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New Requirements For Spousal Open Work Permits

Canada's New SOWP Regulations

As of March 19, 2024, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has refined the eligibility criteria for Spousal Open Work Permits, impacting the partners of international students across Canada. The modifications reflect Canada's effort to balance its welcoming immigration policy with the integrity and demands of its labor market. This shift signifies a more selective approach, narrowing eligibility primarily to partners of students enrolled in advanced degrees or certain professional programs at Canadian universities or polytechnic institutions.​ 

This image visualizes the relief and joy of successfully obtaining a SOWP, featuring an individual holding their work permit, set against a backdrop suggestive of a successful transition to life in Canada.Ansari Immigration is here to help you at every step of the way.

Who's Affected?

Under the new guidelines, only the spouses or common-law partners of international students pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree, or enrolled in specified professional degree programs, are eligible for SOWPs. These designated programs include highly specialized fields such as Doctor of Dental Surgery, Doctor of Medicine, Bachelor of Law, and Doctor of Optometry, among others. The decision marks a pivotal change from previous policies, which were more inclusive of spouses of students across various educational levels.​ 

Grandfathered Applications

For those who had the foresight to apply before March 19, there's a sigh of relief. Your application will be processed under the previous criteria, provided your partner holds a valid study permit and is eligible for a PGWP. This consideration extends to a broad spectrum of educational institutions, including public post-secondary schools and private colleges authorized to award degrees.​

Capturing the essence of family reunification under the SOWP program, this joyful image depicts a couple reuniting in a Canadian setting, complete with iconic symbols of Canada, conveying hope and happiness. Ansari Immigration is here to help you at every step of the way.

Navigating the Changes: Alternatives and Strategies

For those finding themselves outside the new eligibility boundaries, all is not lost. The landscape of Canadian immigration offers multiple pathways for families to stay united or for individuals to pursue their own Canadian dream:

  • Visitor Visas: A potential short-term solution, allowing spouses to stay in Canada without work privileges. It's a stopgap, providing families time to adjust or explore other options​.

  • Independent Study Permits: Spouses with academic ambitions may consider applying for their own study permit, possibly allowing for part-time employment through campus or off-campus work programs ​.

  • Closed Work Permits: With a job offer from a Canadian employer, a spouse can secure a closed work permit. Although restrictive, it's a viable route to gaining Canadian work experience and contributing to the possibility of permanent residency​ ​.

Why the Change?

The updates stem from IRCC's commitment to a sustainable immigration strategy, addressing both the volume of applications and concerns over the integrity of the SOWP process. By narrowing the eligibility, the Canadian government aims to tackle potential exploitation of the system, ensuring that the program aligns with its objectives of attracting talent and promoting family reunification​ ​.

Overview of the SOWP(Spousal Open Work Permit) Application Process

  • When to Apply: Ideally, apply after you have arrived in Canada as a visitor to ensure you are eligible based on your current status within the country.

  • Cost: The application fee is $255 CAD, with an additional $85 CAD for biometrics if required.

  • Processing Time: Check the IRCC website for the latest processing times, which are updated weekly.

  • How to Apply: Applications are submitted online. Start by creating or logging into your IRCC account.

Designed to illustrate the detailed process of applying for a Spousal Open Work Permit, this image features a laptop with the application form on its screen, surrounded by various documents required for the application, set against a backdrop that includes Canadian elements. Ansari immigration is by your side every step of the way

Filling Out the Application Form (IMM 5710)

  • Latest Version: Always use the most current version of the "Change Conditions, Extend my Stay or Remain in Canada as a Worker" form, available through your IRCC account.

  • Understanding UCI: The Unique Client Identifier (UCI), also known as the Client ID, is an 8- or 10-digit number found on your immigration documents like study or work permits.

  • Type of Work Permit: Most spouses/partners will select "a work permit with a new employer" unless your situation dictates otherwise.

  • Mailing Address Details: Include comprehensive address details. "Street no." refers to the number of your residence/building, and "street name" can include numbers if applicable.

Required Documents

  • Basic Documentation: This includes a copy of your passport (bio-data page and any pages with visas or stamps), a digital photo, and proof of relationship (marriage certificate or common-law declaration form IMM5409).

  • Financial Proof: Show evidence of sufficient funds, including bank statements. If your spouse is a full-time student in Canada, their financial documents can also support your application.

  • Applicant Spouse Documents: Provide a copy of the study permit and Letter of Enrollment from the educational institution. If transitioning to a PGWP, additional documents might be required.

Completing the Form: Tips and Clarifications

  • Employment Details: If you do not have a job yet, describe your current situation as "accompanying spouse/partner". This section must be filled even if you don’t have an immediate job offer.

  • Expected Employment Duration: Indicate the period from the current date to the expiry date of your partner's study permit.

  • Previous Applications: If you've applied for any type of Canadian visa or permit before, disclose this by saying "Yes" and provide details.

Additional Considerations

  • Biometrics: If required, pay the biometrics fee when you submit your application for quicker processing. Follow instructions for booking an appointment and ensure to complete this within the timeframe provided in your biometrics instruction letter.

  • Medical Exam: A medical exam might be needed depending on your intended job or if you've lived in certain countries for an extended period.

Final Steps and Submission

  • Signature: Electronic applications do not require a handwritten signature. Validate the form to generate barcodes, save it, and upload it to your IRCC account.

  • Take Screenshots: As a precaution, capture screenshots of your document checklist page, final submission page, and any subsequent document submissions requested by an IRCC officer.

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