Frequently asked questions: Work eligibility

Please note: this is not a legal document and the information may change without notice. For the most up-to-date information:

Working in Canada before graduation

On-campus work

As an international student at the college, can I work on campus without a work permit?

Yes, you can work on campus provided you fulfill the following conditions:

  1. You have a valid study permit.
  2. You have one of these conditions printed on your study permit:
    • May accept employment on the campus of the institution at which registered in full-time studies.
    • May work 20 hrs. per week on/off campus, or full time during regular breaks, if meeting criteria outlined in section 186(v) of IRPR.
    • 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.
  3. You are a full-time student.
  4. You have started your program of study.
  5. You have a Social Insurance Number (SIN).

What is a Social Insurance Number (SIN)?

A SIN is a 9-digit number that the Government of Canada assigns specifically to you, so you can work in Canada or receive benefits or services. You can apply for a SIN in person at Service Canada Centre by presenting your original study permit, passport and a copy of enrolment letter from Conestoga College.

Provided I fulfill the conditions, are there any restrictions in the number of hours I can work on campus?

No, according to IRCC, there are no restrictions on the number of hours you can work on campus.

What is considered on-campus work?

On campus is defined by IRCC as "employment facilities within the boundaries of the campus".

Are there any restrictions to working on a campus, other than the campus for which I am registered a full-time student?

Yes, when an institution has campuses in different cities, you are restricted to working at the institution's campus where you are a registered full-time student.

Can I work on campus as a part-time student?

No, you must be a full-time student to be eligible to work on campus.

Can I work in Canada while I wait for my program to begin?

No, you cannot work until you begin your program of study in Canada.

Can I work on campus if I am currently on an authorized leave?

No, you cannot work if you are not studying. You can return to work once your studies resume provided you meet all the requirements to work on campus.

Off-campus work

As an international student at the college, can I work off campus without a work permit?

Yes, you can work off campus provided you fulfill the following conditions:

  1. You have a valid study permit.
  2. You have one of these conditions printed on your study permit:
    • May work 20 hrs. per week on/off campus, or full time during regular breaks, if meeting criteria outlined in section 186(v) of IRPR.
    • 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.
  3. You are a full-time student.
  4. You are enrolled in an academic, vocational or professional program that is 6 months or longer and leads to a degree, diploma or certificate.
  5. You have started your program of study.
  6. You have a Social Insurance Number (SIN).

Are there any restrictions on the number of hours I can work off campus?

Yes, you can work:

  • During regular academic sessions, up to 20 hours per week.
  • Full-time during scheduled breaks (You must hold full-time status during the academic session before and after your scheduled break.)

How many hours does IRCC consider full-time work?

There is no set number of hours per week that counts as full-time work. However, your employer must adhere to provincial laws regarding overtime, time between shifts, etc.

What if I work more than 20 hours per week during my regular classes?

Working more than 20 hours per week is a violation of your study permit conditions and can negatively affect future IRCC applications. You may lose your student status and eventually you may have to leave Canada.

Can the 20 hours per week I am eligible to work off campus be averaged (e.g. 30 hours one week, 10 hours the next week) during a regular academic session? Am I still fulfilling the conditions of my study permit?

No, during regular academic sessions you can only work up to 20 hours per week off campus and cannot exceed this number, even if you worked less hours the previous week.

I am currently on a scheduled break. Can I take some courses and still work full-time?

Yes, students who are enrolled full-time during the academic session before and after a regularly scheduled break and who enrol in a full-time or part-time course load during that regularly scheduled break, are eligible to work off campus on a full-time basis.

Does working off campus restrict the number of hours I can work on campus?

No, there are no restrictions on the number of hours students can work on campus. Students can work both on and off campus.

Can I work off campus if I am a part-time student?

No, when you become a part-time student, you are no longer authorized to work off campus. The only time you can work as a part-time student is when you are in your last semester (please refer to the next question).

Can I work off campus if I am a part-time student in my final academic semester?

Yes, you can work up to 20 hours/week in your final semester but only if you meet all the requirements for off-campus work and you are studying part-time because:

  • You are in the last semester of your study program.
  • You were a full-time student in your program up until your last semester.
  • You do not need a full course load to complete your program.

If I am on an authorized leave from my studies or I am switching schools/programs, can I work off campus?

