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Can my child obtain a work permit?

Kathleen Leighton

Family reunification is a top priority for Canada when it comes to immigration, and we recognize that in order to continue to attract skilled workers to our country, we must ensure there are options for the family members of those individuals as well.

For this reason, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) enables spouses of foreign workers to obtain open work permits in certain circumstances. However, many parents also want their children to hold part-time jobs to instill a sense of responsibility and allow them to make some income, or their children may simply want to enter the workforce full-time instead of attending further education.

In prior years, certain provinces had pilot projects in place that allowed “dependent” children (i.e. generally under 22 years of age – see more below) of foreign workers to obtain open work permits, similar to a spousal work permit. Given those projects are no longer ongoing, what are the options for children of foreign workers in Canada to themselves obtain work authorization?

Of course, individuals of any age can theoretically apply for a work permit to work in Canada (keeping in mind that each province has legislation regarding the legal working age and ability to pay and/or employ a child for work in that region). However, it is far more difficult for young people who do not yet have significant education or work experience to find a work permit category they are eligible for. We therefore outline below some general routes for children, typically adult children, of temporary foreign workers in Canada who also want to gain work experience.

Working while attending school

While subject to a few exceptions, most children who are foreign nationals will need to obtain a study permit to study in Canada.

Individuals who hold a study permit and who are studying full-time at the post-secondary school level may have a few options to work in Canada:

  1. They may be eligible to work on their school’s campus without obtaining a work permit during their period of study. The term “campus” may include libraries, hospitals, or research facilities that are associated with the school, even if they are outside the physical campus boundaries.
  2. They may also be able to work off campus without obtaining a work permit. However, off-campus work is limited to 20 hours a week during regular school sessions and full-time during regular academic breaks.
  3. They could enroll in a co-op program with mandatory work terms, where the work placements comprise 50% or less of the study program. In this case, they may be eligible to apply for a co-op work permit to authorize their work terms.

It is important to seek advice to ensure your child meets all eligibility requirements to work on campus, off campus, or in a co-op program before they begin any work.

Unfortunately, there are not similar options for children studying at the secondary school level, even if they hold a study permit.

International Experience Canada

The International Experience Canada (“IEC”) is a program aimed at providing youth (aged 18-35) with opportunities to travel and work in Canada. Various countries have agreements with Canada allowing their citizens to apply for IEC work permits, and individuals who are not from an IEC country may also be able to use a Recognized Organization to come to Canada through IEC.

There are three IEC categories, but a notable option is “Working Holiday”, particularly for those who may not already have a job offer. This category is for youths who want to earn money to travel in Canada, often working in multiple locations and for multiple employers in the process. Working Holiday applicants may be able to obtain open work permits to facilitate this.

Labour Market Impact Assessment

Labour Market Impact Assessments (“LMIAs”) are often considered the “main” route to obtain a work permit in Canada. In most cases the process involves an employer applying to Service Canada for the LMIA, including payment of a $1000 fee, after a four-week advertising period. Specifically, it is generally necessary for the employer to advertise for the role in which they want to hire a foreign worker and demonstrate that they were unable to find any suitably qualified and available Canadian citizens or permanent residents for the role.

Typically, employers will have an easier time obtaining an LMIA if they are looking to fill a role that involves some unique skill that is difficult to find in Canada; however, it may be possible to obtain an LMIA to hire a young person without significant skilled work experience or education if the employer is able to genuinely demonstrate a lack of available labour. The employer would need to be willing to support the applicant by applying for, and paying for, the LMIA.

Permanent Residency

It is possible to include your dependent children in your permanent residency application. IRCC generally considers children under 22 to be dependent children, unless they have a spouse or common-law partner. In some cases, children 22 and over might also be considered dependents if they have to rely on the parent for financial support due to a physical or mental condition.

If you successfully include your dependent child in your application for permanent residency, and your child in fact receives permanent residency status, they would no longer need to worry about obtaining a work permit to be able to work in Canada. This, of course, would be a longer-term route.

Our immigration group would be pleased to discuss which options may be best for you and your family members to work in Canada.


This article is provided for general information only. If you have any questions about the above, please contact a member of our Immigration group.

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