Canada recently announced changes to the Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP) program that will make it more accessible.
BOWPs are open to eligible work permit holders who have applied for Canadian permanent residence. The point of the BOWP is to allow these workers to keep working in Canada while they wait for Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to make a decision on their permanent residency application.
As per the changes announced in September, there is no longer a limit on when you can apply for the BOWP. Before, you could only apply within four months of your work permit’s expiry date.
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Also, you may now be eligible if your status has expired and you are eligible for restoration, or if you are in Canada on “maintained status.” Under the old rules, you were not eligible to apply for the BOWP if your work permit had expired.
In addition to all this, the BOWP has opened to the following types of applicants:
- Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) applicants if they have a copy of the nomination letter that indicates their employment is unrestricted and they selected “Open Work Permit” on their application form.
- Agri-Food Pilot applicants if they submit their application online, and provide their approval in principle letter in the “Client Information” field with their application.
- Quebec skilled workers become eligible after their file passes a completeness check.
The BOWP for Quebec skilled workers and PNP applicants may be valid for 24 months or until their passports expire, whichever comes first. This is to ensure these applicants have enough time in Canada to wait out the processing period.
BOWPs issued to people in other immigration categories will be valid for 12 months.
Spouses of BOWP holders do not automatically get a BOWP. If your spouse wants to work in Canada, they may apply as a spouse of a skilled worker or as a spouse of a full-time student, whichever applies. Spouses of study permit holders may apply for a spousal open work permit if they are eligible for a Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).
Who is eligible for a BOWP?
The point of the BOWP is to allow people who are already in Canada to continue working at their jobs while their permanent residency application is in processing. They do not need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which is oftentimes required of work permit holders because by virtue of working in Canada they are already providing an economic benefit.
As such, you cannot apply at a port of entry. You have to be applying from within Canada since, in the government’s eyes, your presence here is allowing you to be exempt from an LMIA.
If you applied for permanent residency under one of the following programs, you may be eligible for a BOWP:
Spouses and common-law partners of BOWP holders
If your spouse or common-law partner wants to work in Canada while you are here on the BOWP.
They will have to provide additional documentation, which is written on the work permit holder’s instructions on the government website.
Also, your BOWP must be valid for a minimum of six months, regardless of which program you applied for.
You must be in Canada, but your partner may be inside or outside the country. If you are both in the country you can submit your applications together, both the application for the BOWP and the one for your spouse, which is called the C41 WP. Your spouse’s work permit cannot be issued before yours. So, if they are outside Canada they have to wait until you receive your BOWP before they can apply for the spousal open work permit.
Depending on what program you applied for, there will be different requirements for your spouse. If you applied under the following programs, your spouse may only qualify for a work permit if you work in a skilled occupation, which falls under the National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill levels 0, A, or B:
- Federal Skilled Worker Program
- Canadian Experience Class
- Caregiver applicants before June 18, 2019
- Agri-Food Pilot
If you are applying under the Quebec Skilled Worker or PNP class, the skill level of your occupation does not matter for your spouse’s eligibility.
Federal Skilled Trades applicants, however, must be performing work that is within one of the skilled trade occupations in NOC skill level B in order for their spouse to be eligible for the work permit.
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