Know Your Rights: Can I work on a Canadian student visa?
Can i work in Canada? Where can I work? how many hours? Study International answers all your concerns. Source: Unsplash

Can I apply for work as an international student in my host country? What are my wage rights? Am I allowed to join protests and class walkouts? If I had a run-in with the authorities, what should I do? To help you understand the extent and limitations of your rights as a student abroad, Study International News will provide the answers to all these burning questions and more through our “Know Your Rights” article series. Have a question you want answered? Email us at

Studying abroad in Canada can be expensive. From high university fees to fun adventure activities and classic Northern American food, students are looking at spending an average of CA$15,050 (US$11,685) a year on living costs alone, according to the Université de Montréal.

With tuition fees costing CA$25,180 (US$20,540) per year and study permits weighing in at CA$150 (US$120) for the duration of your studies, as reported by Top Universities, it almost seems impossible for the average student to survive Canadian university without a part-time job bringing in some extra cash.

So, are you allowed to work while studying in Canada? How many hours? And what type of work? We address these concerns below:

Can I work on my campus?

You are entitled to work an unlimited number of hours ‘on campus’ for a wage without a work permit if you are a full-time student with a valid student permit and Social Insurance Number at either:

  • A post-secondary school, such as a college or university, or CEGEP (publicly funded pre‑university college) in Quebec,
  • A private college-level school in Quebec that operates under the same rules as public schools, and is at least 50 percent funded by government grants
  • Or, a Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law

If you do not have a Social Insurance Number, you can apply for one from Service Canada if your visa has these conditions printed on it:

  • May accept employment on the campus of the institution at which registered in full-time studies
  • May accept employment on or off campus if meeting eligibility criteria as per R186(f), (v) or (w)*. Must cease working if no longer meeting these criteria.

* R186 is a section under the Immigration Refugee Protection Regulations that outlines conditions under which foreign nationals are allowed to work in Canada without work permits. Regulation 186(f), (v) and (w) refer specifically to full-time students, and current and former study permit holders.

Getting a job at your university is a simple way to make money without needing a separate visa. Source: Clay Banks/

If your visa does not have these conditions on it, you can request for Service Canada to add them at no extra cost.

‘Working on campus’ includes working in any building on any campus owned by your university in Canada. This could be work for:

  • The school
  • A faculty member
  • A student organization
  • Yourself (self-employed on-campus)
  • A private business
  • A private contractor that provides on-campus services to the school.

Can I work off-campus?

You can work off campus for 20 hours a week without a work permit if you:

  • Have a valid study permit
  • Are a full-time student at a designated learning institution (DLI)
  • Have started studying
  • Are in a program that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate and is at least six months long
  • And, have a Social Insurance Number (SIN) – see above if you don’t have one.

Even if you are no longer a full-time student because you are in your final semester and do not need full-time tuition to complete your course, you are still eligible for work off campus.

UNLESS you are:

  • Studying English or French as a second language
  • Taking general interest courses or courses to prepare for another study program
  • Or a visiting or exchange student who won’t get a degree from your host school in Canada.

If any of the above circumstances apply to you, you can request a valid work permit to work in Canada.

The number of hours you can work increases to full-time – that’s 40 hours a week –  during scheduled breaks, such as the winter and summer holidays or spring break, and after you finish your studies if you have applied for any other work permit.

Can I work as a co-op student or intern as part of my course?

Co-op students are those who are studying a program that requires they undertake work experience as part of their course.

You can apply for a co-op or intern work permit if:

  • You have a valid study permit,
  • Working is a crucial part of your study program in Canada,
  • You have a letter from your school that confirms all students on your course need to complete work placements as part of their degree
  • And, your co-op or internship is 50 percent or less of the total program of study.

You can apply for a student co-op and internship visa here.

You aren’t eligible for a co-op work permit if you are studying:

  • English or French as a second language
  • Or, general interest courses or courses to prepare for another study program.

In these cases, you need to get a valid work permit to work in Canada.

Can my family work in Canada on my student visa?

Your spouse or common-law partner can apply for an open work permit if you are a full-time student at a:

  • Public post-secondary school, such as a college or university, or CEGEP in Quebec
  • Private college-level school in Quebec
  • Or, Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under the provincial law (for example, Bachelors, Masters or doctorate) and
  • And, have a valid study permit.

What about after graduation?

Students can stay and work in Canada after graduation either on a temporary work visa or even start thinking about becoming a Permanent Resident.

You can apply for a Post Graduation Work Visa if you:

  • are 18-years-old or older when you apply
  • have continuously studied full-time in Canada in a study program at least eight months long
  • have a document from your school (transcript, official letter, certificate, etc.) that confirms you completed and passed all your program requirements
  • have graduated from a:
    • public post-secondary school, such as a college, trade/technical school or university, or CEGEP in Quebec or
    • private post-secondary school that operates under the same rules as public schools (currently applies only to certain private post-secondary institutions in Quebec) or
    • private secondary or post-secondary school (in Quebec) that offers qualifying programs of 900 hours or longer, leading to a diplôme d’études professionnelles (DEP) or an attestation de spécialisation professionnelle (ASP) or
    • Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law (for example, Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate degree) but only if you are enrolled in a study programs leading to a degree as authorized by the province
  • apply for a work permit within 90 days of when it was confirmed that you completed your program and
  • have a valid study permit when you apply for the work permit.

If you don’t qualify for the above criteria, it’s worth looking if you are eligible for another type of work visa.

Additionally, if you’re ready to take the plunge and apply for residentship, you can explore your options with the official Come to Canada tool.

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