VIU International students

Working in Canada

Working in Canada: Challenges and Opportunities

Please note, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has been renamed by the federal government. Now known as Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

International students who are enrolled in full time academic, vocational or professional trades programs at VIU, may be eligible to work on or off campus. The study permit issued for the student serves as permission to study as well as work authorization. In order to be eligible to work off campus, international students must be enrolled in full time studies. Students may be eligible to work on or off campus if they meet specific eligibility criteria. In general, students must have the following documents to be able to work on or off campus while studying at VIU:

  • valid Study Permit with work authorization
  • full time enrollment at VIU (enrolled in 9 academic credits for undergraduate programs. For graduate programs full time enrollment: set courses, research, thesis writing and etc.)
  • a Social Insurance Number (SIN) before starting to work
  • medical examination is required for certain occupations (eg. jobs at schools, childcare, eldercare, food industry and etc.)

However, some students will not be eligible to work. Please see below.

Who is not eligible to work on or off campus?

The following International students are not eligible to work on or off campus in Canada:

  • students on a visitor visa or eTA 
  • high school students 
  • part-time students (enrolled in less than 9 credits, exceptions apply for students registered through VIU's Accessibility Services)
  • students on medical or any other approved "leave of absence"
  • students suspended from VIU and not enrolled at any other designated learning institution (DLI), 
  • newly enrolled students before their program of study commenced. 

On-Campus Work

While studying at Vancouver Island University, International Students who hold a valid study permit and enrolled in full-time studies, are eligible to work on-campus where the student is studying.

This includes students engaged in full-time studies in the following programs:

  • ESL (English as a Second Language) or FSL (French as a Second Language)
  • Exchange students enrolled in short-term studies and hold a valid Study permit (these group of students may also work off-campus up to 20 hours a week if their study permit has the authorization to work on/off campus)

Students may work more than one job, total hours must not exceed 20 hours per week.  Employment must take place on the VIU campus where the student is studying.

Work-op Every semester the Campus Career Centre has listings for more than 300 on-campus jobs. These positions are competitive and generally do not offer more than 10 hours of work per week for the successful applicants. The Centre for International Education also hires several international students every semester to work as international student activity assistants to help plan and organize events. All Work-Op positions are posted on the CareerVIU webpage.

Off-Campus Work

International students enrolled in full time academic, vocational or professional training programs at VIU, may be eligible to work on or off campus up to 20 hours per week while studying. Full-time work is permitted during scheduled breaks (summer and winter holidays) if their program of study has a scheduled break.

Amending or changing conditions in your Study Permit

International students who have transitioned from the ESL program to an academic program at VIU and have a condition on their study permit stating “prohibited from working in Canada”, must apply to change study permit conditions. There is a $150 CAD fee for the renewal of a study permit.

If you are an academic, vocational or professional training program student and your study permit does not contain the following conditions or remarks:

  • May work 20 hrs per week off-campus or full-time during regular breaks if meeting criteria outlined in section 186(v) of IRPR
  • May accept employment on or off campus if meeting eligibility criteria as per R186(f), (v) or (w). Must cease working if no longer meeting these criteria” as per the Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada website

then you must apply for an amendment of study permit to be permitted to work. You must mail the original study permit for amendment. There is no fee for the application for amendment.

If student's study permit has a condition stating “prohibited from working in Canada”, the student must apply to change study permit conditions prior applying for SIN. There is a $150 CAD fee for the renewal of a study permit.

Please note, it is illegal to work without work authorization in Canada. You must cease your work if no longer a full-time student, suspended or on leave of absence. Please refer to more information IRCC website.

Social Insurance Number

In order to work in Canada, you must have a SIN (Social Insurance Number).  There is no fee to obtain a SIN and it is usually valid for the same duration as your study permit.  You are required to provide your SIN within three days of employment.  Please download an application form for the SIN  and gather the required documents listed for Temporary Residents of Canada. You must take the following documents, in person, to a Service Canada Office:

  • passport and your VIU student ID
  • study permit if there is a remark stating “may accept employment” or “may work” in Canada;

If a student’s study permit does not include the above-mentioned remarks, it is recommended that the student applies for an amendment of a study permit. There is no fee for amending the study permit.

If student's study permit has a condition stating “prohibited from working in Canada”, a student must apply to change study permit conditions prior applying for SIN. There is a $150 CAD fee for the renewal of a study permit.

Service Canada
60 Front Street, Nanaimo, BC,

Post-Graduation Work Permit

International students graduating from the full-time program at VIU are eligible to apply for the post-graduate work permit (PGWP). The application for the work permit must be done within 90 days of the program completion if a student would like to work full time while waiting officers decision on their application. The calculation of 90 days starts from the date when final marks are issued or the formal confirmation is received from the Program of study. The work permit usually is equal to the duration of a student’s studies up to three years. Graduates who studied two years or more full time may qualify for up to three years of work permit.
To be eligible for a PGWP a student must have:

  • have continuously studied full-time in Canada 
  • graduated from academic, vocational or professional program at VIU which is longer than 8 months 
  • received written confirmation that the student successfully completed the program 
  • received graduation letter (Bldg.255), as well as an official transcript (Bldg.200)
  • have a valid study permit and complied with its conditions
  • applied for PGWP and received generic IRCC confirmation letter, after may work full time while waiting for officers decision on graduation work permit. If PGWP application is refused must cease any work in Canada.

