New Temporary Policy for Open Work Permits

A new Federal policy will allow spouses and dependent children of most foreign workers to obtain an open work permit beginning 30 January 2023. 

Since the end of January, spouses and dependent children of foreign workers have been able to apply for open work permits if they meet the requirements applicable to them, which are based on the principal foreign worker’s work permit.

This policy is temporary, set to expire on 30 January 2025. It is unknown at this point whether it will be extended or made permanent in the future.


For dependents of high-skilled workers, which fall under Training, Education, Experience and Responsibilities (TEER) categories 0,1,2,3 of the National Occupational Classification (NOC), there are three requirements to meet: the general eligibility requirements for a work permit; a genuine relationship with the principal foreign worker, such as his/her spouse, common-law partner, dependent child, or a dependent child of the dependent child; and lawful status in Canada via either a temporary resident status, maintained status (formerly known as “implied” status), or eligibility to have the status restored.

The dependents of low-skilled workers, which fall under TEER categories 4 and 5 of the NOC, must meet the same three requirements as the dependents of high-skilled workers.  However, at this time there are exceptions to the eligibility of low-skilled workers’ dependents for this policy.  Spouses and dependent children of workers under the low-wage stream of TEER 4 or 5, the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program workers’ dependents, and the dependents of workers under the Agricultural Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program are not eligible for an open work permit under this policy.

For both high-skilled and low-skilled workers, the principal foreign worker must meet the same requirements of working in Canada on either a valid work permit or an authorization to work without a work permit; their work permit’s validity must extend for at least 6 months after the dependent’s application for an open work permit is received by IRCC, and they are living or plan on living in Canada while working. 


An exception exists for the dependents of students who can work off-campus or who are transitioning to a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) – these individuals are not eligible for an open work permit under the policy.

The dependents of work permit holders who have applied, or will apply, for permanent residence through an economic immigration program are also eligible under the open work permit policy.  The eligibility requirements are the same for the dependents of these temporary foreign workers as for the dependents of the high- and low-skilled foreign workers’ dependents. 


The requirements for the principal foreign worker remain the same, with the additional requirement of having a nomination letter from the province or a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ), or holding a work permit that was issued because of their application for permanent residence through one of the following economic classes: Federal Skilled Worker class; Canadian Experience class; Federal Skilled Trades class; Provincial Nominee program for applicants without employer restrictions on nominations; the Agri-Food Pilot; the Quebec Skilled Worker class; and the Caring for Children class or the Caring for People with High Medical Needs class, before 18 June 2019. 

Given the lack of definition of “working age children,” dependent children’s applications for open work permits are dependent on the minimum age requirements in order to work in the province/territory, and on the type of job the child is planning on working in.

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