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How to get that well-rounded Canadian experience

“Am I allowed to work as an international student? It’s one of the very first questions that many international students and families have when considering a university degree overseas. And luckily, when you choose Canada, the answer is quite simple:

Yes!

In general, you must be:

1. A full-time international student;

2. Registered at an officially authorized university or college; and

3. In possession of a valid study permit.

Then the good news is, yes, it’s very likely that you can qualify to legally work in Canada!

Below are some of the different types of work you might want to consider looking into, along with their legal requirements.

Work on campus


Working on campus is the most straightforward type of work experience international students can get, as no additional permit is needed. Arrive at school, apply for jobs on campus! Really, it’s as simple as that. So long as you keep your grades up, and keep within any restrictions your school may have for maximum student employment hours per week, you are free to work at any on-campus job you can find.

With the average wage starting between $10 and $15 an hour, the choices are quite varied: from working at the campus library, to manning the desk at the school fitness centre or residence halls, to helping professors conduct in-depth research.

Previous work experience is, of course, useful, but certainly not mandatory in most cases.

Work off campus


Once you’ve been a full-time student for at least six months, you may also want to apply for an Off Campus Work Permit – a document that allows you to work anywhere in Canada you wish, for up to a maximum of 20 hours per week during the academic year, or full-time during school vacations or summer terms. Again, you need to be careful to keep your grades up, but otherwise, the permit is generally valid for as long as your general study permit lasts.

Working after graduation


You may be happy to hear that by graduating from an eligible Canadian university or college you can also qualify to gain valuable work experience in Canada after your studies!

Through the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/study/workpostgrad.asp), you can legally work in Canada for up to three years, depending on how much time you spent on your studies.

After working for at least a year, if you wanted to stay in Canada, you could also look into applying for permanent residency...and even work your way towards obtaining Canadian citizenship!

Whatever type of job you’re looking for, the key is to make the most of the opportunity – perhaps to save up some earnings, sure, but also to use the experience as a key learning opportunity for future employment and/or career moves. Particularly for students coming from South Asia – many of whom have never experienced having a regular job before – it’s also important to understand the Canadian work culture. A job is to be taken seriously. You have to show up on time. You have to do the work. It may be a big challenge to juggle all of this – particularly while keeping those grades up! – but learning these critical life skills of time management and prioritizing are bound to be rewarding in the long run.

To find out more about working in Canada as an international student, be sure to check out http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/study/work.asp – where you can also find information on other related issues such as employment entitlements for spouses of foreign students, cooperative work and internship programs, application processes for permanent residency, and (something you might want to consider later on), how to qualify for Canadian citizenship after you finish your studies.

– ARWEN KIDD

• Arwen Kidd currently serves as Communications Director for the Canadian University Application Centre and its parent organization, Higher-Edge. A Canadian university graduate herself, Arwen has spent most of the past five years working and travelling overseas. Among her credits are various documentary film and photojournalism projects in Eastern Europe, Australia and West Africa. Arwen is currently based in New Delhi, India.

Posted: Jan 6, 2011

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