Working in Canada

Working in Canada

For up to date information make sure to visit 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 a status document, indicating permission to study in Canada as well as work authorization. In order to be eligible to work on or off campus, international students must be enrolled in full time studies unless there are accessibility issues (e.g. physical or medical impairment). 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 or more for undergraduate or graduate programs. For graduate programs full time status also means being enrolled in set courses, research, thesis writing and etc.)
  • a Social Insurance Number (SIN) before starting to work
  • a medical examination by panel physician is often required for certain occupations (eg. jobs at schools, childcare, eldercare, food industry and etc.)

Some students will not be eligible to work on or off campus. Please see below.

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 at VIU.

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)

Employment must take place on the VIU campus where the student is enrolled.

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 each semester to work as international student activity assistants to help plan and organize events. All Work-Op positions are posted on the CareerVIU.

Disclaimer: IRCC announced on October 7, 2022 that eligible international students are exempted from the 20 hour/week limit to the number of hours they may work off-campus between Nov 15, 2022, and December 31, 2023. This means that during that period no Coop Work Permit will be required. "As such, IRCC will not require that they apply for a co-op work permit. If the co-op placement falls outside the timeframe for the public policy, however, then students would need to apply for a co-op work permit to cover the period before or after the public policy."

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. Please note, renewal of the study permit and extending it is essentially the same process.

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

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 the study permit has a condition stating, “prohibited from working in Canada”, the student must apply to change study permit conditions prior applying for your Social Insurance Number (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, on academic pause or leave of absence. Learn more at IRCC.

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.

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 enrolled students (enrolled in less than 9 credits, exceptions apply for students registered through VIU's Accessibility Services)
  • students on an approved "leave of absence" (medical or other)
  • students on academic pause from VIU and not enrolled at any other designated learning institution (DLI)
  • if international student arrived early, have not yet started their program of study, they are not entitled to work on or off campus

International students are Temporary Residents in Canada and Canadian laws protect International students from the risk of being exploited in the labor market of Canada. It is very important for students to know more about their rights and responsibilities in the workplace in Canada. The Employment Standards Branch of Nanaimo administers the Employment Standards Act (i.e. the law) and the Regulations. Students can file a complaint or ask questions related to their employment in BC. Through the Employment Standards Branch, students can learn about their wages and workplace rights in BC and frequently asked questions on the BC government website.

International students enrolled full time in academic, vocational and professional training programs are permitted to work 20 hours per week while they study if their Study Permit has work authorization. Students may work off-campus full-time during scheduled breaks (e.g. Summer vacation, Christmas break, and Study Days).  Please note, not all programs have scheduled breaks at VIU and the chart below explains this.

ProgramChristmas BreakSummer BreakStudy Days

English as a Second Language (ESL)

High School students

Undergraduate programs (degree and 2-year diploma)YesYesYes
One-year Diploma programs (e.g. Post Degree Diploma in Business, Post Degree Diploma in Fisheries). Please consult with Immigration AdvisorYes


Certificate programsYesYesYes
Masters programs (MASLM, MBA, MCP, MEDL, MEDS)Yes*See note belowYes

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

Students planning to work on or off campus while studying at VIU must apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN). The SIN is a nine-digit number which allows you to access government benefits and tax deductions from earned income in Canada.

Non-Compliance with Study Permit Conditions

If an Employer does not ask a student to provide their Social Insurance Number, the student may be working illegally. Students and employers may be in violation of the Employment Income Tax Law. In the case of international students, they will be considered noncompliant with the Study Permit terms and conditions. Noncompliance may also result in enforcement action being taken by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or cancellation of the Study Permit.

Moreover, international students, if working illegally, are not protected by the Employment Standards Act or Work Safe BC. The consequences of illegal work may be severe for international students: if an accident occurs on the job site, a student may not have the legal rights to claim compensation, even if they were working in unsafe conditions. The employer might not pay work hours in full or might not pay the minimum wage in BC. The minimum wage in B.C.  is $15.65.

Please note: in the following instances, an international student risks working illegally unless they have obtained a temporary foreign worker, post-graduate or spousal work permit if:  

  • study permit does not have the authorization to work
  • student is enrolled in English as a Second Language (ESL) program (if the work is off-campus)
  • student is enrolled in High School in Canada
  • working more than 20 hours per week during academic sessions
  • student is not enrolled full-time at VIU (e.g. working while on an approved leave of absence or on academic pause, or has taken time off arbitrarily)
  • student is working full-time based on a Study Permit or Co-op Work Permit after completing the program of study without having applied for a post-graduate work permit within 90 days of program completion
  • student is enrolled part-time at VIU or arrived early and started to work off campus before his/her classes started
  • student is enrolled in online courses and working full time

Important: If you work without authorization as listed above you may be barred from being issued (renewed) study permit for six months in certain situations.

