On April 22, the Government of Canada announced that international students will temporarily be able to work more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session, provided that they are working in an essential service or function, such as health care, critical infrastructure, or the supply of food or other critical goods.

Previously, international students were restricted to working a maximum of 20 hours per week during the school year. The adjustment to this work restriction is effective immediately and will be in place until August 31, 2020.

The Government of Canada noted in a press release that this temporary rule change will provide health-care facilities and other essential service sectors with additional labour resources at a time when they need it most. According to the press release, international students and their employers will need to consult Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada's Guidance on Essential Services and Functions in Canada During the COVID-19 Outbreak (the "Guidelines") to determine if the work the student is performing allows them to work more than 20 hours per week during the school year. The Guidelines provide a non-exhaustive list of services and functions that have been deemed essential by Public Safety Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers and students should not automatically assume they are included in this work exemption. If employers and students are not cautious, situations of unauthorized work may result.

The temporary work restriction removal may allow organizations performing essential services or functions access to additional labour at a time when critical areas of the economy are experiencing labour shortages. Employers and international students looking to utilize the increased ability to work should conduct a detailed review to determine whether the service or function being provided is essential. MLT Aikins can assist employers with these determinations to ensure immigration compliance obligations are met when expanding international student work in essential services.

Originally published 25 April, 2020

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