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. To review IRCC international student on-campus work eligibility requirements go to: Who can work on-campus

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.

Every semester the VIU has listings for on-campus student work opportunities. On-campus work positions provide flexible hours and generally do not offer more than 10 hours of work per week for the successful applicants.

For more information about on-campus work visit: VIU Campus Student Employment

On-campus work opportunities are listed on VIU’s online job posting portal “Experience Hub.”  To view postings on the Experience Hub you will login to the system using your VIU single sign-on login credentials.

The Experience Hub can be found here: Experience Hub

VIU Co-operative Education

  • Some programs at VIU that include a work-integrated learning (WIL) experience as a required component of the program.  WIL experiences are defined as a co-op, internship or practicum work term placement. 

    Work-integrated learning combines classroom study with supervised, professional, paid or unpaid, on or off‑campus work experience. The Centre for Experiential Learning at Vancouver Island University offers eight programs with a co-op component and six programs with an internship component.  Upper level students in courses that do not contain a WIL experience component can add a general upper-level internship to their studies.  Students are required to pay tuition fees for WIL work terms. Upon successful completion of work experience, students will receive academic credit. 


    More information about WIL experiences can be found at Work-integrated Learning.

    Students enrolled in a program that contains a work-integrated learning component or any student planning on completing a WIL experience must have a valid co-op 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 co-op, internship, or 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 or 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 or practicum employment must be an integral part of the academic, trades or professional training program
    • Co-op, internship or practicum placements cannot be more than 50% of the study program

    Please note, co-op work permits are valid only for the duration of your co-op, internship or practicum work term.

Log into GCKey

Disclaimer: The temporary public policy allowing international students to work more than 20 hours per week expired on Apr 30, 2024. 

IRCC minister announced on Apr 29, 2024 that authorized and eligible international students will be able to work 24 hours per week starting fall semester. Meanwhile,

  • students having an official semester during summer are only authorized to work off campus 20 hours per week;
  • students on scheduled break are authorized to work more than 20 hours per week. 

Check IRCC page for more information. 

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.

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.  Gather the required documents listed for Temporary Residents of Canada and include with your application:

  • passport and your VIU student ID
  • study permit only 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 apply for a new study permit and change study permit conditions

To apply online: 

Website: Service Canada

Online procedure to get SIN

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 pursuing last semester to graduate; 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. Graduate Diploma in International Trade, Graduate Diploma in Project Management, Post Degree Diploma in Fisheries). Please consult with Immigration AdvisorYes


Certificate programs, please consult with Immigration Advisor
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 $16.75.

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.

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.

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)
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.

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 submitted 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 a completion / graduation letter is issued by international admission office.

The work permit is usually equal to program duration and up to a maximum of three years. Graduates who studied two or more years full time and continuous, may qualify for up to three years of work permit.

To be eligible for a PGWP a student must have:

  • studied continuously and full-time in Canada;
  • graduated from academic, vocational or professional program at VIU which is longer than 8 months; 
  • received graduation (completion) letter (follow this link to request the letter), as well as official transcript (Building 200 or ordered via student record);
  • have a valid study permit and complied with its conditions.

You may apply online for PGWP inside or outside of Canada. The application must be made within 90 days of program completion. Counting the days starts from the date indicated on the completion / graduation letter not from the convocation date.

If graduate decides to submit PGWP application within 91 - 180 days while 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 completion on valid study permit. 

VIU graduates may work full time while waiting for a decision to be made on PGWP application. They may also travel abroad while waiting for the officers’ decision.

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.


PGWP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. From student record, apply to graduate and pay application fee.

2. When all grades are entered of final semester, the program advisor will review and make a decision regarding completion and notify you. 

3. When completion is approved, order an official transcript, and completion letter

4. More details how to apply from  VIU immigration resources.

There are two conditions to keep in mind: the last official date of your final semester; and when all grades are entered. When these two conditions are met, you are no longer authorized to work until submitting PGWP application. 

You can only submit an official transcript.