If you are an international student in Canada, you probably wonder: is it possible to live in a modern student residence, and can international students work on and off campus? International students with full-time registration status and valid study permits may be eligible to work on campus using their study permits. Working while studying in Canada can help you support yourself and meet new people to help you build valid connections and experience that could make you stand out when applying for a job later. Before you start looking for your dream job, you should find out about working in Canada as an international student.

An on-campus job is any work that is offered within the boundaries of the university where you are studying. There are some exceptions where some affiliated research facilities could also be considered to be ‘on-campus’ provided the work is directly related to your educational research.

Work On Campus

You can only access on-campus jobs in Canada when you commence your study program. You can’t start working before your studies commence. In addition, your study permit must list a condition outlining that you are allowed to work on or off campus during your studies. You are allowed to work on campus in Canada without a work permit if:

  • You are a post-secondary student undertaking full-time studies in:
    • A public post-secondary school like a university, college, CEGEP in Quebec or a technical school
    • A Canadian private school which legally awards degrees in line with the provincial law
    • A private or public post-secondary school or secondary in Quebec offering qualifying programs of nine hundred hours or more
    • A private post-secondary institution that operates under the same rules as public schools in Quebec

You must have a valid study permit and a social insurance number, abbreviated as SIN.

Can a part-time student work full-time in Canada? Perhaps you were a full-time student in every semester of your program, but you are studying part-time during your last semester to complete your coursework. In this case, you are eligible to work unlimited hours on campus.

When You Can’t Work On Campus

You have to stop working on campus if the following applies:

  • When you stop studying full-time – however, you can continue working if you are in your final semester and you meet other requirements
  • Your study permit is expired
  • When on authorized leave from your studies
  • If you intend to switch schools and you are not currently studying

When you resume your studies and you meet all the requirements of working on-campus, you will be eligible to work. Working on-campus means that you can work at any of the buildings within the school campus. If your school has several campuses, you can only work on the campus where you mainly study. However, you could work in other locations if you work as a research or teaching assistant or if your work is directly related to a research grant.

On-campus jobs mainly involve working in the library, a research facility or a hospital associated with your school, even if it is outside the campus. If you are working at a hospital or any other place where the protection of public health is crucial, you will have to undergo a medical examination.

The typical on-campus employers include the school, a student organization, a faculty member, or a private business or contractor that offers on-campus services to your school. You can also be self-employed if you run a business located on campus.

Can an International Student Work Full Time?

No restriction exists on the hours an international student can work on campus. However, the student must meet the eligibility criteria for working on campus. A student must immediately stop working the day they no longer meet the on-campus work requirements.

It is important to note that even if you are eligible and you plan to work when studying in Canada, you still have to demonstrate that you have enough resources when you apply for a study permit. You must prove that you have ample income to support yourself during your studies without having to work. When demonstrating that you have sufficient income, your anticipated future financial earnings will not count. Therefore, the fact that you will be working while studying in Canada will not satisfy the condition to prove your financial capability before arrival.

Off-Campus Employment

Can an international student work off campus? Yes. However, before you start working, you and your employer must confirm that you can work off campus without a work permit. You may have to leave Canada if you start working off campus when you don’t meet the requirements. You can only start working in Canada after the commencement of your study program. Your study permit will outline whether you are able to work off-campus during your studies. Provided you are eligible to work off campus; you don’t require a work permit.

The eligibility requirements for working off campus without a work permit include the following:

  • You are a full-time student studying in a designated learning institution, commonly abbreviated as DLI
  • You have started your studies
  • Your study program is at least six months long and leads to an award of a certificate, diploma, or degree
  • You have a valid Social Insurance Number

Working Off Campus as a Part-time Student

If you are a part-time student, you can only work off-campus if:

  • You meet all the conditions outlined above, except the requirement of being a full-time student
  • You are studying part-time instead of full-time because you are in your final year of study and don’t require a full course load to complete your studies. You have been studying as a full-time student in your program in Canada until your final semester.

If you are not studying, are switching schools, or are on authorized leave from your studies, you aren’t eligible to work off campus. You can only start working when you resume your studies.

When Your Study Permit Does Not Have Work Conditions

What should you do if you want to work off campus but your study permit does not have work conditions? You can always have the conditions added, provided you are eligible to work off-campus. You will not incur any fee to add work conditions to your study permit. Before you can obtain a SIN, you must request an amendment to your study program.

International Student Working Hours in Canada

How many hours can an international student work off-campus in Canada? You are allowed to work for up to 20 hours during the school semesters/terms. You can work several jobs to make up for these hours, provided you don’t violate the requirements of your study permit.

You can work for more than 20 hours per week while in class sessions between 15 November 2022 and 31 December 2023, provided the following is true:

  • You hold a study permit, and you study in a DLI full-time or part-time if you are in your final academic session
  • You have already been approved for a study permit, but you haven’t yet arrived in Canada

To be eligible to work for more than 20 hours per week, you must also meet the following conditions:

  • You must have submitted your application for the study permit, together with the extensions, on or before 7 October 2022
  • Your study permit must include an off-campus work authorization
  • You should be already in Canada or planning to be in Canada before 31 December 2023

Working Throughout Scheduled Breaks in Your School Year

If you are on a programmed break like summer holiday, winter, spring or fall, you are at liberty to work overtime. You can even take up two jobs that sum up to more than 20 working hours. However, you must be a full-time student both before and after the break to be eligible to work full-time. If a break comes before you start your very first school term/semester, you cannot work during this break. What counts as full-time work? There is no specific number of hours that count as full-time work. However, your employer must abide by all the provincial laws on time between shifts and overtime pay.

