Studying in Canada is expensive and most international students use the benefit of working while studying in order to bear some of the living expenses of their stay in the country. Not all students can work while studying. There is also a misunderstanding with the co-op work permit and it’s use that will be clarified here.

Who can work while studying?

Only students in compliance with Section 186 (v) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations can work while attending an educational institution:

(v) if they are the holder of a study permit and

  • (i) they are a full-time student enrolled at a designated learning institution as defined in section 211.1,
  • (ii) the program in which they are enrolled is a post-secondary academic, vocational or professional training program, or a vocational training program at the secondary level offered in Quebec, in each case, of a duration of six months or more that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate, and
  • (iii) although they are permitted to engage in full-time work during a regularly scheduled break between academic sessions, they work no more than 20 hours per week during a regular academic session

Can I work while studying an English or French Program?

No. Unfortunately, based on the laguage of the regulations, language programs are barred from this benefit. 

Is there an exception to work more than 20 hours a week?

Yes, the only exception to work over 20 hours a week is during the scheduled breaks (i.e. winter, summer, reading week) and during the transition period to a post-graduate work permit (if applicable).

Note that if the student is registered to study during summer academic sessions (May to August) then they can work only 20 hours per week despite other students having taken a break.

The other exception is if you are working on-campus, currently, there are no legal restrictions preventing students from working on-campus in addition to working the maximum 20 hours per week off-campus.

What happens if my program does not have scheduled breaks?

Some intensive programs may not have scheduled breaks; in this case, the student may work only up to 20 hours a week.

If I work less than 20 hours one week, can I balance it out working more hours the following one?

No, you cannot. The current policy only allows for a maximum of 20 hours a week.

I got a co-op work permit separate from my study permit, can I use it during the entire period?

No. The co-op work permit is bound to the program of studies and this work permit has different rules. The rules are completely related to the hours you originally studied, those are the same hours that you can work. Some students get confused with the dates and believe that because the work permit expires several months later after completing the program, they can work as many hours as they like, this is wrong and risky. If a student took 700 hours of in-class sessions, the he is allowed to work only 700 hours; if working full-time during the co-op portion, this equals just over 4 months of work, regardless of the expiry date of the work permit. 

What would happen if I do not comply and stick to the 20 hours I am allowed to work? Or if I keep working with my co-op work permit for the entire validity period?

Students who fail to comply with the terms and conditions of their study permits or co-op work permits are considered non-compliant. Students who become ineligible and who do not cease working would be violating the conditions of their study permit. Non-compliance may also result in enforcement action taken by the Canada Border Services Agency, or invalidation of the study permit. It may also negatively affect future applications made under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and its regulations.

Currently, some federal agencies exchange information and although it is not common, if you work more than 20 hours a week and your employer reports to Canada Revenue Agency, it would be possible for Citizenship and Immigration to find out if they really wanted to.

By: Maria Campos
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
LLM CL. UBC Faculty of Law

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