Spouse Open Work Permit (SOWP) Explained

Spouse Open Work Permit (SOWP) Explained

Spouse Open Work Permit (SOWP) in Canada is a type of work permit that allows the spouse or common-law partner of certain temporary residents in Canada to work while they are in the country. The SOWP is not job-specific, meaning that the spouse can work for any employer in Canada and does not need to have a job offer to apply for the permit.

This open work permit is designed to support the economic integration and well-being of the spouses or common-law partners of temporary residents, facilitating their ability to contribute to the Canadian workforce. The permit is typically issued for the same duration as the principal applicant’s work or study permit

Benefits of Spousal Open Work Permit

  1. Employment Flexibility: The permit allows the spouse to work for any employer in Canada, offering flexibility in choosing employment opportunities.
  2. No Job Offer Requirement: Unlike other work permits, the SOWP does not mandate the spouse to have a job offer from a Canadian employer, facilitating easier entry into the job market.
  3. Diverse Job Opportunities: The permit enables the spouse to work in various industries and sectors, broadening the scope of available employment options.
  4. Financial Contribution: The ability to work under the SOWP allows the spouse to contribute to the household income, supporting financial stability during their stay in Canada.
  5. Community Integration: Working in Canada enhances the spouse’s integration into the local community, providing exposure to the Canadian job market and fostering social connections.
  6. Alignment with Partner’s Permit: Typically issued for the same duration as the principal applicant’s work or study permit, the SOWP ensures synchronization with the partner’s stay in Canada.
  7. Preferential Treatment Without LMIA: Employers prioritize hiring individuals with Spousal Open Work Permits as they do not necessitate a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
  8. Accrue Canadian Work Experience: Gaining work experience in Canada, even before obtaining Permanent Residency (PR), is advantageous for career advancement, contributing to the potential for higher incomes

Eligibility Requirements For Canada Open Work Permit For Spouse

If you are the spouse of a temporary foreign worker or international student in Canada, you may qualify for a Canada open work permit for spouses. Explore the key eligibility criteria outlined below to understand the requirements for obtaining a Canada open work permit for your spouse.

  1. Relationship Status: You must be legally married or have lived together in a wedded relationship with a foreign worker or international student in Canada for at least one year.
  2. Validity of Spouse’s Status: Your spouse or common-law partner should possess a valid work or study permit, or be eligible for status restoration. They must also have a job offer classified as a skilled occupation by the National Occupational Classification (NOC) or be a full-time student at a designated learning institution.
  3. Applying from Within Canada: Physically residing in Canada is a prerequisite. You must hold a valid temporary resident status, such as a visitor visa, work permit, or study permit.
  4. Financial Capability: Demonstrating financial ability to support yourself and your dependents is crucial. Provide evidence of financial resources, including bank statements, employment letters, or income tax returns.
  5. Criminal Record: Neither you nor your spouse should have a criminal record or be involved in severe violations of Canadian immigration rules.
  6. Medical Examination: A medical examination may be required to ensure there are no health risks to the Canadian public.
  7. Application Fee: Submission of the application for the Canadian open work permit for your spouse necessitates payment of the applicable application fee.

Who can apply for a spouse’s open work permit?

Recent Changes made to the Spousal Open Work Permit have new implementation, check out this article for new eligibility requirements:

New Spouse Visa Rules Canada 2024 (SOWP New Eligibility Requirements)

Those seeking sponsorship from their spouse or individuals whose spouses are currently in Canada under a study or work permit may be eligible to apply for a spousal open work permit. The specific requirements for applying depend on the current status of your spouse in Canada. Refer to the table below for detailed information.

