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Spousal Open Work Permit

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A spousal open work permit (SOWP) is a type of work permit that allows the spouse or common-law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to work in Canada while their application for permanent residence is being processed. It is an application for a work permit that enables the sponsored spouse to work for any employer and any occupation in Canada, this means it’s not job-specific.

Depending on the applicant’s status in Canada or the stage of their application for permanent residency, there are differences in the application process for the open work permit through spousal sponsorship. This work permit is typically only available to individuals who have submitted an application for permanent residence through the spousal sponsorship program. The permit is usually issued for the same length of time as the underlying application for permanent residence, allowing the spouse or partner to continue working and supporting themselves while waiting for a decision on their application. 

Eligibility Requirements for Spousal Open Work Permit

Requirements to be met for eligibility in Spousal Sponsorship Work Permit are; applicants:

  • Must be in a genuine relationship with a qualifying foreign national principal applicant, permanent resident, or citizen;
  • Must be eligible to apply as the spouse of a qualifying foreign national, or as an in-Canada sponsorship applicant (see above); and
  • Are not criminally or medically inadmissible to Canada

Additional criteria will vary depending on the category of SOWP you are applying under.

Who can apply for a spouse open work permit?

Spousal open work permits may be applied for by those who have applied to have their spouse sponsor them or by people whose spouses are in Canada on a study or work permit. Depending on your spouse’s immigration status in Canada, there are different procedures for applying for a spousal open work permit. For details, make use of the table below:


CategoryPrincipal applicant's occupational skill level requirementPrincipal applicant's minimum work permit length
Spouses or common-law partners of Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP) work permit holdersTEER 0, 1, 2 or 36 Months
Spouses or common-law partners of Quebec selection certificate (CSQ) holdersAny occupational skill level6 Months
Spouses or common-law partners of provincial nomineesAny occupational skill level6 Months
Spouses or common-law partners of bridging open work permit (BOWP) holdersVaries depending on program principal applicant applies under6 Months
Spouses or common-law partners of open work permit holders other than BOWP (incl. PGWP, IEC)TEER 0, 1, 2 or 3N/A
Spouses or common-law partners of study permit holdersN/AN/A
In Canada spousal/common-law sponsorship applicantsN/AN/A

Documents Required for Spousal Open Work Permit

Canada Spouse Open Work Permit required documents depend on the category an applicant is applying under. The following documents are needed for applicants as part of the work permit application:

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

Processing time for Spousal Open Work Permit Program

The processing time for permanent residence through the program is almost 10 to 13 months. This is when a spouse or common-law partner is living inside or outside Canada and intends to reside in any province outside of Quebec. For candidates who intend to live in Quebec, the processing time is 25 to 27 months. Processing time may vary depending on the applications received by IRCC, incomplete documents submitted by applicants, or delays in submitting required documents.

For parents, grandparents, dependents children, and adopted children, the processing times are different. Please refer to the Canada website for the times.

How long is a spousal open work visa valid?

Canada SOWP is only granted for as long as the lead applicant’s permit. It will not be issued beyond the applicant’s passport’s validity if it is about to expire.

Can I add my dependents on my spouse open work permit?

Dependent children may accompany the permit holder by obtaining a visitor record, in addition to filing for a spousal open work permit.

Do you need proof of funds for spouse open work permit?

Yes, candidates for spousal open work permit must be able to prove they have enough money for their stay in Canada. An application may be rejected if an officer is not persuaded that the applicant will be able to support themselves while in Canada.

What is the Spousal open work permit fees

The fee of a spouse open work visa is $255 CAD, which is divided into two parts: a processing fee of $155 and an open work permit holder fee of $100.

How long does it take to get a work permit after getting married?

After getting married, there is no minimum period of time that an applicant must wait to apply for a visa.

Can Canada spouse open work permit be extended?

A Spousal Open Work visa is dependent on the lead applicant’s permit (spouse’s permit) and is only valid for the duration of the lead applicant’s permit. You will have to reapply based on your spouse’s permit if your SOWP expires.

Can your Spousal Open Work Permit be renewed?

SOWP Canada cannot be renewed. You may reapply for a new SOWP if your current one expires and your spouse or partner is still eligible to work in Canada.

Can my spouse get a work permit in Canada?

Yes, your spouse can get a spouse work permit when they apply and have met the requirements for the SOWP application. Like any other open work permit, spouse open work visa allows holders to work anywhere in Canada and for any employer.

What happens to my spouse’s open work permit application if my spouse and I separate or divorce?

Your spousal open work permit will not be revoked if you and your spouse file for divorce or end your common-law marriage after it has been granted. However, if your relationship ends while your application is being processed you will no longer be qualified for  SOWP and must notify IRCC of your revised relationship status.

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