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Open work permits for spouses and common-law partners (and their dependents) during the sponsorship process

Published: Jun 1, 2023

On May 26, 2023 the Minister of Immigration made an announcement expanding the class of people who can apply for open work permits if they are within Canada. Much of the announcement consisted of a restatement of already existing policies or promises to speed up processing of applications.

There was a material change mentioned in the announcement. Up to this point only applicants for permanent residence who were in Canada and applying under the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada category, could file an application for an open work permit. Before the imposition of the mandatory online filing in September, these applicants could apply for the open work permit at the same time as they applied for permanent residence. In those cases the work permits were being granted within 3 to 4 months after filing.

The class of people who can apply for an open work permit has been expanded to anyone who is in Canada under a temporary resident permit, and their dependents, that have been sponsored under either the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada category or the Family class (sometimes called an overseas application) provided that:

1.     they have filed an application that is considered to be "complete";

2.     they live at the same residential address as the sponsor.

The application is for a two year open work permit.

A "dependent" is typically an unmarried child under the age of 22 who is neither married nor in a common-law relationship.

Using the online system can delay the issuance of the open work permit. It is taking IRCC weeks if not months to send an acknowledgement of receipt letter to applicants, confirming that their application has been received and is considered to be "complete".

The Minister also announced that his department would speed up and make it easier to file applications for visitor visas for spouses or common-law partners who have already filed an application for permanent residence under the overseas/Family Class category to join their sponsor in Canada. It is yet to be seen whether or not this promise will be kept.

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