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I am sponsoring my spouse or common-law partner who is in Canada. Can they work while their application is being processed?

Yes, but only if they have a work permit.

If you’re sponsoring your spouse or partner under the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class, they can apply for an open work permit when they receive a letter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) confirming that their application for permanent residence is complete.

Remember that while your spouse or partner’s permanent residence application is being processed, they must

  • maintain legal status as a temporary resident in Canada, and
  • wait for their work permit application to be approved before starting to work.
    • If they already have a work permit that is expiring, they can keep working as long as they maintain their status as a worker.

How to apply for an open work permit

For the main steps to apply, see How to apply for a work permit. Below are extra steps that depend on your spouse or partner’s situation.

Your spouse or partner hasn’t applied for permanent residence yet

If they apply online for permanent residence

Starting October 21, 2022, spouses or partners must submit their permanent residence application online.

Once they receive their acknowledgement of receipt (AoR) letter confirming that their application has been put into process, they can apply for an open work permit. They must also apply for the work permit online.

If your spouse or partner does not currently have valid status, we’ll process their work permit application once their permanent residence application has been approved in principle.

How to know what the AoR is

The AoR letter contains the applicant’s application number. This number is located on the top left corner of the letter and starts with an F.

Get the right document checklist
  • Once they sign in or create their online account, they must answer some questions to get a personalized document checklist.
  • Make sure they answer “yes” when asked
    • Does one of the following apply to you?
      • I am the subject of a removal order that is unenforceable
      • I applied for a study or work permit before entering Canada that was approved but not issued at a port of entry
      • I am in primary or secondary school, or a visiting or exchange student, in Canada with visitor status
      • I am applying for an open work permit under an active public policy or pilot program announced by IRCC
      • I am a student who has completed a program of study that is a prerequisite to my enrolment at a designated learning institution with visitor status in Canada
      • I applied for permanent residence and was found eligible (first stage approval) under one of the following classes:
        • Spouse or Common-law Partner in Canada
        • Humanitarian and Compassionate cases
        • Protected Persons in Canada
        • Live-in Caregiver in Canada
How to fill out the application form
  • When they fill out the work permit application form, enter the following details in the “Details of intended work in Canada” section:
    • Box 1: What type of work permit are you applying for?
      • Select “Open Work Permit.”
    • Box 4: Job title and Brief description of duties
      • Enter “SCLPC OWP” in the Job title box.
      • Enter “Spouse and common-law partner in Canada pilot program” in the Brief description of duties box.
Upload their documents
  • In the “Client information” part of the document checklist, upload
    • the acknowledgement of receipt that shows that the PR application is complete
  • In the Family Information form (IMM 5707) part of the document checklist, upload
    • the Family Information form, and
    • your marriage licence/certificate or Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union (IMM 5409)

If they can’t apply online

If your spouse or partner can’t apply online and require accommodations, including for a disability, you can ask for the application for permanent residence in another format (paper, braille or large print).

Your open work permit application can be submitted together with the application for permanent residence.

Your spouse or partner already applied for permanent residence

Once they receive their acknowledgement of receipt letter, they can apply for an open work permit. They must apply online.

If your spouse or partner does not currently have valid status, we’ll process their work permit application once their permanent residence application has been approved in principle.

How to know what the AoR is

The AoR letter contains the applicant’s application number. This number is located on the top left corner of the letter and starts with an F.

Get the right document checklist

  • Once they sign in or create their online account, they must answer some questions to get a personalized document checklist.
  • Make sure they answer “yes” when asked
    • Does one of the following apply to you?
      • I am the subject of a removal order that is unenforceable
      • I applied for a study or work permit before entering Canada that was approved but not issued at a port of entry
      • I am in primary or secondary school, or a visiting or exchange student, in Canada with visitor status
      • I am applying for an open work permit under an active public policy or pilot program announced by IRCC
      • I am a student who has completed a program of study that is a prerequisite to my enrolment at a designated learning institution with visitor status in Canada
      • I applied for permanent residence and was found eligible (first stage approval) under one of the following classes:
        • Spouse or Common-law Partner in Canada
        • Humanitarian and Compassionate cases
        • Protected Persons in Canada
        • Live-in Caregiver in Canada

How to fill out the application form

  • When they fill out the work permit application form, enter the following details in the “Details of intended work in Canada” section:
    • Box 1: What type of work permit are you applying for?
      • Select “Open Work Permit.”
    • Box 4: Job title and Brief description of duties
      • Enter “SCLPC OWP” in the Job title box.
      • Enter “Spouse and common-law partner in Canada pilot program” in the Brief description of duties box.

Upload their documents

  • In the “Client information” part of the document checklist, upload
    • the acknowledgement of receipt that shows that the PR application is complete
  • In the Family Information form (IMM 5707) part of the document checklist, upload
    • the Family Information form, and
    • your marriage licence/certificate or Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union (IMM 5409)

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