Eligibility to Work Off-Campus as an International Student

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March 1, 2022

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Working alongside studying is an essential part of the Canadian student experience. That is why some of the most mainstream schools, like the University of Waterloo, have established Co-op programs to help students learn and apply their learnings in the same period. But, off-campus work opportunities have a special place in every international student’s budget, priorities, and professional development.

Here is everything you would want to know about on-campus and off-campus work. 

What is On-Campus and Off-Campus Work?

The primary difference between the two is precisely how it sounds – one allows you to work on your school’s campus, and the other will enable you to work outside your campus. 

The on-campus jobs include teaching assistantships or part-time roles at libraries, tutoring centres, and even college cafeterias. On the other hand, off-campus work has no limits to the kind of roles you can have.

For instance, you will find students take up everything from being a Customer Service Rep at a Tim Hortons to being a part-time bookkeeper to working as a part-time Amazon Warehouse Associate. No job is too small because each job pays at least the minimum wages valid in the province and predictable cash flow in a student’s budget.  

The Eligibility Criteria to Work Off-Campus

Here are the eligibility criteria you must meet to legally work off-campus:

  1. Your off-campus job should not require a work permit. If it does, it is not fitting into the definition of off-campus jobs. 
  2. Your study program must have started in Canada. By definition, you can work off-campus when the campus (i.e. your program) is running. Hence, even if you are shifting schools, you cannot work off-campus in the vacant period in the transition process. 
  3. Examine your study permit as closely as possible. You might find conditions that state whether you can work off-campus or not. If your study permit does not provide clarity on this, make sure you get it added to your study permit. You would not need an additional work permit for off-campus jobs. 
  4. You must be a full-time student at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in a post-secondary program that will award a vocational, professional, or academic credential like a degree, diploma, or certificate. 
  5. Your program at the DLI must last for at least six months of full-time study. 
  6. You might be eligible for off-campus jobs even if you are enrolled in a part-time program, only and only if you are taking up the part-time route because you are in the last semester of your program, and you can graduate with less course load in this semester. Or, you should have studied as a full-time student in the recent past. 
  7. You must have a valid Social Insurance Number. 

Off-Campus Work Best Practices 

While working off-campus might seem exciting to most international students, not following the best practices can get your study permit cancelled. Hence, stick to the rules, and you will find yourself growing as a professional and a student.

  1. Do Not Work Beyond the 20-Hour Weekly Threshold.

Off-campus work hours are limited to 20 hours per week. Most students divided these hours into 7 hours to 8 hours on the day when they do not have lectures. This is a standard approach, and you should take the same.

IRCC propagates the principle that other than the 20-hour limit, your part-time work should not get in the way of your studies. There is no existing mechanism to verify this, but try to be as close as possible to the 20-hour limit and use the extra time on your hand to finish up more of your coursework. 

  1. Never Pay to Find Work Off-Campus.

For some international students, finding off-campus work can be a rude awakening. Many international students have not worked part-time in their lives. On top of that, most of them do not have experience in a relative industry that would translate well into their off-campus job.

Despite the seemingly difficult time, make sure that you do not pay anyone – a ‘consultant’ or an ’employment agent’ to get part-time off-campus work. Paying someone to get a job is not entirely illegal, but it makes no economic sense for off campus roles since most of them pay the minimum wages prevalent in the province.  

  1. Work Only After Registering Your Social Insurance Number. 

Book an appointment with Service Canada as soon as you land in Canada and get your Social Insurance Number. Do not start working on an off-campus role until your SIN is available. Technically, if you have applied for renewal on your student visa and your SIN expired, you can still work on an implied status. However, it is best to get your SIN renewed and activated before jumping into off-campus roles. 

How to Find Off-Campus Work Opportunities?

The difficulty of getting an off-campus job depends on the month and the area you are living in. For instance, if you land in September or early October in Canada, you can easily find off-campus jobs since most businesses that use a temporary workforce are yet to conduct their holiday hiring. But, if you land in January, most of this hiring is already done, and you might have to wait a few weeks or run a few extra rounds of applications before you can get your off-campus job.

The same idea applies to where you live. If you are anywhere in the metropolitans like the Greater Toronto Area or Metro Vancouver, you will find several opportunities. But, the less populated the locale is, the more difficult it gets to see off-campus work. 

You can use the following sources to get an off-campus job other than these two variables. 

1. College Job Boards

Most colleges have a dedicated job board where recruiters often post details on the target hiring profiles. Find the platform designed by your college or university and track it every week for new positions. For instance, Seneca College in Toronto has a reliable platform called SenecaWorks, where students can find part-time and full-time roles. 

2. Referrals

If your roommates, relatives, or even classmates are working at a company, there is an excellent chance that you can use their referral to get an off-campus role. This is less about nepotism and more about establishing trust when applying for the position. So, while you can use referrals to scout for opportunities, do not depend solely on them for converting those opportunities.

3. Cold Walk-Ins 

Here is the plan – print a dozen copies of your CV from the nearest public library and go from store to store or café to café and try to speak with the manager. A large majority of such establishments will ask you to apply online. But, make sure you provide them with your physical CV, ask them more about what they are looking for, build some rapport, provide your contact details, and then apply online. You would be surprised to learn how many people never do this because they are shy to approach people for hiring them! 

4. Job Portals and Corporate Websites

As usual, make a spreadsheet of all the companies and their talent portals where off-campus jobs are posted. Make sure you apply only for the roles that do not require any special work permits. 

In Summary

Your program officer at the college or university you are attending will provide you with links to websites and pages that give you a comprehensive walkthrough of what you can and cannot do under your off-campus jobs. Use this post and that guideline as a rule book, and you will find your off-campus job hunting process and the process of actually doing the job – productive and legally permissible. 

But before you get into any of that – you will have to secure admission, bring your immigration process done, obtain your study permit, Co-op work permit (if applicable), and have your visa stamping completed. Now, that is where our team of experts can help you. Click here to book a free consultation and get started with your Canadian journey today! 

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