In 2021, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) made revisions to the spousal work permit program. With its new policies in place, it states that work permits may be issued to foreign nationals with spouses that meet certain criteria. 

There are many categories under which applicants can qualify under this reform. To find out whether or not you might qualify, here is a quick guide for your reference.

What Are Principal Foreign Nationals?

As part of the reform, IRCC added a clear definition to what counts as a “principal foreign national.” This refers to the first foreign national that has obtained the proper permits to work in the country, under the provisions of section regulation 186 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. 

Due to these new provisions, the principal foreign national can no longer obtain a work permit under the C41 (skilled workers) or the C42 (study permit holders) if their partner has already obtained one or the other.

To better understand this, let us dissect what each permit requires.

Skilled Workers

You may qualify for an open spousal work permit (C41) if your spouse or common-law partner is employed, whether full or part-time. However, note that you must prove to be financially capable of taking care of yourself and your family while in Canada.

To do this, you must present a valid work permit, or any certification to prove you are authorised to work in Canada without a permit. Alternatively, you might also prove you are authorised to work in Canada for at least six months after the spousal open work permit is attained.

  • Requirements for Approval

For approval, your employment must be classified under the following conditions:

  • Highly skilled occupation
  • Classified as NOC 0, A, B, or C in the Atlantic Immigration Program streams
  • Holds formal nomination pursuant to a federal-provincial-territorial agreement with your permanent residence
  • Holds a selection certificate for permanent resident pursuant to the Canada-Quebec Accord
  • Currently residing or planning to reside in Canada during the employment period

Study Permit Holders

On the other hand, you may qualify for a study permit (C42) if your spouse studies on a full-time basis under post-graduation work permit-eligible study programs and institutions. You may apply under the LMIA exemption category C42 under the designation of the Minister.

The qualifications under this permit are quite strict. If, for instance, the principal foreign national is enrolled in a private post-graduate study program that does not meet the IRCC criteria, then you might not be able to qualify. 

  • Requirements for Approval

For approval, here are the precise requirements needed to qualify for a study permit.

  • Proof of marriage or common-law relationship between the study permit holder and yourself
  • Proof of partner’s affiliation with the study program or institution
  • Proof of the institution’s eligibility as a post-graduation work permit-eligible study program

To know whether your institution meets the criteria set by the IRCC, here are the qualifications as stated on the IRCC website:

  • A Canadian public post-secondary institution, including college, trade/technical school, university, CEGEP in Quebec
  • A private post-secondary institution in Quebec operating under the same rules and regulations as public post-secondary institutions
  • A private or public post-secondary institution in Quebec offering qualifying programs of 900 hours or longer leading to a diploma of vocational studies (DVS) or attestation of vocational specialisation (AVS)


Complacency to the IRCC guidelines will ensure a smooth application process. If you believe you may qualify for a spousal work permit, then consult with your nearest Canada immigration agency.

If you’re looking for professional help from a trusted firm, please contact us at or call 1-888-404-8472.

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