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 from here. Students can learn through the Employment Standards Branch about their wages and workplace rights in BC from videos 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 a work authorization. Students may work 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.

Program Christmas Break Summer Break Study Days

English as a Second Language (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) No
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, 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) at Service Canada (60 Front Street, Nanaimo). The SIN is a nine-digit number which allows you to access government benefits and tax deductions from earned income in Canada.

Noncompliance 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 which is $11.35 (lower in liquor industry)As of June 1, 2018, the minimum wage will be increased to $12.65 in BC.

Please note: in the following instances, an international student risks working illegally unless he/she has obtained a temporary foreign worker, post-graduate or spousal work permit:  

  • 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 suspension, 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 completion1;
  • student is not in satisfactory academic standing i.e. GPA lower than 2.00 at VIU;
  • student is enrolled part-time at VIU
  • 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.

 1Please note: A student’s Study Permit becomes invalid 90 days after the program completion date. The program completion date is NOT the convocation date.

 2 A student who has a confirmed disability and has registered through VIU’s Disability Services is exempt from this rule and considered full time at VIU.

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.

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