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Bachelor of Nursing programs have been added to the list of professional degree programs whose spouses will be eligible for open work permits in Canada as of Jul 3, 2024. Here’s what you should know.

Key Takeaways

  • Nursing is not considered a professional degree under Express Entry requirements. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has adopted an inconsistent approach to categorizing nursing in this instance.  
  • International students who plan to study a Bachelor of Nursing program in Canada will be permitted to bring their spouses on an open work permit.
  • This change is retroactive to applications submitted after April 30.
  • If you applied for a Bachelor of Nursing program on or after April 30, you can add a spousal open work permit to your study permit. You would need to be actively studying in Canada to add your spouse if you did not originally include a spousal open work permit application and your study permit has already been approved. 


Programs Eligible For Spousal Open Work Permits

There were sweeping changes brought into Canada’s study permit program earlier this year. As a result of these changes, many international students who plan to study Bachelor programs in Canada are no longer able to bring their spouse to Canada on an open work permit. 

However, there are a limited number of undergraduate programs where international students can bring their spouse with them on an open work permit. This can be immensely helpful for students, since it can provide some relief for the cost of living in Canada, as well as the social benefit of being able to bring a spouse. 

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has not released information about why certain undergraduate students can bring their spouse, however, we would guess that it relates to demand and economic prospects after graduation. 

The professional degree programs that are currently eligible for spousal open work permits for accompanying spouses or common-law partners are:

  • Doctor of Dental Surgery.
  • Bachelor of Law or Juris Doctor. 
  • Doctor of Medicine. 
  • Pharmacy. 
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. 
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing. 
  • Bachelor of Nursing. 
  • Bachelor of Education. 
  • Bachelor of Engineering. 

Why Did IRCC Add Bachelor of Nursing Programs To The List? 

This addition is more for clarification purposes, since the Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs were on the original list published by IRCC. 

This change makes it easier for immigration officers who are considering study permit applications with accompanying spousal open work permit applications to know and understand which programs are eligible for an open work permit. 

The updated instructions also clarify and separate Bachelor or Nursing Science programs from Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs. Both programs are eligible for spousal open work permits. 

As we outlined above, we believe it’s likely that nursing programs are on the list of programs eligible for a spousal open work permit because nursing workers are in demand in Canada. Since Canada needs nurses, it wants to ensure that international students interested in studying nursing are attracted to Canada as a study destination. Allowing these international students to bring their spouses makes Canada more attractive as a study destination. 

Bringing Your Spouse For Nursing Program Students

If you applied for your study permit for a nursing program after Apr 30, 2024, it’s possible that you did not include your Spousal Open Work Permit application if you were unclear on whether it would be accepted. 

If you’re in this situation and your study permit application has been accepted, you will need to receive your study permit and come to Canada to start studying before applying for your spousal open work permit. 


If your study permit application has not been processed, you could consider withdrawing it and then resubmitting with your Spousal Open Work Permit application attached. Your Provincial Attestation Letter would still be valid if you chose to do this, but your study permit application would likely be delayed. 

Graduate Programs Remain Eligible For Spousal Open Work Permits

Graduate students studying master’s and doctorate degrees remain eligible for spousal open work permits, and are excluded from the study permit cap in Canada. 

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About the author

Stephanie Ford profile picture

Stephanie Ford

Finance, Law and Immigration Writer
Stephanie is a content marketer who has written for law firms (with a focus on immigration and privacy), legal tech companies, and finance professionals for more than 9 years. She earned a Bachelor of Laws and a Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning in Australia. Stephanie is now a permanent resident of Canada and a full-time writer at Moving2Canada.
Read more about Stephanie Ford
Citation "International Students Studying Nursing Programs Eligible For Spousal Open Work Permits." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation


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