Changes made to open work permit eligibility for family members of foreign workers

Starting on January 30, 2023, several family members of temporary foreign workers became eligible for their own open work permit. That means that they will be able to join the workforce and earn income. In turn, they can be on their own path toward permanent residency if that is their intention.

Who is eligible for the new open work permit?

First, to have consideration as family, one must be either the spouse or dependent child of someone who already has a work permit in Canada. This is inclusive of both married and common-law spouses, which are equally recognized in Canada. Dependent children can include both the dependent child of the foreign worker (or spouse) OR the dependent child of the dependent child (grandchild of the principal foreign worker or spouse). The dependent child must also be under 22 years of age and not in a married or common-law relationship.

Unlike past rules that had a limit on spousal work permits for accompanying spouses of skilled workers (TEERs 0-3 of the National Occupational Classification), the principal work permit holder can now have employment in any type of job in Canada. The only exception is family members of those who hold a TEER 4 or 5 job under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program or the Agricultural Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Another eligible group will be accompanying family members of a person who holds a closed or open work permit as an economic class permanent residence applicant. This is regardless of whether the person has employment or not.

A key item to note is that the work permit that the spouse or dependent child can apply for is an open work permit. This allows them to work for any employer in Canada with an unrestricted number of hours.

What is the drive behind this new policy?

There is a significant demand for a workforce of all skill levels in Canada. There’s also a possible supply through existing family members of temporary foreign workers. As a result, this is a win-win situation for those who are finding themselves in need of work. But also for those companies that need to fill their vacancies. Both help to grow the Canadian economy, and it makes perfect sense to implement such a program.

The program itself will go on for the next couple of years. The youngest age when a dependent child can work will depend on the legislation of the applicable province or territory. In most cases, this is 16 years of age. The jobs can be in any industry, from professional, to technical to non-skilled occupations. This program is meant to help add several hundred thousand new workers to the Canadian economy.

In the past, when spousal work permits were only allowed for spouses of skilled workers, the government noticed that this put a strain on some of those foreign workers, and their finances were stretched too thin. This will help alleviate that problem almost immediately. So long as those family members go through the proper application channels.

In the end

As always, it is important to check the status of the temporary foreign worker whose family members are considering applying under this policy. Since it is a relatively new program that launched in 2023, it is the perfect time to investigate it and take advantage of this opportunity.



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