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  • Paul Kelly

IRCC updates eligibility for SOWP (spousal open work permits) for spouses of students

As of today, March 19, 2024, IRCC has confirmed the expected changes for eligibility for spouses of students who wish to apply for a SOWP (spousal open work permit).

Today's changes were announced in January 2024 as part of IRCC wider changes for students, but details about the changes for spousal OWP eligibility has been limited with IRCC noting changes would be made "in the coming weeks". Now we have the details.

For a full review of the policy and updates, refer to the IRCC site (link below), but here is a quick summary of the key updates:

  • For spouses who already hold a OWP (open work permit), there will be no changes. The current OWP remains valid, and you can still apply to extend the OWP if required, e.g. your spouse extends their study permit.

  • For new applicants, starting today March 19, 2024, you must meet the new eligibility criteria (see below for details) if you wish to apply for a SOWP.

  • For applicants who submitted a SOWP application prior to March 19, 2024, they will be processed under the old (pre-March 19, 2024) eligibility and regulations.

Of note is that along with masters and doctoral degree programs, some students in bachelor programs are eligible for a SOWP, namely bachelors in nursing, engineering and education.

Also, keep in mind all of these changes only apply to spouses of students, the regulations and eligibility for spouses of work permit holders e.g. spouses of PGWP holder/applicants, has not changed since the last updates in 2023.

NEW - as of March 19,2024, eligibility criteria for SOWP of students:

Previous (pre-March 19, 2024) eligibility and for those who currently hold a valid SOWP:

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