No, you cannot work off campus and can only do so once you return to studies. Students who create their own break in a program are not eligible to work off campus during that break.

I am a part-time student and my next semester is a scheduled break for the program. Can I work off campus during the scheduled break?

No, you cannot work during a scheduled break after being a part-time student. You must enrol as required and re-establish your eligibility to work.

If I finish one program and plan to begin a second program, can I work off campus during the gap?

Yes, you can work full-time for 150 consecutive days if you fulfill the following requirements:

  • Were eligible to work off campus during your previous program of study.
  • Have a valid study permit, or you applied for a study permit extension before your study permit expired.
  • Received a written confirmation from your current institution that you completed your program.
  • Were issued a letter of acceptance to a new program of full-time study in Conestoga College or another DLI institution.
  • Will be starting your new program within 150 calendar days of receiving confirmation that you completed your previous program.

What happens if the gap between the two programs is longer than 150 days?

After 150 days, you cannot work. You are required to change your status (e.g. from student to visitor) or leave Canada until the new program commences.

If my program has a scheduled break longer than 150 consecutive days, can I work for the entire time?

No, you are only eligible to work off campus during the first 150 consecutive days.

Co-op, work placement

Can I take part in a program that includes work experience (internship/co-op/unpaid education placements) as part of the curriculum?

Yes, as long as the work experience is 50% or less of the total program of study.

Do I need a co-op work permit (CWP)?

Yes, if you are in an academic, professional or vocational training program that requires any kind of work experience (paid or unpaid), you need a valid CWP as well as a valid study permit. You cannot start your work placement if you do not hold a valid CWP.

Are there specific conditions required to apply for a CWP?

Yes, to be eligible for a CWP, you must fulfill the following conditions:

  • You must have a valid study permit.
  • You must have a letter from the college that confirms that:
    • The work experience is essential to completing your program.
    • All students in your program need to complete work placements to get their degree/credential.
    • Your work experience is 50% or less of the total program of study.

My co-op (or placement) takes place in the last semester of the program and my study permit is about to expire. Do I need to renew my study permit?

Yes, you need both a valid CWP as well as a valid study permit.

When can I apply for my CWP?

You can apply at the same time as you apply for your study permit or any time after you start studying the program.

I have been accepted to a program that includes optional co-op. Should I wait to apply for my CWP until I receive confirmation that I have been accepted into the co-op stream?

No, due to long CWP application processing times, we recommend that you apply for the CWP together with your study permit once you are accepted, even if the acceptance letter includes an optional co-op.

Is a medical exam required for CWP application?

Only students in programs that include co-op work terms/placements in certain areas (health field or working with children) are required to submit a medical exam performed by a Panel Physician approved by IRCC.

Medical exams results are valid for 12 months. If you completed a medical exam for your previous application and it is still valid, you may be able to submit proof of this medical with your application for a CWP.

My CWP has a condition that states "not authorized to work in childcare, primary/secondary school teachings, health service field occupations" and my program has work placement/co-op terms in such areas. What should I do?

You must apply for a new CWP, include a valid medical exam performed by a panel physician approved by IRCC and request a change to the conditions of your CWP.

If I work as an intern but the internship is not part of the program, can I use my CWP?

No, when the internship (paid or unpaid) is NOT a part of the program, the hours count towards the maximum eligible hours of work as an international student. The CWP can only be used for work that is required to complete your program.

During my co-op or work placement, can I still work on and/or off campus?

Yes, the co-op or work placements are considered a part of your program. You can still work on and/or off campus (up to 20 hours a week) provided you meet all the conditions.

My CWP has a specific employment location. Can I work at different locations?

It depends on where the specific location shows on your work permit:

  • If it is in the "Employment Location" line under "Additional Information": You can work in any location; no need to request a change in your work permit.
  • If it is under "Conditions" or "Remarks/Observations": You can only work in that location.

You must request a change to the conditions of your work permit if you plan to work in a different location.

My CWP has a specific occupation. Can I work in a different field?

It depends on where the specific profession/occupation shows on your work permit:

  • If it is in the "Occupation" line under "Additional Information": You can work in any field (as long as the work is required to complete your study program); no need to request a change in your work permit.
  • If it is under "Conditions" or "Remarks/Observations": You can only work in that field.

