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Here’s how you can work as an international student in Canada

An international student in Canada is entitled to work on and off campus with limited working hours while on a study permit.
International students in Canada are entitled to work on and off campus with limited working hours with a study permit. Source: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP

Working while studying abroad can add value to your overall experience in a new country, and Canada is known to have one of the friendliest policies on work if you’re a study permit holder. If you’re enrolled in a Designated Learning Institution (DLI), you’re entitled to work under certain conditions as an international student in Canada.

Landing your first gig can be the most challenging part of the journey, especially if you don’t have any prior work experience. It doesn’t help that employers prefer locals in the hiring process, causing foreign students to get routinely passed over even in entry-level jobs.

If you’re looking for work as a Canadian study permit holder, here’s what you need to know:

How many hours can I work as an international student in Canada?

As a full-time student, you’re not allowed to work more than 20 hours off-campus during the academic year. This is a condition outlined in your study permit, and violating it can have serious consequences to your immigration status, including ruining your chances of getting a permanent resident status after graduation, or the worst case scenario — deportation.

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Your main role as a student in a DLI is to complete your courses and graduate in time. You can exceed the 20-hour-per-week cap if you’re working on campus. However, you shouldn’t pack in those hours at your job, as it can detract you from your studies and place additional pressure to your life abroad.

You can only work full-time off-campus during scheduled academic breaks, such as during the summer of winter holidays.

What kind of jobs are available to me?

If you’re working part-time, most jobs that are open to international students will be entry-level positions. These include jobs in retail and merchandising, front desk duties, servers in food and beverage services, as well as baristas in cafes, which are usually located within or near university campuses.

You’re paid by the hour based on the number of shifts you complete within a week, and it’s your responsibility to inform your managers about the limits to your working hours. Try to request for shifts that don’t conflict with your schedule, so you have some time to recharge in between your work and classes.

An international student in Canada can work up to 20 hours off-campus during the academic year

Retail positions are some of the most popular part-time jobs for international students in Canada. Source: Monica Schipper/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Keep an eye out for part-time positions within different faculties, such as lab assistants or data entry positions, which are usually listed in the university’s job portal. International students in Canada are eligible for these roles too, and the work is almost always related to faculty research, which helps build your resume for future careers in your field.

Paid internships and co-ops

Landing an internship or co-op placement as an international student in Canada is a true test of your abilities to apply theoretical knowledge from your lectures into the real-world. You are eligible to work as a student intern in Canada only if work experience is required to complete your study programme.

Besides expanding your professional network and developing soft skills that are indispensable for the current job market, internships and co-ops boost your odds of getting hired right after graduation, especially if you made a good impression to your employers.

As for getting one in the first place, leverage your student and faculty network to inquire for positions ahead of time, so you can make the necessary preparations to apply for them. Look out for opportunities on LinkedIn, job sites or your university career centre to find the right match for your interests and career goals.

Can I start a business as an international student in Canada?

Entrepreneurial international students who want to try their hands at business may wonder if they can start their own venture while studying in Canada. To do that, you’ll have to contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) for a modified study permit to get working status approved for off-campus work. However, the limits to your working hours stipulated on your study permit still apply even if you have your own business going.

Working in Canada after graduation

No doubt, one of the most appealing factor attracting foreign students to Canada is the PGWP, a permit that allows you to work as long as your years of study, but not exceeding three years. The PGWP is a one-time deal, meaning that you’re not allowed to extend it after it expires.

Landing a permanent full-time job with the PGWP is often the first step towards getting a PR in Canada, so getting a head start by submitting your resumes as early as possible is the best strategy to ensure that you land a position in time before your temporary resident permit expires.