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International students are a valuable asset to Canada, contributing to the cultural diversity and filling some in-demand jobs in Canada. For these students, the ability to work off-campus offers financial support and sometimes even helps them gain work experience relevant to their future careers. On April 29th 2024, the Canadian government announced changes to the maximum number of hours international students can work off-campus per week. Let us discuss the details of this new policy and how it affects students working in Canada.

Starting this fall, international students working in Canada can work up to 24 hours a week off campus—the current 40 hours during the school year ended on April 30th 2024. The federal government, according to Immigration Minister Marc Miller, will reinstate the weekly work-hour limit. This was lifted during the pandemic to ease Canada’s labour shortage and reduce the financial burden of international students.

It was a successful measure in helping our economy recover from the pandemic and is therefore no longer necessary. The purpose of the international student program is to study and not to work.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller

Pre-Pandemic Limits

Before the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down, international students in Canada could work up to 20 hours per week during the regular school period.

This limit created a healthy balance between academic pursuits and part-time work. The idea was for students to focus primarily on their studies while allowing them to earn some income to offset living expenses. Due to the increasing costs of education and living expenses, even 20 hours of work might be challenging for some students to make ends meet.

Pandemic Changes

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unexpected changes, and international student work hours were no exception. In response to the economic challenges of the pandemic, The Canadian immigration authority, IRCC, temporarily lifted the 20-hour weekly limit for international students. Students could work off-campus to earn money, contribute to the economy, and gain valuable experience.

New Work Hour Limit

Starting this fall, international students in Canada will have a revised limit on their off-campus work hours. IRCC has implemented a new 24-hour/week limit for international students on study permits. This policy replaces the temporary, pandemic-era measure that allowed unlimited work hours.

Working more than 20 hours per week is against your study permit conditions. You can lose your student status for doing this and may not get a study or work permit again. You may also have to leave the country.

The 24-hour limit represents a compromise between the pre-pandemic restrictions and the recent flexibility. It aims to address several key points:

  • Student well-being: By limiting work hours, the government hopes to ensure students prioritize their studies and maintain a healthy balance between academics and work. 
  • Financial support: The increase from the previous 20-hour limit would help with the rising cost of living. Students can take up to three 8-hour shifts weekly to help cover expenses like tuition, rent, and groceries.
  • Employer needs: Though not unlimited, the 24-hour limit offers some flexibility for employers, particularly those in sectors that rely heavily on student labour. Also, to address ongoing labour shortages in some industries.

Quick facts published by IRCC

  • Recent studies conducted in the US and Canada have shown a considerable decline in academic performance for students working more than 28 hours per week and that working more than 24 hours per week increases the chances that a student will drop out of their program.
  • Most countries that welcome international students set limits on the hours they may work while studying. Australia recently changed its policy to allow students to work 48 hours every bi-weekly. In the US, students must meet additional criteria before being permitted to work off campus.
  • In December 2023, the Government of Canada raised the cost-of-living threshold for a study permit application to show that students are financially prepared for life in Canada and are not as dependent on working.
  • International students who begin a college program delivered through a public-private curriculum licensing arrangement on or after May 15, 2024, will not be eligible for a post-graduation work permit when they graduate. Those who started this program before May 15, 2024, can still access a post-graduation work permit, provided they meet all other criteria.
  • The new letter of acceptance (LOA) verification process has succeeded. Since its launch on December 1, 2023, through April 1, 2024, IRCC has
    •  received almost 162,000 LOAs for verification
    • confirmed nearly 142,000 LOAs as valid directly with designated learning institutions (DLIs)
    • identified almost 9,000 LOAs that did not match any LOA issued by a DLI or that the DLI had already cancelled before the foreign national applied for a study permit

Conclusion

The Canadian government has implemented a new policy setting the maximum number of off-campus work hours for international students at 24 hours per week. This revised limit balances student well-being and academic success with the need for financial support and employer flexibility. While it’s a decrease from the temporary pandemic measure, it offers more freedom when compared to the pre-pandemic restrictions. This policy recognizes the valuable contributions of international students and aims to create a sustainable environment for them to pursue their studies and gain valuable work experience in Canada.

Find out the affordable provinces in Canada for international students here. These provinces also offer immigration pathways for international students.

Chinwe

Author Chinwe

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