  1. Please note: A student’s Study Permit becomes invalid 90 days after the program completion date. The program completion date is not the convocation date. It is usually earlier than convocation.
  2. A student who has a confirmed disability and has registered through VIU’s Accessibility Services is exempt from this rule and considered full time at VIU.

During scheduled breaks, an international student who meets specific criteria (see below) and have 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 (except VIU High School or ESL student) in the previous semester
  • enrolled full time in the upcoming semester
  • are not on academic pause, medical or other leave
  • have not yet completed their program of study

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

Scheduled Breaks at VIU: Official scheduled breaks at VIU consist of Christmas holiday, 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. Learn more about: Academic Program Dates and Deadlines

Please note: If a program of study does not provide regular scheduled breaks, any period of not studying  is considered as a "leave from studies", rather than a scheduled break. Taking a non-scheduled break prohibits students from work on or off campus during that time.

Please consult the following table for program-specific eligibility:

ProgramChristmas BreakSummer BreakStudy Days
ESL students can work on campus only and High school studentsNoNoNo
Undergraduate programs (degree and 2-year diploma)YesYesYes

One-year Diploma programs (e.g. Graduate Diploma in International Trade & in Project Management, Post Degree Diploma in Fisheries)

Certificate programs (depending on program, please consult with Immigration Advisor)YesYesYes
Masters programs (MASLM, MBA, MCP, MEDL, MEDS)Yes* See note belowYes


* 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 an authorization to work on or 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 and received completion letter from Bldg. 255), work authorization ceases and their study permit becomes invalid after 90 days of program completion. Upon submission of an application for a PGWP the graduate can work full time while they wait for a response from IRCC. If application for PGWP refused, a graduate must cease any type of work in Canada.

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 apply online by filling an application form for the SIN.  If you are unable to apply online or apply by mail you have the option to apply in person. If applying in person gather the required documents listed for Temporary Residents of Canada and include the following documents 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
Phone: 250.754.0222
Website: Service Canada

Disclaimer: IRCC announced on October 7, 2022 that eligible international students are exempted from the 20 hour/week limit to the number of hours they may work off-campus between Nov 15, 2022, and December 31, 2023. This means that during that period no Coop Work Permit will be required. "As such, IRCC will not require that they apply for a co-op work permit. If the co-op placement falls outside the timeframe for the public policy, however, then students would need to apply for a co-op work permit to cover the period before or after the public policy."

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 commence in September.

VIU Co-operative Education

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 are issued a coop, 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 have not been issued a co-op, internship, practicum work permit, you must apply for one at least four months before your work term begins.

Co-op work permits 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 permits 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, trades or professional training program
  • Co-op, Internship, Practicum placements cannot be more than 50% of the study program

Co-op work terms, internships, and practicums provide students with work experience related to their professional career fields. They may be paid or unpaid 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. 

Please note, Coop Work Permits are valid only for the duration of your coop work term, internship, practicum or field work.

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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 open 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 is usually equal to the duration of a student’s studies up to three years. Graduates who studied two or more years full time, may qualify for up to three years of work permit.

To be eligible for a PGWP a student must have:

  • studied continuously full-time in Canada 
  • graduated from academic, vocational or professional program at VIU which is longer than 8 months 
  • received written confirmation from their program that the student successfully completed the program 
  • received graduation (completion) letter (Bldg.255 or via email), as well as official transcript (Building 200 or ordered via student record)
  • 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 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-years PGWP based on two study programs. Students pursuing the same level (dual concentration in the same one year program) may not be eligible for up to three-years PGWP due to not being able to demonstrate study progression. However, they may qualify for the PGWP equal to their study duration.

You may apply online for PGWP inside or outside of Canada. The application must be made within 90 to 180 days of completion of the study program. Counting the days starts from the day of completion of the program not from the convocation date.

If graduate decides to submit PGWP application within 91 - 180 days and stay in Canada, they must change their status to visitor. As a visitor graduate will loose ability to work legally in Canada while waiting for PGWP approval. Therefore, the best option is to apply within 90 days of study program completion on valid study permit and remain on “implied status”. VIU graduates may work full time on implied status upon applying for PGWP. They may also travel abroad while waiting for the officers’ decision on their application.

Please note, study permits will be invalidated after 90 days of study program completion even if it has a valid date for a longer period of time. For details and how to apply, please visit IRCC.