You must request a change to the conditions of your work permit if you plan to work in a different occupation.

My CWP shows the name of a different college or university. Can I still use my CWP for my co-op/work placement at Conestoga?

No, you must apply for a new CWP.

Can I continue with my placement/co-op term if my CWP expires?

It depends:

  • If your CWP has expired, and you applied for an extension before the expiry date, you are under Implied Status and your CWP remains valid if you stay in Canada.
  • If your CWP has expired and you have not applied for an extension before the expiry date, your CWP is no longer valid and you must apply for a new one. You may not continue with your co-op/work placement until this is received.

Can I use my CWP for work that is not part of my program?

No, the CWP is only for work forming an essential/integral part of the program.

English for Academic Studies (EAS) students

As an English for Academic Studies (EAS) student, can I work on campus?

Yes, you can work on campus as long as you fulfill the conditions for on-campus work.

Please refer above to:

  • On-campus work > As an international student at the college, can I work on campus without a work permit?

As an English for Academic Studies (EAS) student, can I work off campus?

No. The EAS program, as well as other general interest courses and prerequisite programs, are ineligible for students to work off campus.

If I am an EAS student and my study permit indicates that I am allowed to work off campus, can I do so?

No, you cannot work off campus without a work permit if you are enrolled in the EAS program. You must fulfill all of the conditions required to work off campus.

Please refer above to:

  • Off-campus work > As an international student at the college, can I work off campus without a work permit?

I completed the EAS program and I am registered in an academic program that is eligible for work both on and off campus. The start date of the new program is not immediate; can I work until my program begins?

No, you cannot work until you begin the new (eligible) program. You must fulfill the conditions for on- and/or off-campus work.

All students

What should I do if my study permit does not list a condition that says I am allowed to work on and/or off campus?

Provided you met the conditions to work when you applied for your study permit, you may have it amended. Please make an appointment with an International Student Advisor to find out about the procedure to apply for an amendment and the documents required.

If I apply for an amendment, can I work while I wait for a response?

No, you have to wait for your amended study permit. You cannot start working until you meet all the conditions to work on and off campus.

Please refer above to:

  • On-campus work > As an international student at the college, can I work on campus without a work permit?
  • Off-campus work > As an international student at the college, can I work off campus without a work permit?
Temporary rules during COVID-19

If I have been forced to part-time studies or have been required to take a break from studies because of COVID-19, can I work on or off campus?

Yes, you can continue to work on or off campus. You are still subject to the authorized number of hours you would have been permitted to work as a full-time student.

If I apply for an amendment, can I work while I wait for a response?

Yes, if you meet all the requirements to work off campus and you work in an essential service such as health care, critical infrastructure or the supply of food or other critical goods, you can work full-time during your academic session. Please refer above to: Off-campus work > As an international student at the college, can I work off campus without a work permit?

Note: This temporary change is in place until August 31, 2020.

How do I know if my job is considered essential?

Services and functions that may be considered essential are included on the government’s web page Guidance on Essential Services and Functions in Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic. You and your employer can refer to the list for information purposes.

Working in Canada after graduation

Post-graduation work

After I graduate, can I apply for a work permit?

Yes, when you complete your program(s), you can apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). Work permits issued under the PGWP program allow international students who graduate from Conestoga to gain valuable Canadian work experience.

What kind of work permit is a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)?

The PGWP is an open work permit (OWP). This means that you can work in any occupation, anywhere in Canada and change employers any time you wish. An OWP also exempts employers from the requirement of obtaining a labour market impact assessment (LMIA) generally required to obtain a work permit.

What are the requirements to apply for a PGWP?

To apply for a PGWP, you must:

  • Have never received a PGWP before. You can only receive one PGWP in your lifetime.
  • Submit the application within 180 days after you get confirmation from Conestoga College that you completed your program.
  • Have held a valid study permit within these 180 days.
  • Have graduated in an eligible program at least 8 months long.
  • Have maintained full-time status as a student during each semester of your study program (except your final semester, which can be part-time).
  • Have received a completion letter and transcripts from Conestoga that confirm that you completed all the requirements to graduate.
  • Have legal status if applying from within Canada.

How early can I apply for a PGWP?

You can apply when you receive written confirmation from the college that you have met the requirements for completion of the program.

Is there a deadline to apply for a PGWP?

