New Changes to Eligibility Requirements for Canada SOWP

New Changes to Eligibility Requirements for Canada SOWP

Manmeet Kaur Manmeet Kaur
[Published 27 Mar, 2024 | 12:45 PM]
About Author - 5 min read

Attention international students!

On January 22, 2024, IRCC announced a few changes to the international student program and one of them mentioned changes to the Canada Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP).

So far, most students on a Canada study visa from India pursuing diploma courses were able to sponsor their spouses. But as of January 22, 2024, the spouses of international students in undergraduate and college programs will no longer be eligible for SOWP.

Spouses of only those who are enrolled in a master’s or a doctoral degree program at a university or a polytechnic institution will be eligible for an SOWP.

Check eligibility to Immigrate to Canada

Who is eligible for a Spousal Open Work Permit?

Spouses of undergraduate international students can apply for a Canada Spousal Open Work Permit only if the student is enrolled in one of the following professional degree programs at a university:

  • 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)

Documents Required

To prove a relationship with their spouse who study in Canada and their enrolment in a degree-granting program, spouses or partners have to submit the following documents:

  • A letter of acceptance from a DLI
  • Proof of enrolment letter from their spouse or partner’s DLI
  • Transcripts from their spouse or partner’s current program

What happens if you already applied?

Those who have already applied for the Spousal Open Work Permit before March 19, 2024, are still eligible for the permit only if their partner:

  • Has a valid Canadian study permit
  • Is eligible for a PGWP
  • Is a full-time international student in either:
    • a public post-secondary school or CEGEP in Quebec
    • a private college-level school in Quebec, or
    • a private school, permitted to grant master’s, bachelor’s, or a doctoral degree under provincial law
Keep in mind that if you already are a SOWP holder seeking an extension, the requirements will be the same. Further, applications filed before March 18 but were rejected are also subject to these updates.

Who is eligible for a Spousal Open Work Permit?

Exceptions to SOWP Eligibility Changes

Despite these updates, students who applied before March 19, 2024, under any diploma and degree, can still bring their spouse or partner to Canada.

Along with this, those studying specific professional degree programmes can still bring their spouses to Canada.

What happens if you are not eligible?

If you are not eligible for a Spousal Open Work Permit, explore these options.

Option 1: Apply for a Canada study visa from India and after completing your studies, you will be eligible for a work permit. In this case, your spouse back home has to wait for at least 3 years (min. study program length).

Option 2: If not, international students can also switch to eligible programmers under SOWP – like a master’s or a PhD. This will allow you to sponsor your spouse immediately. 

However, if you choose option 2 then you have to cancel the previous admission offer and get into a different course, causing you a loss of about CAD 1,000 – 2,500 (INR 61,000 – 1.53 lakh).

Talk to an Expert

If you are unable to switch programmes –

In this case, consider these options:

Option 1: Apply for a Visitor Visa

Under this, you will be able to bring your spouse on a visitor visa. However, your spouse won’t be able to work in Canada.

Option 2: Obtain an LMIA

You can get an LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment), which will allow you to secure a work permit and eventually, sponsor your spouse.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller commented on the changes to the SOWP eligibility requirement, saying “attack a volume challenge but also integrity challenges with what we believe was an area that was being exploited and not necessarily legitimate.”

Journey to Canada on a PR Visa with Daughter's Dependent Visa Approval

Need Help?

If you’re having trouble understanding the work permit rules and SOWP process, connect with the best immigration consultant in Hyderabad, Nationwide Visas. They have 17 years of experience in successfully assisting thousands of Indians to achieve their dream of studying abroad and now their spouse to go live with their spouses.

Good Luck!

Read More: IRCC announces changes to Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program


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