Open spousal work permit program expanded in British Columbia

Meurrens LawWork Permits

A little known fact in Canada’s immigration system is that a foreign worker’s spouse or common-law partner may be eligible to apply for an “open” work permit that will allow him/her to accept any job with any employer in Canada.  For most of Canada, the condition is that the foreign worker must be working in Canada for six months or longer in a job that is skill level 0, A, or B in the National Occupational Classification.

On August 15, 2011, the program was significantly expanded in British Columbia under a Pilot Project that will last until February 15, 2013.  Spouses and common-law partners of temporary foreign workers engaged in NOC C and D skill categories are now eligible to obtain open work permits.

According to OB 337, Applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • The applicant must be a spouse or common-law partner, or a dependent child, of a principal applicant described in sub-section ii below.
  • The principal foreign worker must have been issued an employer-specific work permit that is valid for at least six months for an employer located in BC.
  • Dependent children  must be aged 18-22 at the date of application, and eligible to work in BC.
  • Family members of seasonal agricultural workers (including the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program participants), Live-in-Caregivers (including non-LCP live-in caregivers) and temporary foreign workers in BC who have work permits issued under the International Experience Canada Program are NOT eligible for open WPs under this pilot.

A maximum of 1,800 work permits will be issued under the pilot project.

This program makes perfect sense.  I have always thought it almost insulting that we allow certain foreign workers to bring their families with them when we work in Canada, while we tell others that they are not skilled enough to do so.  I understand the policy reasons for it of course, but it nonetheless always rubbed me the wrong way, and I’m glad that British Columbia is leading an initiative that could change this restriction.