Yes, you must apply within 180 days of receiving written confirmation from the College confirming that you have met the requirements for requirements for completion of the program.

When does the calculation of the 180 days begin?

It begins the day your final marks are issued or the day you receive formal written notification of program completion, whichever comes first.

Can I apply for my PGWP from within Canada?

You can apply for a PGWP from within Canada or from outside Canada as long as you meet the eligibility in each case.

What is required if I want to apply for my PGWP from within Canada?

If you apply for your PGWP from within Canada, you must have legal status (hold a valid study permit or visitor record) at the time you apply. If you want to switch to visitor status, you must apply before your study permit expires.

When does my study permit expire?

A study permit becomes invalid as a result of one of the following occurrences, whichever comes first:

  • Expiration day on the permit, or
  • 90 days after written confirmation of program completion

Can I apply for a PGWP from within Canada if my study permit has expired and I didn’t apply to change my status from student to visitor before it expired?

You may be able to apply for a PGWP if you restore your status as a student within 90 days of your study permit’s expiration. Please contact an International Student Advisor for detailed information.

Do I have to hold legal status to apply for a PGWP from outside Canada?

No, if you apply for a PGWP from outside Canada, legal status is not required at the time of application.

When is a medical examination required?

A medical exam is only required if you fit into one of the following categories:

  • You are requesting to work in a designated occupation such as the field of health or with children such as health services, child care or primary or secondary education.
  • You have lived in one or more designated countries or territories for more than six months in the past year. Please be aware that Canada is not in the list of designated countries.

Please contact an International Student Advisor for detailed information.

Can I work while I wait for my academic results, if my classes are complete?

Yes, you can work up to 20 hours a week until you receive your letter of completion or until your final grades are posted.

When I receive my completion letter/final grades, can I continue working?

No, as soon as you receive written confirmation from Conestoga College that you have completed your program and are eligible to graduate, you are no longer considered a student and must stop working.

After I submit my application, can I work while IRCC processes my application?

You can work full-time until IRCC renders a decision regarding your PGWP application if you meet the following requirements:

  • You had a valid study permit when you submitted your application.
  • You completed your program of study.
  • You were eligible to work off campus without a work permit while studying and you did not work more hours than you were permitted.

I changed my status to visitor status and then submitted my application for PGWP. Can I work while I wait for the application to be processed?

No, as a visitor you cannot work. You must wait until you receive your PGWP.

My study permit expired and I have applied for restoration of status, a new study permit and PGWP at the same time. Can I work while awaiting a decision?

No, you must hold a valid study permit when you apply to be eligible to work while your application is in process. In this case, you must wait until your PGWP arrives to begin to work.

Does the length of my studies in Canada affect the length of the work permit?

Yes, a PGWP may be issued based on the length of your study program:

  • If your program is more than 8 months but less than 2 years, your PGWP may be valid for up to the same length as your program.
  • If your program is 2 years or more, your PGWP may be issued for 3 years.

Are there any limits to the length of the PGWP?

Yes, a PGWP may be issued for a minimum of 8 months up to a maximum of 3 years.

If I have completed more than one program, does the total length of study of both programs, count towards the length of my PGWP?

Yes, you may be able to receive a PGWP that combines the length of each program, as far as each of the programs is at least 8 months in length and meets all PGWP eligibility requirements.

If you completed more than one program, from an eligible DLI within 2 years and the combined length of the programs is 2 years or longer, the work permit may be valid for up to 3 years.Please note that the final decision is always at the discretion of the immigration officer.

After completing my first program, I had to wait one semester before starting my 2nd program. Will this gap affect the length of my PGWP?

If you received written confirmation that you have completed your first program of studies and you were issued a letter of acceptance to a new program of full-time study, this gap should not affect your PGWP application.

Please contact an International Student Advisor if the gap between both programs was longer than 150 days.

What happens if my passport expires before my PGWP should?

Please ensure your passport is valid for the entire length of time for which you anticipate your PGWP to be issued. If your passport expires earlier:

  • IRCC will issue your PGWP up to the expiry date of your passport.
  • IRCC will advise you if you need to extend your passport to obtain full validity.

Note: You can only extend your passport if IRCC advises you to do so. If this occurs, a paper application must be completed.

I am from a country that requires a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV). Should I apply for a new TRV at the same time that I apply for my PGWP?

