a Canadian Designated Learning Institute (DLI). Failure to provide such proof may result in a denial.
  3. Lack of proof of funds: If the officer reviewing your case is not satisfied that you and your spouse have sufficient funds for your stay in Canada, your application may be denied. For this reason, you must include financial documentation with your application that convinces the officer of your financial stability.
  4. Lack of proof of employment: If you are applying for a spousal open work permit based on your spouse’s employment, it is important to provide documents proving their employment in Canada.
  5. Insufficient Ties to Home Country: When applying for temporary residence in Canada, the officer must be convinced that you will leave the country by the end of your authorized stay. Therefore, you must provide proof of any ties to your home country. If the officer is not satisfied that you will leave Canada by the end of your authorized stay, your application may be denied.
  6. Lack of proof of an authentic relationship: Since the spousal open work permit is based on your relationship with your spouse or common-law partner, it is important that you provide sufficient proof of your authentic relationship. If the visa officer is not convinced that your relationship is genuine, this may become a ground for denial.

If your spousal open work permit is denied, you may be able to file a new application. You should only file a new application if you can provide additional information or documentation to clarify the reason for the denial.

Read our comprehensive guide on Express Entry here.

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