Exceptions apply when students complete a one year program at VIU, then pursues Master’s level (or other) program that is shorter than 16 months may be eligible for up to three-year PGWP cumulatively. Students pursuing the same level (dual concentration in the same one year program) may not be eligible for up to three-year PGWP due to not being able to demonstrate career progression. However, they may qualify for the PGWP equal to their study duration.

You may apply for PGWP inside or outside of Canada. The application must be made within 90 days (currently up to 180 days in extenuating situations) of completion of the program. Counting the days starts from the day of completion of the program not from the convocation date. If you have applied for PGWP you are on “implied status” meaning waiting for your application to be processed and may work full time. You may travel abroad while you are waiting for the officers’ decision on your application.

NOTE: As per new provisions upon completion of your program, study permit will be invalid after 90 days even if it has a valid date for a longer period of time. For details and how to apply, please visit IRCC website.

Applying for Post-Graduation Work Permit

VIU's Campus Career Centre provides assistance with finding work after graduation.

Co-operative Education and Work Permit

Co-operative Education (Co-op) combines classroom study with supervised, professional, paid, off-campus work experience in Canada. Vancouver Island University offers nine programs with a Co-operative Education component.

Co-op placements usually take place from May to October. Programs that include a Co-op component normally start in September.

There are programs at VIU that include a practical learning experience called Co-op/Internship/Practicum work term placement. Students enrolled in these programs must have a valid work permit in addition to their valid study permit. 
You can apply for the co-op work permit as part of your study permit application and if eligible we recommend you do so. Some students have issued a co-op/internship/practicum work permit at the same time as their initial study permit. Others will have to apply for it separately or when they renew their study permit. If you do not already have a co-op/internship/practicum work permit, you must apply for one at least four months before your work term begins.

Co-op work permit may be issued until your study permit expiry, or it may be a short-term work permit expiring before your study permit. Eligibility criteria for a Co-op/Internship/Practicum work permit are as follows:

  • The student must have valid Study permit (or in the process of applying to initial one)
  • Co-op/Internship/Practicum employment must be an integral part of the academic program
  • Co-op/Internship/Practicum placements cannot consist of more than 50% of the program

Co-op work terms/internships/practicums provide students with work experience related to their professional career fields. They can be paid or not-paid and may last from three months to twelve months. Students are required to pay tuition fees for co-op work terms and upon successful completion of work experience, students will receive academic credit. 

Applying for Co-op Work Permit

Log into GCKey

Student Volunteers

International students are encouraged to do volunteer work. We have a large team of international student volunteers who help with activities on-campus. One example is our Peer Helper program that provides current international students with opportunities to welcome new international students to VIU and to Nanaimo and to assist with orientation, tours of the campus, and preparing for studies at VIU.

 Scheduled Breaks

During scheduled breaks, an international student who meets specific criteria (see below) and has authorization noted on their Study Permit may work full time. However, not all international students are eligible to work full time during scheduled breaks.

  • Students are eligible to work full time on or off campus if they are:
  • enrolled at VIU full time in academic, vocational, professional training programs (not VIU High School or ESL student) in the previous semester
  • enrolled full time in the upcoming semester
  • are not on suspension, medical or other leave
  • have not yet completed their program of study

Students who are enrolled in full-time studies during academic sessions before and after regularly scheduled break who elect to take either a part-time or full-time course load during the regularly scheduled break (summer or winter) are eligible to work off campus on a full-time basis.

Scheduled Breaks at VIU: Official scheduled breaks at VIU consist of Christmas holiday break, reading days and summer break. A scheduled break usually starts from the end of final exams until the first day of class for the next semester. Please visit for more details:

Please note: If a program of study does not provide for a regularly scheduled break and a student creates their own break in a program, it is considered as leave from studies, rather than as a regularly scheduled break. Students who create their own break in the program of study are not eligible to work on or off campus during that break. 

Please consult the following table for program-specific eligibility:

Christmas Break
Summer Break
Study Days
ESL & High school students No No No
Undergraduate programs (degree and 2-year diploma)

One-year Diploma programs (e.g. Post Degree Diploma in Business, Post Degree Diploma in Fisheries)

Certificate programs No
Masters programs (MASLM, MBA, MCP, MEDL, MEDS) *See note below


*Masters level: The MBA Program does not have scheduled summer breaks. MASLM, MCP, MEDL, MEDS, MCP programs have only one scheduled summer break during the transition to the second year, if the program started in a Fall semester.

Please note, students who are required to complete a mandatory practicum, internship, or co-op work term must have a Co-op Work Permit. This type of work permit is printed as a separate document from the Study Permit. It is valid only for the period of internship/practicum or co-op work and cannot be used as authorization to work off campus for an Employer other than an internship.

IMPORTANT: Upon completion of their program, international students must cease any type of work until they have applied for a post-graduate work permit (PGWP). Please note, that the program completion is not the convocation date. As soon as a student completes their program of studies (final marks are up in student record), work authorization ceases and their study permit becomes invalid after 90 days of program completion. Once an application for a PGWP has been submitted, however, the student can work full time while they wait for a response from Immigration Canada.

The content of this page is not a substitute for legal immigration advice. It is for information purposes only and can change without notice. Please refer to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website for up-to-date information.