The government of Canada has launched a pilot program issuing open work permits to certain spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents in the Spouses or Common-Law Partners in Canada class (SCLPC). Applicants making an Inland application (i.e. while residing in Canada) for permanent immigration to Canada may now be issued open work permits before the “approval in principle” decision has been made on their application.

Inland and Outland applications for permanent immigration benefits in Canada are the loose analogs of the Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing mechanisms in U.S. immigration law, wherein Outland applications are processed through the visa office that serves the applicant’s country of origin. Proponents of the pilot program laud it for minimizing the need for those seeking immigration benefits to choose between two evils: Coming to join one’s partner in Canada but being unauthorized to work and the attendant realities of being unemployed with limited status or waiting until final approval before immigrating to Canada, where the applicant remains able to continue working but is physically separated from his or her partner and family for potentially extended periods of time. This conundrum often leads to emotional, practical, and financial hardships for those involved.

The new open work permit, however, allows applicants to work for any employer for a specified period of time while their permanent residence applicants are processed.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada—the government’s immigration arm—has stated that it will begin issuing open work permits to eligible SCLPC applicants who have already submitted an application for permanent residence. Those applicants will be able to apply for the open work permit online. For those applicants who submit after December 22, 2014, they should complete both the permanent residence application and an open work permit application concurrently.