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Ask Tito Mike by Michael Scott  

Sponsorship of a spouse or partner inside Canada

and the SOWP

by Michael Scott

If you are the foreign spouse or partner of a Canadian permanent resident or citizen, you may be able to apply for an open work permit. The Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) is something that is available for persons who are sponsored by their Canadian spouse/partner from inside Canada. This opportunity is not open to spouses or partners who are sponsored from outside the country.

The major advantage of the SOWP is that it allows spousal sponsorship applicants to work while they are awaiting a decision on their immigration application. IRCC recently announced that they are aspiring to complete the assessment of spousal/partner applications with one year of submission. However, the SOWP is something that can normally be decided upon in a shorter period of time. This is an advantage for the applicants to work inside Canada while they are awaiting a decision on their permanent resident application submissions. The principal applicant (PA) gains valuable Canadian experience and the opportunity to network, create meaningful relationships and improve practical language skills.

As opposed to a closed or employer-specific work permit, the SOWP allows the holder to work any job for an employer in Canada. The work permit gives applicants an opportunity to enhance their adaptation to the country during the processing period. The opportunity is a boon for both the Canadian economy and the sponsor and applicant. It provides PA’s a chance to earn their own money and exercise a limited freedom inside the country. Employers do not need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) in order to offer employment to holders of an open work permit.

The SOWP serves two purposes. First, it provides authority for the holder to work inside Canada. It also serves as a status document because applicants must ensure they remain in status during their time in Canada. If or when the SOWP is issued, the applicant may have been on a visitor visa (Visitor Record) but upon issuance of the open work permit their status has changed from in-status visitor to in-status worker, with a new expiration date.

Inland sponsorship is for spousal and common-law partners who are already living together with their sponsor inside Canada. The foreign partner must have valid temporary status as a visitor, student, or worker at the time of application. The work permit application is normally submitted as a separate application and included in the same application as the sponsorship of a spouse or partner from inside Canada.

To qualify for the SOWP the applicant must meet a number of requirements: submit a permanent residence application under the Spouse, Common-law Partner Class from inside Canada; have Canadian citizenship or be a permanent resident, who has submitted a sponsorship application on their behalf; live at the same address with their sponsor; have valid temporary resident status in Canada or an approved application for restoration with authorization to work. The foreign national PA can apply for the open work permit at the same time as the submission of their permanent residence application or at any time after they apply for permanent residence.

If applicants have already received an approval in principle for their permanent residence, they can apply for the SOWP online. Approval in principle means that IRCC has sent a letter stating that the applicants meet the permanent residence eligibility requirements, but they have not yet passed all the background checks, such as medical, criminal, and security.

The SOWO can be extended if the immigration decision is still pending. It is important to note that the application must be accompanied by the correct payment amount: $155 CAN for the work permit processing fee and a further $100 for the open work permit for a total of $255.

Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Immigration Canada and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with Immigration Connexion International Ltd. Contact him at 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail:

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