How is it possible that it is easier for the spouse of a foreign­er to get permission to work in Canada than it is for the spouse of a Canadian citizen?

A few years ago our minister of immigration facilitated the issuance of work permits to spouses of foreign workers on the grounds that it was necessary to Canada’s economic competitiveness to grant them limited access to our Canadian labour market.

Since then, the accompanying spouse of a foreign worker could immediately apply for an “open” work permit — i.e. a permit that allows them to work in virtually any occupation of their choosing — provided that their spouse had a work permit that authorized them to work in a managerial occupation or in an occupation that usually requires a university or college education or apprenticeship training. Accompanying spouses were exempted from the usual requirement of obtaining a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from Service Canada certifying their employment would not have a negative impact on our labour market. Furthermore, their work permits could be issued simultaneously with the work permit of the principal applicant or at a later date right at a Canadian port-of-entry.


Although this initiative was definitely a positive one, the plight of spouses of Canadian citizens and permanent residents was overlooked or ignored.

Unlike a foreign worker, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident who gets married to a foreigner cannot normally get their spouse working in Canada immediately. The foreign spouse of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident is not exempted from the LMO process and may need to wait a year or more to get working in Canada.

Spouses overseas are not given any special consideration that would allow them to work here before their sponsorship is finalized.

Foreign spouses who are in Canada with their Canadian spouses can apply for an open work permit only after their case has received “first stage approval.” This can easily take five to six months where an interview is waived or about 11 to 14 months where an interview is needed.

A fix to this glaring inequity is now overdue and should be given priority attention in 2008.

Guidy Mamann practises law in Toronto at Mamann & Associates and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at

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