Last Updated on June 17, 2020 by Steven Meurrens

Regulation 186(v) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations provides that a foreign national may work off campus if:

(v) if they are the holder of a study permit and

(i) they are a full-time student enrolled at a designated learning institution as defined in section 211.1,

(ii) the program in which they are enrolled is a post-secondary academic, vocational or professional training program, or a vocational training program at the secondary level offered in Quebec, in each case, of a duration of six months or more that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate, and

(iii) although they are permitted to engage in full-time work during a regularly scheduled break between academic sessions, they work no more than 20 hours per week during a regular academic session;

In brief, international students can work can work part time (up to 20 hours a week) during a regular academic session and full time during regularly scheduled breaks between academic sessions.

The Guidelines

According to the IRCC Guidelines, international students can work off campus without a permit, provided that all of the following statements are true:

  • they hold a valid study permit
  • they are full-time students enrolled at a designated learning institution (DLI)
  • the program in which they are enrolled is a post-secondary academic, vocational or professional training program, or a vocational training program at the secondary level offered in Quebec
  • the program of study is at least 6 months in duration and leads to a degree, diploma or certificate

An academic program is defined as a post-secondary program that awards academic credentials to persons for whom the normal entrance requirement is high school completion or higher. This program is often delivered at institutions that award an academic degree, diploma or certificate, such as any of the following:

    • universities
    • colleges
    • CEGEPs
    • seminaries
    • institutes of technology

Professional training is defined as a type of training usually offered to a person who is already a professional in a given field. Professional development is generally “accredited”; that is, it is recognized by an industry, association or profession. Professional training can be offered by learning institutions or professional associations, regulatory bodies or unions (for example, real estate appraisal, production and inventory control, food services management or specialty courses for lawyers, doctors, accountants, business administrators, engineers, dentists, teachers and counsellors).

Vocational training is defined as a preparation for a specific occupation in an industry or a trade that is generally “accredited”. It may be offered through on-the-job programs, by unions in conjunction with businesses or employers or by learning institutions in conjunction with a specific industry or employer. This training may include any of the following:

  • technical training
  • organizational training
  • basic skills training

To be considered a regularly scheduled break, the break must be part of the school’s academic calendar (for instance, winter and summer holidays, Reading Week). Each regularly scheduled break should not be longer than 150 days. The maximum cumulative duration of scheduled breaks is 180 days per calendar year.

Students are not eligible for the off-campus work permit program if either of the following applies:

  • they are registered in a general interest program of study that does not meet the definition of an academic, professional or vocational training program as defined above (for instance, ESL/FSL courses for self-improvement)
  • they are undertaking a course or program of study that is a prerequisite to their enrolment at a DLI

Students must stop working off campus as soon as their full-time status becomes part-time during a regular academic session (for instance, a student may begin a regular academic session on a full-time basis and become part-time during the same session as they drop courses). In this case, they are no longer authorized to undertake off-campus work.

Students who have maintained full-time status for the duration of their program of study, and who only require a part-time course load in their final academic session in order to complete their program of study, may work off campus up to 20 hours per week during their final academic session.

If an institution allows for back-to-back scheduled breaks, thus creating a break period longer than 150 consecutive days, students are only eligible to work off campus during the first 150 consecutive days. They cannot work for the entire break if it is longer than 150 consecutive days.

Taking into account all regularly scheduled breaks, students may only work off campus on a full-time basis for a total of 180 days during each calendar year.

Off Campus Work and Completion of Studies

Students may work off campus on a part-time basis if the following applies:

  • they meet the eligibility criteria to work off campus as articulated above;
  • they have completed the final academic requirements for their program of study but have not yet received written confirmation of program completion from their institution (for instance, a transcript, an official letter or an email); and
  • they have not applied for a work permit (for instance, a post-graduation work permit or a work permit with a valid Labour Market Impact Assessment) or a study permit extension or enrolled in a subsequent program of study.

They may work until the first date they receive written confirmation of program completion from their educational institution (for instance, an email, a letter, a transcript or a diploma), provided their study permit remains valid during this period. If the study permit becomes invalid before the student receives the notification of program completion from their institution, the student must cease working the day the study permit becomes invalid.

It should be noted that even though the requirements for a Post-Graduate Work Permit are that students provide a transcript or official letter, pursuant to the Federal Court decision in Singh v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2020 FC 687 , students must stop working if they receive an e-mail from an institution confirming that they have graduated.