Working in Canada

Overview

Work experience can help you prepare for your career, gain exposure to the Canadian workplace, earn extra money, and form a closer connection to the local community.

As an international student, there are several types of work you can do in Canada. Some of them will require applying for a specific work permit.

Permits required to work in Canada

Type of work Required permits
On-campus work

You don’t need a work permit to work on campus while attending UBC. If you meet the requirements, you can work unlimited hours on-campus based on your study permit.

Check your eligibility to work on campus.

Off-campus work

Students in degree, diploma, certificate programs, or on exchange do not need a work permit to work off campus while attending UBC. If you meet the requirements, you can work off-campus for up to 20 hours a week during academic terms (or more during a temporary policy if you are eligible), and unlimited hours during your program’s scheduled breaks.

Check your eligibility to work on campus.

Co-op placement or internships

If work is required to complete your academic program, such as co-op, a practicum, or an internship, you need a co-op work permit, even if you can work on or off campus.

Working after graduation

If you want to stay in Canada and work after graduation, consider applying for the Post-Graduation Work Permit.

Work permit for your spouse or common-law partner

If you are an international student studying full-time with a valid study permit and your program is eligible for the PGWP, your spouse or common-law partner can apply for an open work permit. If you are applying for the PGWP, you will need to meet additional requirements.

Volunteer or unpaid work thats not required to complete your academic program

In Canada, the definition of work for immigration purposes is not based on payment, but how competitive your activities are in the labour market. Volunteer positions and internships might be considered work, even if you are not paid. For example, if you volunteer for a position that is normally performed by paid employees , such as photocopying or customer service, it is considered working in Canada.

If your volunteer position or internship is considered work, you must have the right work authorization before you start. Unpaid work hours are counted towards the 20 hours per week of off-campus work you may be eligible for as a full-time student.

If you work with children or seniors, in healthcare settings, or in agriculture

You need to complete a medical exam and have the right conditions on your study and/or work permit if:

  • You work in jobs which bring you into close contact with people, such as: 
    • Workers in health-care settings
    • Clinical laboratory workers
    • Patient attendants in nursing and geriatric homes
    • Medical electives and physicians on short-term locums
    • Workers in primary or secondary school settings, or workers in child-care settings
    • Domestics
    • Workers who give in-home care to children, the elderly and the disabled
    • Day nursery employees and
    • Other similar jobs
  • You are a medical student.
  • You will work in agriculture and have lived in a designated country for more than 6 months in the past year.

This is required even if your position is unpaid. See the list of example occupations.

When to complete the medical exam

If you will likely work in these kinds of positions, it is best to complete the medical exam before you apply for your study or work permit. It’s also possible to take the medical exam after you have received your study or work permit, then apply to change the conditions on your permit afterwards. 

Whether you complete your medical exam with your initial permit application or at a later date, you will need to wait for your application to be processed.

You cannot start the position until you have received a study or work permit with the appropriate conditions.

When you may not need a medical exam

If you previously completed a medical exam with your initial study permit and don’t have a restrictive condition, such as “Not authorized to work in childcare, primary/secondary school teaching, health service field occupations”, you would not need to complete another medical exam during the validity of your current study permit unless you lived in one or more of these countries or territories for at least 6 months in a row within the last year 

However, you would need to complete another medical exam for your next study or work permit, unless you took your medical exam in the past 12 months, in which case they are still valid, or you completed a medical exam in the past 5 years and are eligible for the temporary medical exam policy until October 6, 2024. In this case, you would upload the same e-medical and write a letter of explanation about your medical exam.

Medical exam requirements

You must book an appointment with an IRCC-approved panel physician, who will send your results to IRCC. Ask the doctor for a copy of your medical exam report, also known as your “e-medical”, and submit it with your study or work permit application. Your medical exam results are valid for 12 months from the date of your exam.

Include a letter of explanation asking specifically for your work permit to indicate that you may work in these occupations. Upload this in “Client Information” under Optional Documents.

Starting your own business

If you’d like to start your own business in British Columbia, please see Small Business BC for helpful resources. International Student Advising is not able to provide advice on taxes or setting up a business.

If you are self-employed, be sure to track your hours of work. Be careful not to work more hours than you are authorized to.

Other types of work permits unrelated to studies

Depending on your situation, you may be eligible to apply for other types of work permits. In general, work permits unrelated to studies can be difficult to qualify for and might take a long time to process. Please visit the IRCC website to learn about your options. Students from certain countries which Canada has an agreement with might be eligible for International Experience Canada, such as the Working Holiday Work Permit.

If you’d like more information on other types of work permits, you can contact IRCC or find an authorized immigration representative for advice.

Mexican and U.S. citizens with a bachelor’s or licenciatura

Individuals in certain fields may be eligible for a CUSMA work permit, formerly known as NAFTA. International Student Advising does not advise on eligibility for work permits under CUSMA, but you can find detailed information on the IRCC website.

Working for an employer outside Canada while you are physically in Canada

Working for an employer located outside Canada while you are in Canada is outside the jurisdiction of IRCC. As per the Canadian immigration regulations, long-distance work (by telephone or Internet) done by a temporary resident, such as a student whose employer is outside Canada and who gets paid from outside Canada, is not considered to be “work” in Canada.

Take time away from studies

If you’re no longer studying full-time, you are not eligible to work during the term you are not enrolled (for example, you are on leave), or during the scheduled breaks before or after the term. There may also be potential impacts to your status in Canada.

Get help on starting your career

  • Launch a Career in Canada
    Held every March, hear the stories of former UBC international students now working in Canada across different industries.
  • UBC Career Resources
    Improve your resume and cover letter, prepare for interviews, and more.
  • CareersOnline
    Browse and apply for work or volunteer positions on UBC's online career resources platform.
  • Work Learn Program
    Develop valuable skills through a part-time, on-campus job.

Additional resources

If you have questions

International Student Advising is ready to support you on questions related to immigration, health insurance, and life as an international student in Canada.

Connect with an advisor

International Student Guide

Find everything you need to know about life as an international student at UBC's Vancouver campus.

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