Penalty for Working More Than 20 Hours in Canada

What should you do if your study program does not have scheduled breaks? You can only work for up to 20 hours per week. You could violate your study permit conditions if you work for more than 20 hours per week. The penalty includes losing your student status. You may also fail to be approved for a study permit or even a work permit in the future. In some cases, you may even have to leave the country.

To ensure that you do not violate the provisions of your study permit, you should keep track of all the hours you work off-campus. You must also understand how to calculate work hours. A work hour is any time you spend earning wages or commission, even if you are on call and not actually working.

You also have to prove that you are abiding by the provisions of your study permit. You can prove this by showing that you don’t work for more than 20 hours a week, are pursuing your studies and meet all the other conditions outlined in your study permit.

You are free to work remotely for a company outside Canada, provided you don’t violate the provisions of your study permit. Any work you perform remotely for an employer outside Canada will not count towards the 20 hours per week off-campus work limit.

Keeping Track of Your Work Hours When You Are Self-employed

You have to keep track of your off-campus work hours even if you are in self-employment. You must prove that you are not violating any condition of your study permit. The work hours spent in self-employment are calculated as any time you spend earning a wage. It also involves being paid wages for selling a product or performing a service. Working hours also include any time you spend collecting a commission for selling a product or performing a service – it counts as work.

Ineligibility to Work Off Campus

If any of the following scenarios apply to you, you can’t work off-campus without a permit:

  • Your study permit outlines that you should not work off-campus during your studies
  • You are only enrolled in French or English as a second language program
  • You are only pursuing general interest courses
  • You are only pursuing the necessary course to help you get accepted for the full-time programs
  • Your situation has changed, and you no longer meet the conditions to work off campus

If any of the situations outlined above apply to you, you must apply for a work permit if you want to work while studying in Canada.

A Change in Your Study Situation

Perhaps you were ineligible to work off campus, but your study situation had since changed. In this case, you can change the provisions of your study permit. You are eligible to change the conditions of your permit if there is a change in your study program and you are now in a program that allows you to work off-campus. You can also apply to change the provisions of your study permit, which states that its holder is not allowed to participate in off-campus employment in Canada. You can also apply for a change if there is a condition on your study permit that is no longer applicable in your situation.

Consider this example: you hold a study permit that only allows you to complete prerequisite studies like FSL or ESL courses. However, you are later accepted into a full-time study program. In this case, you can apply to have the condition of not being able to work off campus removed from your study permit. The provisions of your study permit cannot change automatically; you must apply to change these conditions. You have to pay a fee to make these changes. You should only apply for a SIN after you change the conditions on your permit.

When changing the provisions of your study permit, you must apply for a new study permit within Canada. You apply online by filling out a personalized checklist. You should include a letter in your application explaining why you need a certain condition removed from your study permit.

After You Complete Your Study Program

There are two ways you may be able to work full-time after you complete your study program:

  • If you had already applied for a work permit before the expiry of your study permit
  • You are commencing a new study program

If you have applied for a work permit, you will be eligible to work full-time if you meet these conditions:

  • You used to work off-campus during your studies
  • you applied for a post-graduation work permit or a regular work permit before your study permit expired
  • You have submitted your work permit application, and you are waiting for a decision

If you are commencing a new program, you can work full-time if you meet the following conditions:

  • During your previous studies, you already used to work off campus
  • You have a valid study permit; if your study permit is expired, it should be evident that you applied for a new permit before the current one expired.
  • You have a written confirmation from your current school outlining that you have completed your program.
  • You have received an acceptance letter to a new program for full-time studies at a DLI.
  • You intend to start your new study program within 150 calendar days upon receiving a confirmation outlining that you completed your prior study program.

Getting a Social Insurance Number in Canada

The Social Insurance Number, abbreviated as SIN, is a 9-digit number you obtain from the Government of Canada. With SIN, you can work in Canada and access government services and benefits. You should have any 1 of the following conditions printed on your SIN to work in Canada:

  • You can accept on-campus or off-campus employment if you meet the eligibility criteria – you must stop working if you no longer meet the eligibility criteria.
  • The study permit you hold does not authorize its holder to engage in any off-campus work in Canada. The hold may only apply to on-campus employment upon meeting the eligibility criteria, and should stop working if they no longer meet the eligibility criteria.

If you are eligible to work on campus, but none of these conditions are included in your study permit, you can request to have the conditions added. You will not include any fee to have these conditions added to your study permit.

Before you can apply for a Social Insurance Number in Canada, you must request an amendment to your study permit.

Bottom Line

The benefits of working while studying in Canada extend beyond the wages you earn. Graduating from a college or university in Canada with additional work experience will make you stand out from other job applicants. Whether you plan to remain in Canada or go back to your home country after graduation, gaining Canadian work experience is a valuable asset in your future goals.