Working during your studies in Canada can be a great way for international students to gain experience, make connections, and earn extra money to pay the bills (or treat yourself to something special!). However, there are some restrictions on who can work while studying in Canada and what types of work they can do. Here’s what you need to know before you start your job search.
In this article:
- Who can work while studying in Canada
- Types of work permitted
- Tips for working while studying in Canada
Who can work while studying in Canada
It’s important to make sure you qualify to work while studying in Canada before starting a job because, if you do so without qualifying, you could be asked to leave Canada. Your study permit will include information about whether you’re able to work on- or off-campus.
International students can work on-campus without a work permit if they meet all of these requirements. (Note that you must stop working on campus the exact day your full-time study ends.)
- You are a full-time post-secondary student at either
- a public post-secondary school,
- a private college-level school in Quebec that’s at least 50 per cent funded by government grants,
- or a Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law.
- You have a valid study permit.
- You have a Social Insurance Number (SIN).
International students can work off-campus without a work permit if they meet all the following requirements. (Note that you can only start work in Canada once your study program officially begins.)
- You’re a full-time student at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)
- You’re enrolled in either a post-secondary professional, vocational, or professional training program or a secondary-level vocational training program (Quebec only)
- You’re in a study program that’s at least six months long and leads to a degree, diploma, or certificate
- You’ve already started studying
- You have a Social Insurance Number (SIN)
If you’re a part-time student, you must meet all of the above requirements and only be studying part-time because you’re in the last semester of your program and don’t need a full course load to complete it.
Types of work permitted
On-campus work means any jobs located in the buildings on your school campus. If your school has more than one campus, you can normally only work on the campus you study at. You can, however, work at other locations if you’re a teaching or research assistant, or if your work is related to a research grant. An on-campus employer can be your school, a faculty member, a student organization, a private contractor that provides on-site services, or even yourself if you run a business that’s physically located on campus. There is no limit to the number of hours you can work on campus. You can learn more about working on-campus here.
If you meet all of the requirements for off-campus work, you can usually work up to 20 hours a week during regular school terms/semesters. During school breaks, such as winter or summer holidays, you’re free to work overtime or take two part-time jobs that add up to a higher than usual number of hours. From November 2022 to December 2023, the 20 hour/week cap has been temporarily been lifted, and during this period, international students in Canada can work off-campus for additional hours (subject to the maximum permissible limit under the provincial employment standards, usually between 40 to 48 hours per week).
You have to be a full-time student both before and after a break to qualify. This means the summer breaks before and after your study term are not included. You can find more information about off-campus work here.
Internships and co-op placements
Some study programs include work experience as part of their curriculum. If this applies to your program, you can apply for a co-op or intern work permit as long as you meet these requirements:
- You have a valid study permit
- Work is required to complete your program of study in Canada
- You have a letter from your school that confirms all students in your program need to complete work placements to earn their degree
- Your co-op or internship makes up less than 50 per cent or less of your study program
During COVID, the Canadian government has made some exceptions for remote co-ops and internships. You can learn more about these here.
Tips for working while studying in Canada
- Plan your schedule well. Between work and school, it can be easy to overcommit yourself– especially in your first year of study. It may be best to give yourself some time to adjust to your new schedule before seeking out additional work.
- Look for opportunities aligned with your field of study or ones that allow you to develop new skills (such as improving your English or French!). Jobs can have more benefits than just making money. Take this opportunity to learn outside the classroom and even make some valuable connections in your field.
- Consider future employment prospects with your employer. Canadian companies often offer full-time jobs to former interns or employees they’ve already worked with on a part-time basis. Use your co-op or part-time gig as a chance to get your foot in the door.
- Network in the workplace and ask your manager to give you a referral on LinkedIn to show future employers you’re a valuable asset to their team. In Canada, many positions are filled through recruiters networks, so building your network will be key to hearing about job opportunities. Take this opportunity to meet others in your field. Even if they don’t end up hiring you down the road, they may know someone else looking to fill a position.
- Be proactive. Don’t be afraid to ask your manager for additional opportunities or express your interest in working on a particular project. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!
- Ask for help when you need it. Canadian companies tend to be very team-oriented and encourage employees to ask for help when they need it. Asking a colleague or manager for help can be a learning and networking opportunity.