Canada updates rules on off-campus work for international students

In October 2022, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) implemented a temporary policy that allowed unlimited Canada off-campus work for international students per week while class was in session. This was a big change after the previous limit of 20 hours weekly. It was done to provide additional work opportunities during the pandemic.

However, in a recent announcement, Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of IRCC, declared that the temporary policy would come to an end on 30 April 2024. Moreover, it would not be renewed. Currently, the 20-hour limit has been reinstated.

In the fall semester, IRCC intends to update the limit again. The update will allow students to take off-campus work in Canada for up to 24 hours per week while class is in session and for an unlimited period during an academic break.


Reasoning behind the update

The update on off-campus work rules for international students comes unexpectedly. Last December, IRCC introduced the idea of examining other options for the policy. In particular, they were exploring an expansion of the limit to 30 hours per week during a semester.

Minister Miller noted that the 24-hour-per-week limit for student work in Canada was enough to ensure that international students focused primarily on their studies, while still having the option to work if necessary. He stated that the change comes from research showing that academic outcomes suffer the more a student works while studying. Studies conducted in the US and Canada revealed that working over 28 hours per week declines a student’s academic performance. Meanwhile, working more than 24 hours per week increases the chance that a student will drop out of their program.

Minister Miller also referenced existing limitations upheld by other study-abroad destinations like the US and Australia. The US requires additional criteria before permitting off-campus work, while Australia limits such to 48 hours every two weeks.

According to Minister Miller, the reduced hours are sufficient for students who need financial support during their studies due to the increased cost of living requirement for international students announced last December.


Effects of the new off-campus work rule

International students currently studying in Canada must now adhere to the adjusted rule of working only up to 20 hours per week. Those on a scheduled academic break, however, can still work unlimited hours as usual.

The soon-to-be-implemented limit of 24 hours per week will allow students to work the equivalent of three eight-hour shifts per week. It also reduces any undue distraction in their studies. Furthermore, the move was made to dissuade student visa applications from students who only come to Canada to work.


Working in Canada as an international student

Working off-campus as an international student in Canada is an opportunity to gain experience in their field. It also helps offset some expenses of studying abroad. The country makes it easy for students to pursue employment during their studies. International students don’t need a separate work permit to work off-campus as long as they meet all of these requirements:

Part-time students enrolled at a DLI may also work off-campus if they meet all of the aforementioned requirements (except the one of being a full-time student) and are only studying part-time because of either of these two reasons:

  • They’re in the last semester of their study program and they don’t need a full course load to complete it
  • They were a full-time student in their program in Canada up until their last semester.

Students on a scheduled academic break in the school year, such as winter and summer holidays or fall and spring reading week, may work overtime or work two part-time jobs. However, they must be a full-time student before and after their break to work full-time. This means that students starting their very first school semester may not work during the break preceding that.

Students on authorised leave from their studies or are transferring schools and not studying aren’t allowed to work off-campus. They may only do so when they’re back to studying.


Stay updated on international student news in Canada

Canada, along with other key study-abroad destinations, continuously reviews and updates their international student rules to adapt to current situations and ensure all stakeholders are supported. Stay tuned to the upGrad GSP blog to keep updated on the latest news on international student work in Canada and other industry news.

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