Working while studying in Canada is one of the major advantages of choosing Canada as your study destination, but there are a few things you should know before you can begin earning.

Most international students in Canada can work for up to 20 hours per week, and full-time during scheduled breaks, without a work permit. Working while studying can help you support yourself and meet new people, all while building the connections and experience that could make you stand out in your job hunt later on.

Before you start looking for your dream student job, read on to find out more about working in Canada as an international student.

Working while studying in Canada: Eligibility

International students in Canada with a study permit who are enrolled full-time in a Designated Learning Institution (DLI), can work off campus without a work permit. This means you can work for any employer in any occupation anywhere in Canada. International students can also work on campus if they wish.

Working off campus means working for any employer outside of the university or college. Working on campus means working for any employer on the university or college’s campus, such as working for the university or college itself, for a faculty member (as a research assistant, for example), for yourself (self-employed, working on campus), for a student organization, or for a private contractor providing services on campus, for example a gym or restaurant.

It is important to note that even if you plan to work while studying in Canada, you will still need to demonstrate sufficient financial resources when you apply for a study permit. This means you have to show you have enough money to support yourself during your studies without working. Anticipated future earnings will not suffice when demonstrating sufficient financial resources, so the fact that you may plan to be working while studying in Canada will not satisfy the condition to prove financial capacity before arrival.
Learn more about Canadian study permits

Your study permit will state whether you are permitted to work in Canada, and the conditions of employment. This statement enables you to apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) from Service Canada; obtaining a SIN is a key requirement before you can begin working while studying in Canada.

If your study permit is missing the statement you need in order to apply for a SIN, you can get your study permit amended for free. While this can be done after you arrive, it’s much easier to do this when you land and your study permit is first issued. When you arrive at Immigration, you can ask the officer about your permission to work if you are unsure about anything on your study permit.

You cannot work in Canada unless otherwise authorized to do so if your study program is less than six months in duration, or if you are enrolled in an English as a Second Language (ESL) or French as a Second Language (FSL) program. Additionally, visiting or exchange students at a DLI are not permitted to work while studying in Canada.

It’s important to remember that you cannot start working while studying in Canada until you start your study program.

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Working while studying in Canada: Finding a job

Being eligible to work in Canada may seem like the easy part – the next step is to find a job. Employers in Canada are often keen to hire students for part-time positions, and there is a rich variety of positions out there.

Before you start looking for jobs or applying, you’ll need to prepare your resume (CV) and cover letter. Your resume and cover letter are your best chance of catching a potential employer’s attention and standing out as the best candidate for the job. Make sure your resume is up to date and formatted for the expectations of Canadian employers. Your cover letter is your chance to reveal your personality and achievements. Write a tailored cover letter for each position, highlighting how you fit the precise criteria they’re looking for. If you’re applying online the cover letter can form your introductory email, to which you attach your resume as a PDF.

There are several places you can start looking for jobs. Websites such as Indeed, Monster and Craigslist have hundreds of postings for part-time employment. Your city or town may have its own portal for jobs, such as at recreation centres, libraries, or in administration.

You could also walk around your neighbourhood and see if shops or restaurants are advertising  in the window for employees. If you try this method, take paper copies of your resume with you, and wear smart clothes appropriate to the business (for example a collared shirt, and avoid blue jeans) and know your availabilities. If somewhere looks promising, feel free to ask to speak to someone about the position. This is a great opportunity to make a good first impression face-to-face, and could turn into an on-the-spot job interview. Networking your way to success in this way is a tried and tested formula, and we have a comprehensive guide on networking techniques to help you on the way.

There is a strong culture of working while studying in Canada, and you shouldn’t hide the fact that you’re a student. Remember that your studies come first, and don’t be shy to ask for the time off that you need during exam periods or in preparation for a big deadline. Students who work while studying have the same labour rights as all workers in Canada, and you should know what your labour rights are, as well as the minimum wage in your province. Make sure you receive payslips and the proper record of employment, so you can file your tax return.

  • Confused about taxes? Check out these 5 simple tax tips for starting a job in Canada.

Counting the cash

Many employers in Canada pay employees by direct debit, straight into your bank account. Consequently, it is important to have a bank account set up and have the details of your account available so that your employer can pay you. You can learn more about options in our guide to banking in Canada.

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Co-op work permit

While international students in Canada generally don’t need a separate work permit in order to work while studying, there is an important exception. Some study programs require the student to complete a Co-op or internship work placement in order to be able to graduate. In this situation, international students require a Co-op work permit in addition to their study permit.

To get a Co-op work permit, you’ll need a valid study permit and a letter from your university or college confirming all students in your program need to complete work placements to get their degree.

The Co-op work permit can be issued with your study permit. If your acceptance letter states that a Co-op or internship placement is required as part of your study program, your work permit may be processed as part of your study permit application.

It is also possible to apply for a Co-op work permit after you have already obtained your study permit, and you can apply online or by paper. Your university or college should be able to help you with this, as the placement is part of your study program and they probably help many international students to apply for this permit each year.

After studying

Once you’ve finished your studies, you may need to stop working in Canada immediately. However, there are several ways you may continue working under different conditions.

  • If you plan to stay and work in Canada, you may be able to apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), allowing you to work anywhere in Canada for any employer for up to three years after you graduate. If you’re eligible and if you want to stay in Canada and work, you need to apply within 180 days of receiving written confirmation that you’ve finished your study program.
  • If you are starting a new study program (for example, continuing to a Master’s after completing a Bachelor degree), you can continue working between the study programs if you:
    • were eligible to work off campus during your previous study program;
    • still have a valid study permit, or applied for an extension before your permit expired;
    • have received written confirmation that you completed your program;
    • have received a letter of acceptance to a new full-time study program at a DLI; and
    • will start your new study program within 150 days of receiving confirmation that you completed your previous program.
  • If you don’t apply for the PGWP and then decide you want to come back to work temporarily, you may be eligible for one or more of the International Experience Canada (IEC) categories, which offer young people from various countries the opportunity to work in Canada for a year or two, depending on the category and country of citizenship.

Working while studying in Canada can be rewarding beyond the wage you earn. Graduating from a university or college in Canada with additional work experience could make you stand out from the crowd during your job hunt. Whether you’re aiming to stay in Canada or work elsewhere after graduation, Canadian work experience can be a valuable asset to your future goals.

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