A version of this article originally appeared on Arrive powered by RBC Ventures Inc.
Many international students choose to work throughout their post-secondary degree to help cover some of their expenses and gain Canadian work experience. This can be accomplished through part-time work while you study, or through entering a co-op or internship program at your university, provided your study permit allows it.
Here’s what you need to know about working in Canada as an international student.
Secure the essentials for working in Canada
1. Apply for your SIN number
The nine-digit Social Insurance Number (SIN) is essential to begin any type of work in Canada. Your SIN is also used to provide you with access to government programs and benefits you may qualify for.
You can apply for your SIN online or by mail (in-person applications are available at a limited number of Service Canada Centres currently). There is no fee to apply for your SIN. International students are required to have a valid study permit to apply.
2. Open a Canadian bank account
Once you start earning an income, you will need a bank account that can manage your financial needs as both a newcomer and a student.
You may need a chequing account to deposit your paycheques and pay for your living expenses; however, you may want to start saving — and collecting interest — on some of the money you earn from your job. A savings account may help you put some of your earnings away in order to save for a larger purchase, like a new laptop, or to travel during school breaks.
Working part-time as an international student: On-campus versus off-campus
Your study permit determines where and how much you can work while you study in Canada. As an international student, typically you can work up to 20 hours off-campus and there is no limit to the number of hours you can work on-campus. However, it may be challenging to balance working more than 20 hours a week with a full course load. If your study permit has no work conditions listed on it, you may request an alteration to your study permit for free.
1. Guidelines for work off-campus
If your study permit allows you to work off-campus, you will be able to work for any type of employer, including restaurants, cafés, retail stores, and more. This opens up many more part-time job possibilities if you meet the eligibility requirements such as:
- You are a full-time student currently studying at a designated learning institution (DLI)
- You have enrolled in a post-secondary academic, vocational or professional training program or, a secondary-level vocational training program (Quebec only)
- Your study program is at least six months long and leads to a degree, diploma, or certificate.
- Your study permit says, in the user remarks or conditions sections, that you can work off-campus
- You have a SIN
2. Guidelines for work on-campus
If you are a full-time post-secondary student in Canada, your study permit typically allows you to work on-campus at your post-secondary institution. On-campus means that you are physically working for an employer on your university’s campus, or you are working in a specified teaching or research position directly related to your university. Typically you do not need an additional work permit for on-campus positions.
Work as a co-op or intern
Another way international students can get Canadian work experience and receive an income while studying is through university-directed co-op or internship programs. Co-op and internship programs may have one or two intakes per year and require an application process. See your university’s website for more information on available programs. To participate in a co-op work program, you will require a co-op work permit.
Working while you study in Canada is a great way to start building your resume with Canadian experience before you graduate. Making some extra income throughout your degree will also support your expenses for travel, tuition, and housing while you are in Canada.
As you start to make an income, remember that you will also need to file income taxes. Get familiar with Canadian tax returns before tax season creeps up by reading “Canadian Tax Returns: What you Need to Know as an International Student.”
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.