It depends on where you apply:

  • If you submit your application from inside Canada, you will need to apply for a new TRV separately.
  • If you submit your application from outside Canada, a new TRV will be issued when your PGWP application is approved.

If I am from a country that requires an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), when should I apply for a new one?

If you need an eTA, IRCC will issue one when your PGWP application is approved.

My spouse or common law partner is currently in Canada and holds a valid OWP. When does the OWP expire?

Your spouse or common law partner’s OWP expires on the expiry date shown in the document.

Can my spouse or common law partner extend his/her OWP after I complete my studies?

Yes, your spouse or common law partner is eligible to extend his/her OWP provided you meet the following requirements:

  • You hold a valid PGWP.
  • You hold a valid skilled job (NOC 0, A or B).

What happens if my spouse or common law partner’s OWP is expiring before I can find a skilled job?

Your spouse or common law partner must apply for a visitor record, stop working when the OWP expires and apply for an OWP only when you hold a valid skilled job.

Temporary rules during COVID-19

If I have been forced to part-time studies or have been required to take a break from studies because of COVID-19, will that affect my PGWP eligibility?

No, if your student status changes from full-time to part-time because of COVID-19 and subsequent program design changes, your PGWP eligibility will not be impacted.

My classes have been moved to online delivery due to COVID-19. Will this affect the length of my PGWP?

Under normal circumstances you can only complete up to 50% of your program online to be eligible for a PGWP. However, on a temporary basis, if you are studying in Canada and your classes were moved to online delivery due to COVID-19, you will not be penalized with regard to your PGWP eligibility.

I am studying remotely (online) from outside of Canada. Will this study time count towards my PGWP?

Under normal circumstances all distance-learning courses completed outside Canada are excluded from the time accumulated toward the length of your PGWP.

However, on a temporary basis, the time spent in distance learning abroad will not be excluded from the length of your PGWP provided you meet the following requirements:

  • You hold a valid study permit or you have been approved for a study permit (you hold a valid letter of introduction).
  • At least 50% of your total program of study is completed in Canada.

I am currently overseas and have been accepted to a program at Conestoga. I have already submitted my study permit application, can I start my studies?

If you do not have a study permit or approval of your study permit application (letter of introduction), time spent pursuing your studies online will not count toward your eligibility for a PGWP.

What will the arrival process at the airport be like?
  • A Canadian Border Services Officer will ask to see your passport, ask you some questions and ensure you meet the requirements to enter Canada. You must show them all the documents mentioned above.
  • The Officer will stamp your passport or let you know how long you can stay in Canada. They will then issue you the hard copy of your Study Permit – check this to ensure your personal information is correct, and you know the expiry date.
Do I need a Custodian to study at Conestoga College?

Eligibility: In Ontario, students under the age of 18 are considered minors. Minor children must either come to Canada with their parent or legal guardian OR have a custodian in Canada. More information on custodianship is found on the Government of Canada website.

Process: Students may arrange Custodianship services privately, or via our external partner, Canada Homestay Network (CHN). Custodianship services through CHN are only available to students in a Homestay placement with CHN.

Once a Homestay application has been received by CHN indicating that the student requires custodianship, they are sent documentation to complete. The “Appointment of Custodianship” document indicates that the student’s parents wish to appoint a representative of CHN as their child’s custodian while studying in Canada. Once completed, this must be notarized by a lawyer in the student’s home country, as well as in Canada. This is returned to the student, as the document is required when obtaining a visa or entering Canada.

Services: CHN’s Custodian Representative meets with the student a few days after their arrival to welcome them and review rules, processes and documentation. For example, students will need to check in with their Custodian if they are going out of town.

Who can help me with my immigration questions at Conestoga College?
  • Licensed International Student Advisors at the International Office have expertise in immigration policy and requirements, providing you with information and advice on Visas, Study Permits, Co-op/Work Permits and settling in Canada.
  • Advisors are available to meet with students at all campuses – for questions or appointments, please email internationaladvisor@conestogac.on.ca

Note: The immigration information in this document has been reviewed and endorsed by Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) and Regulated International Student Immigration Advisors (RISIAs) in compliance with the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. However, this is not a legal document and information may change without notice. Always refer to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for the most up-to-date information, or contact an International Student Advisor at Conestoga College.