Hiring foreign nationals without legal authorization to work in Canada may result in non-compliance with immigration laws. In general, Canadian citizens and permanent residents are allowed to work in Canada without restrictions. However, international students need legal authorization to work in Canada. This typically requires that they hold a valid Study Permit or Work Permit. International students holding a valid Study Permit may be authorized to work in Canada without a Work Permit when the requirements under section 186(v) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations ("IRPR") are met. There are some exemptions to the above general rule, which are set out in this bulletin. Further, this bulletin will outline what employers need to know when hiring international students in Canada.
Are International Students Authorized to Work in Canada?
Prior to June 1, 2014, international students holding a valid Study Permit were only authorized to work on campus. As of June 1, 2014, the restriction on where international students can work has been lifted. Accordingly, international students can now work off campus without a Work Permit if they meet the below requirements:
- hold a valid Study Permit;
- enrolled at a designated learning institution as a full-time student;
- enrolled in a post-secondary academic, vocational or professional training program, or a vocational training program at the secondary level offered in Quebec; and
- the program of study is at least six months in duration and leads to a degree, diploma or certificate.
However, not all international students on Study Permits are authorized to work in Canada. Presently, international students enrolled in the following two programs are not eligible to work off campus: (i) general interest programs of study that do not form part of the academic, professional or vocational training program; and (ii) courses that are a prerequisite to their enrolment at a designated learning institution, such as English as a second language or French as a second language. International students enrolled in the above two ineligible programs would need a valid Work Permit in order to work in Canada.
The number of hours an international student can work depends on if they are in their regular academic session or not. Currently, if the international student meets the above requirements, they can work on or off campus without a Work Permit for up to 20 hours per week during the student's regular academic session. When the international students are on regularly scheduled breaks, such as winter and summer holidays and reading weeks, they can work full-time. Each designated learning institution has different regularly scheduled breaks. Given this, it is recommended that employers request that international students provide proof of their regularly scheduled breaks from their learning institutions.
What should an Employer consider when hiring International Students?
Employers should ensure the proper procedures to hire international students are followed in order to comply with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and IRPR. Employers who do not comply with immigration laws may be subject to monetary penalties. Accordingly, when employers hire international students, they need to verify the international students have legal authorization to work in Canada.
The starting point is to confirm with the applicants that they hold a valid Study Permit or Work Permit. Holding a Study Permit or a Work Permit alone does not automatically result in the international student being authorized to work in Canada. As such, employers need to complete new hire verifications on applicants who are international students. For the new hire verification procedure, the employer should consider taking the below steps:
- implement an internal policy for hiring international students and ensure the internal policy is communicated to the hiring managers and human resource departments;
- request a copy of the applicant's Study Permit and Work Permit (if applicable);
- review the Study Permit to ensure there is a notation that authorizes the applicant to work in Canada pursuant to section 186(v) of the IRPR;
- review the Work Permit (if applicable) to ensure that it is an open Work Permit and not a closed Work Permit tied to a previous employer;
- review the Study Permit and Work Permit (if applicable) to ensure there is no special notation or condition that prevents the applicant from accepting the job offer; and
- request an official letter from the applicant's designated learning institution confirming that the applicant is enrolled and is in good academic standing.
Further, there are specific circumstances when international students who meet the requirements under section 186(v) of the IRPR are not authorized to work in Canada. Some of the common examples include the following (this is not a complete list):
- if the international students are on leave from studies, including school closures, then they cannot work during this period;
- if the international students arrived in Canada before their programs begin, then they cannot work until after they have commenced their classes; and
- if the international students have completed their programs in Canada and received their final marks, then they must stop working in Canada until after they have submitted their Post Graduate Work Permit ("PGWP") applications. Depending on when the PGWP applications were submitted, the international student may need to wait for the student's Work Permit to be issued before the student can commence work in Canada.
The new hire verification procedure is a tool to assist employers to mitigate risk in order to ensure the applicants are authorized to work in Canada. When completing the new hire verification, it is recommended that employers consult with an immigration lawyer because the policy for interpreting section 186(v) of the IRPA changes frequently.
This is a brief outline on what employers need to know when hiring international students in Canada. For further information, please do not hesitate to contact one of the lawyers in our Immigration Law Practice Group.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.