Ten scenarios of off-campus work: international students in Canada

Working off-campus in Canada as an international student

Canada is a popular destination for international students. It offers quality education and the opportunity to work while studying. However, the rules surrounding off-campus work can be complex. In this article, I’ll delve into ten scenarios to help you understand when an international student or graduate can work off-campus and whether it’s full-time or part-time.

Scenario 01: Emily – Full-time student with a valid study permit

Emily is a full-time Vancouver Community College student enrolled in a nursing program. She has a valid study permit, and her school is a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). Emily is eager to gain some real-world experience and wants to work in a healthcare startup off-campus. She’s particularly interested in roles allowing her to apply her nursing skills, such as a healthcare assistant.

Question: Can Emily work off-campus?

Answer: Yes, Emily can work off-campus. She can work up to 20 hours per week during her academic sessions and work full-time during regular school breaks like winter or summer vacations. However, she must maintain her full-time student status. This is an excellent way for Emily to gain industry experience while studying.

Scenario 02: Raj – Final semester with a lighter course load

Raj is in his final semester at Humber College in Toronto. Due to how his course schedule worked out, he only has two courses this semester, technically making him a part-time student. Raj is concerned about his off-campus work eligibility.

Question: Can Raj work off-campus?

Answer: Raj can work only up to 20 hours per week off-campus. There is an exception for students in their final semester with a lighter course load, allowing them to work off-campus for limited hours.

Scenario 03: Sarah – Completed studies but waiting for PGWP

Sarah has recently completed her Master’s in Business Administration from Simon Fraser University. She has applied for a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) but hasn’t received a decision yet. Sarah is anxious to start her career and wonders if she can work while waiting.

Question: Can Sarah work off-campus?

Answer: Sarah can work full-time off-campus while waiting for the decision on her PGWP application. However, she must have applied for the PGWP before the expiry of her study permit. This allows Sarah to kickstart her career without unnecessary delays. Moreover, she could accumulate work experience in immigration under the Canadian Experience Class or other immigration options sooner.

Scenario 04: Ahmed – Lost financial support

Ahmed is an international student from Syria studying engineering at Dalhousie University. Due to an unfortunate turn of events back home, he loses his financial support. Ahmed is stressed and considers dropping out.

Question: Can Ahmed work off-campus?

Answer: Quitting studies disqualifies Ahmed from working. Nonetheless, he may apply for a work permit as a destitute student. These open work permits allow Ahmed to work full-time to overcome his financial difficulties and continue his education.

Scenario 05: Kim – School strike situation

Kim is a full-time student at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) currently experiencing a faculty strike. Classes have been suspended, and Kim is unsure about her work eligibility.

Question: Can Kim work off-campus?

Answer: Yes, but only part-time. Even during a school strike, students can only work part-time off-campus. This ensures Kim can still earn income without violating her study permit conditions.

Scenario 06: Carlos – Enrolled in another study program

Carlos has just completed a diploma in Graphic Design and plans to enroll in a Bachelor’s program at the same institution. There is a gap of 100 days between the two programs.

Question: Can Carlos work off-campus?

Answer: Yes, Carlos can work full-time off-campus between the two programs, provided he has a valid study permit or has applied for a new one before the expiration of the first. However, if the gap exceeds 150 days, he can only work for the first 150 days.

Scenario 07: Aisha – Minor studying at a DLI

Aisha is a 17-year-old international student enrolled in a high school program. She wonders if she can work part-time to gain experience and pocket money.

Question: Can Aisha work off-campus?

Answer: Aisha cannot work off-campus as she is a minor and is not enrolled in a post-secondary program. She must wait until she enrolls in a post-secondary program and meets the other criteria. However, if Aisha’s parents are working in Canada as foreign workers, there is a chance she may receive a work permit because of them. She decided to book a consultation session with Al Parsai to learn more.

Scenario 08: Maria – Working during summer break

Maria is studying physics at York University. She has taken no courses this summer. Maria wonders if she can work during the summer break.

Question: Can Maria work off-campus?

Answer: Yes, Maria can work full-time off-campus during the summer break, regardless of whether she takes a course or not.

Scenario 09: Jack – The gap between programs exceeds 150 days

Jack has finished his studies in computer science and plans to take a gap year before enrolling in a Master’s program. The gap is 180 days.

Question: Can Jack work off-campus?

Answer: Yes, but only for the first 150 days. He can only work if his study permit remains valid or if he applies for a new study permit before the expiration of the old one. After that, Jack will not be allowed to work off-campus until he enrolls in the new program and meets the other criteria. Moreover, he must either leave Canada after 150 days or apply for a status change (e.g., to a visitor).

Scenario 10: Lily – Studying an accelerated post-secondary diploma

Lily is a full-time student at Centennial College. The accelerated or rather fast-track program allows her to receive her diploma sooner. Nonetheless, she must study full-time all year round. Lily wonders if she can work full-time during the summer while completing her program.

Question: Can Lily work off-campus?

Answer: Lily may work up to 20 weekly hours while maintaining her full-time student status. However, since her program offers no summer break, she may not work full-time during the summer. Of course, she may work full-time during reading weeks or the short breaks between the semesters.

Let us help!

Understanding the guidelines for off-campus work as an international student in Canada is crucial for planning your studies and career. Always check your study permit conditions and update yourself with the latest guidelines from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Of course, you may book a consultation session with me to further explore your options. If you are already facing issues, fill out the following form.

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    Al Parsai

    This article has been expertly crafted by Al Parsai, a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University. A respected member of CICC and CAPIC organizations, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.