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Canada is extending the open work permit pilot program for spouse or common-law partner

Canadian Government is extending the open work permit pilot for spouses and common-law partners applying for permanent residence under the spouse or common-law partner in Canada class until the regulatory changes come into force to permanently implement this policy.

Support for families is a priority for the Government, and these measures ensure that applicants can work and contribute to the economy. The extension of these measures provides certainty and stability to spouses and common-law partners in Canada who are awaiting their permanent resident status.

The open work permits are limited to applicants living in Canada who have submitted an application under the spouse or common-law partner in Canada class, and who have temporary resident status or are eligible to restore their temporary resident status (as a visitor, student or worker) and live at the same address as their sponsor.

Open Work Permit Pilot is for inland spousal and common-law sponsorship applicants. Inland sponsorship is for couples who are already living together in Canada.


 Applicants should meet the following requirements: 

  • Permanent residence application should be submitted under the SCLPC class
  • The SCLPC class applicant should reside at the same address as the sponsor
  • The SCLPC class applicant should have valid temporary resident status (as a visitor, student, or worker), or should be eligible to restore their temporary resident status, and had submitted the restoration application with their application for permanent residence

 Who do not qualify for the open work permit pilot program? 

  • Applicants who have applied for permanent residence under the SCLPC class and have been refused or have withdrawn that application before submitting the open work permit pilot application
  • Applicants whose application for permanent residence is being processed under the spousal public policy on the basis that they do not have a valid temporary resident status (these applicants must wait until they receive approval in principle to be eligible to apply for an open work permit)
  • Applicants who have applied as members of the overseas family class, including those living in Canada
  • Applicants applying for the work permit pilot program at a port of entry

Half of new skilled immigrants possess Canadian experience

Over the last few years, more immigrants are gaining permanent residence with Canadian work and study experience. As indicated by Statistics Canada, the number of temporary foreign workers and students grew exponentially between the year 2000 and 2018. In 2000, 12% of new economic immigrant principal applicants had worked in Canada before obtaining permanent residency while this share increased to 59% in the year 2018.

The introduction of the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) in 2009 and increasing Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) has led to more temporary foreign workers becoming permanent residents of Canada.  In 2018 CEC admitted 20% of all economic-class principal applicants while the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and PNPs admitted 25% and 46% respectively.

The advent of Covid-19 pandemic and global travel restrictions have reduced the flow of immigrants to and from Canada, which has increased Canada’s reliability on temporary foreign workers already residing in the country to fulfill their immigration needs. This has also increased the importance of temporary foreign workers in the selection and labour market outcomes of new immigrants in Canada. In 2018, 46% of new economic immigrants were former temporary foreign workers, up from 8% in 2000 according to Statistics Canada.

The “two-step” immigration selection process accounts for the journey of immigrants who arrive in the country as workers or students and then become a permanent resident. In this process

  • Firstly, students or skilled migrants get temporary residence and gain valuable Canadian experience.
  • Secondly, the temporary residents apply for immigration and are selected based on the criteria outlined in Canada’s federal or provincial immigration programs.

This 2-step process improves the match between immigrant skills and labour market demands as employers can directly assess the skills and intangible qualities of the temporary worker. It is evident that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted potential issues related with dependence on temporary foreign workers, such as labour supply uncertainty, and poor working conditions for employees.

The two-step immigration selection has evolved from 60,000 to 429,300 number of temporary foreign workers between 2000 and 2018.

According to a study conducted by  Statistics Canada, it was discovered that the percentage of new immigrants who were hired in the first full year after immigration rose substantially from 81% to 87% between 2000 to 2016 among men in the age group of 20 to 54 years and among women from 61 % to 67 %. The study also recognized this increase in employment relevant to the growing share of new immigrants with Canadian work experience, who having worked and lived in the country as either temporary foreign workers or international students.

Immigrants who have worked in Canada before immigration had considerable benefits in labour market outcomes over immigrants without Canadian work experience, especially when it comes to high earning positions. Comparably, economic immigrants who landed from 2000 to 2005 and had Canadian experience before immigration earned 4.2 times more than immigrants without Canadian work experience in the first full year after immigration, 2.6 times more in the 5th year, and additional 2.1 in the 10th year.

In a holistic view, immigrants with Canadian experience are finding more employment options and making more annual earnings due to initiatives taken by federal governments in creating more pathways for foreigners with Canadian experience.

Lastly, the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled policymakers to re-evaluate what kind of immigrant workforce the country needs, as people who were previously not considered as highly skilled or essential, are deemed as the frontline workers today.

COVID-19: Program delivery updates for permanent residence applications

COVID-19 program delivery instructions are for new and existing permanent residence applications in Canada and abroad.

Applications will not be refused for non-compliance, and all applications currently in progress at IRCC offices abroad and at case processing centres within the Centralized Network and within the Domestic Network will continue to be processed but may experience delays.

Application intake

IRCC will continue to accept new permanent residence applications. Incomplete applications because of unavailable documents will be retained in the system and reviewed in 90 days. New, complete permanent residence applications will be processed as per normal procedures while taking into consideration the following additional processing guidance:

If a new application is missing supporting documentation (associated fees are required), the applicant should include an explanation with their application that they are affected by the service disruptions because of the novel coronavirus. The application may then be promoted and reviewed in 90 days.

If the application is still incomplete in 90 days, officers should request the missing documents with an additional 90-day deadline.

Incomplete applications with no explanation provided, or for reasons unrelated to the disruption of services associated with impacts of the novel coronavirus, may be rejected and all fees associated with the application should be refunded to the applicant. The reason for rejection should be unrelated to the disruption of services. 

Approved permanent residence applications (COPR and PRV) 

Permanent residence applicants who are in possession of a COPR and PRV and inform IRCC, by submitting a Web form, that they are unable to travel within the validity of their documentation should be processed as follows:

Valid COPR and PRV: In an effort to reduce the number of cancelled COPRs and PRVs, IRCC will put a note in the file explaining that the applicant is unable to travel, and the file should be brought forward to the expiration date of the COPR and PRV. If the applicant informs IRCC that they can travel prior to the COPR and PRV expiration, they are encouraged to use their existing COPR and PRV to land.  

Expired COPR and PRV: If the applicant informs IRCC via the Web form that they are unable or unwilling to travel after the expiration of their COPR and PRV, or if they are unable or unwilling to travel prior to expiration, officers are to re-open the application, and it should be brought forward for review in 90 days.  

Re-opened applications

Approved applications where the principal applicant has not already become a permanent resident can be re-opened in GCMS by cancelling the COPR and PRV and removing the final decision.

Review of a re-opened application 

Once the applicant informs IRCC via the Web form that they are able to travel, a re-opened application may be re-approved provided that the applicant and their family members, whether accompanying or not, have valid immigration medical examinations, criminal and security checks and passports.

If the 60-day waiting period elapses and the applicant has not informed IRCC that they are able to travel, a note will be placed in the application, and it should be brought forward for review for an additional 60 days.

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