All About Co-op Work Permits

An Excerpt from Heron Law Offices Canadian Immigration Lawyer, Angela Harris CLEBC Paper

Angela Harris

C.        Limits of Co-op Work Permits

1.        For Whom Can You Work?

Your co-op work permit will list your DLI as your employer to indicate that you are a co-op student. However, you can work for any employer provided that the employer is accepted by your DLI’s co-op program. Your co-op placement may be on or off campus, and the work may be paid or unpaid.[1] Co-op work permits are exempt from Labour Market Impact Assessments (“LMIA”), and no job offer is necessary when applying for a co-op work permit.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, international students are currently permitted to work for a company in their home country, if their school and employer agree. They may also accept a Canadian work placement and start working remotely from their home country.[2]

2.        When Can You Start Working?

In pre-COVID-19 times, international students could not start working for their co-op placements before they had their co-op work permit.

However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, international students who are in Canada and are waiting for a decision on their co-op work permit application are currently allowed to start working for their co-op placement using their on-campus and off-campus work authorization, if they meet all the eligibility requirements.[3]

For on-campus work, there is no limit for the number of hours an international student can work. International students may work without a work permit on the campus of the university or college at which they are a full-time student under paragraph 186(f) of IRPR.

For off-campus work while waiting for a decision on a co-op work permit application, eligible international students may use their work authorization under paragraph 186(v) of IRPR to work up to 20 hours per week during a regular academic session, including boththe hours for co-op and the hours for a regular paid job, and full-time during a regularly scheduled break between academic sessions.[4]

They must stop doing work for their co-op placement immediately if their co-op work permit application is refused.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, international students who are working remotely from their home country are currently allowed to work while their study permit and co-op work permit applications are being processed, as this type of work does not require a work permit.[5]

3.        How Many Hours May You Work with a Co-op Work Permit?

You may work full-time with a co-op work permit during an approved co-op term. However, a co-op

work permit can only be used to complete the work required by your program of study within an

approved co-op term.

4.        When Must You Stop Working?

Because a co-op work permit may only be used for your approved co-op placement, you cannot use

your co-op work permit to continue working after you have completed your co-op placement, even if

the co-op work permit has not yet expired.[6]

If you still hold a valid study permit and are eligible, you may be able to work off-campus with your

study permit work authorization, not with your co-op work permit. Once you have completed your

study program, as confirmed by a letter from your school that you have completed the requirements to

graduate, you are generally not permitted to work without a work permit. If you apply for a post-

graduation work permit (“PGWP”) before your study permit expires, though, you may start working full-

time while your application is being processed.

5.        Can You Use Your Co-op Work Experience When Applying for Permanent Residency under the Canadian Experience Class (“CEC”)?

When international students seek to navigate possible pathways from their studies to permanent

residency in Canada, they sometimes wish to know if the work experience that they gained using their

co-op work permit counts toward the work experience requirements under the CEC. Unfortunately, it does not. Pursuant to paragraph 87.1(3)(a) of the IRPR, any period of employment during which a foreign national was engaged in full-time study shall not be included in calculating a period of work experience for the CEC.


[1] McGill International Student Services, “Co-op/Internship work permit” (2021), online: <https://www.mcgill.ca/internationalstudents/work/co-op-internship-work-permit>

[2] IRCC, “Work as a co-op student or intern” (last modified 6 July 2021), online: Government of Canada <https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/study-canada/work/intern.html>

[3] IRCC, “Students – Work: COVID-19 program delivery” (last modified 8 July 2021), online: Government of Canada <https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-manuals/service-delivery/coronavirus/temporary-residence/study-permit/work.html>

[4] IRCC, “Students – Work: COVID-19 program delivery” (last modified 8 July 2021), online: Government of Canada <https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-manuals/service-delivery/coronavirus/temporary-residence/study-permit/work.html>

[5] IRCC, “Work as a co-op student or intern” (last modified 6 July 2021), online: Government of Canada <https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/study-canada/work/intern.html>

[6] Note that the validity period of a co-op work permit usually matches that of the study permit, but you may still only use the co-op work permit to complete the approved co-op placement.

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