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

Spouse open work permit document checklist

The documentation needed for a Canadian spouse work permit varies based on the category under which you are applying. As part of the work permit application, applicants may be required to submit the following documents

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

Steps to Apply for a Spousal Open Work Permit

  1. Eligibility Check: Verify that you meet the eligibility criteria, considering factors such as your relationship status and your spouse’s permit status.
  2. Document Preparation: Gather the required documents, which may include marriage certificates, proof of relationship, and your spouse’s valid permit details.
  3. Online Application Submission: Complete and submit the application online through the official Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.
  4. Application Fee Payment: Pay the applicable application fee online to process your spousal open work permit application.
  5. Monitoring Application Status: Regularly check the status of your application through the IRCC online portal to stay informed about any updates.
  6. Biometrics (if required): Attend a biometrics appointment if it is part of the application process.
  7. Wait for Processing: Allow time for the application to be processed, which can vary depending on the volume and complexity of applications.
  8. Approval and Permit Issuance: Upon approval, you will receive your spousal open work permit, allowing you to work in Canada.
  9. Commence Employment: Start working for any employer in Canada as permitted by the open work permit

Reasons spouse open work permits are rejected

  1. Principal Applicant Living Outside Canada: If you’re living outside Canada and want to apply for a spousal open work permit, your spouse must be living in Canada legally. If your spouse is outside Canada, your application might be rejected.
  2. No DLI Attendance Evidence for Spouse: If your spouse is a student and you’re applying for a spousal open work permit, they need to show proof of studying at a Canadian Designated Learning Institute (DLI). Not providing this proof could lead to a rejection.
  3. Lack of Proof of Sufficient Funds: You and your spouse must show enough funds to support your stay in Canada. Failing to convince the reviewing officer of your financial stability might result in a refusal, so include financial documents with your application.
  4. Missing Documentation for Spouse’s Employment: If your spousal open work permit application is based on your spouse’s employment, provide documents supporting their work in Canada.
  5. Insufficient Ties to Home Country: When applying for temporary status in Canada, you must prove you’ll leave by the end of your authorized stay. Show ties to your home country to satisfy the officer. If they’re not convinced you’ll leave, your application might be rejected.
  6. Absence of Proof of Genuine Relationship: For a spousal open work permit, provide enough evidence of your genuine relationship with your spouse or common-law partner. If the visa officer doubts the authenticity of your relationship, it could lead to a refusal

Applying for Spousal Open Work Permit Under Certain Conditions

To qualify for a spousal sponsorship open work permit, a foreign national must have initiated the process of applying for permanent residency sponsorship within Canada, specifically through the in-Canada stream of the spousal sponsorship program.

  • If your sponsorship application has not been submitted yet

You have the option to submit the sponsorship, permanent residence, and open work permit applications concurrently. These should be enclosed in a single hard copy envelope, ensuring that all required supporting documentation and proof of payments for each application are included. Submit this package to the Case Processing Centre in Mississauga (CPC-M), Ontario.

  • If your permanent residence application has been submitted but has not yet received approval in principle

you can send the open work permit application separately in hard copy to the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville (CPC-V), Alberta.

  • Once your permanent residence application has received approval in principle

You may proceed with submitting the open work permit application according to the relevant guideline

Frequently Asked Questions ( FAQs )

What is the processing time for a spouse’s open work permit?

The duration for processing a spousal open work permit varies depending on the specific type of permit applied for by your spouse. But it could be from somewhere ranging between 3-4 months.

Is it possible to extend a spouse’s open work permit?

A Spouse Open Work Permit (SOWP) is linked to the permit of the spouse, also known as the ‘lead applicant,’ and remains valid only for the duration of the lead applicant’s permit. If your SOWP is set to expire, you will need to submit a new application based on your spouse’s current permit status.

What are the fees associated with a spouse’s open work permit?

The fee for obtaining a spouse open work permit is $255 CAD, comprising $155 for the processing fee and an additional $100 CAD for the open work permit holder fee.

What is the approval rate for the spousal open work permit?

It is commonly advised to pursue a Canadian open work permit application, given its high success rate, often approaching 100%.

Can individuals with a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) apply for permanent residency (PR) in Canada?

The Spousal/Common Law Partner Open Work Permit (SOWP) serves as a valuable route towards obtaining Canadian Permanent Residency.


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