Friday, March 2, 2012

From Student Permit to Work Permit - Updated

I realized that I've been talking mostly about classes, research, and projects as of late.  In fact, I have about three other blog posts in the works that are all school related.  Obviously this makes sense as I am a full-time student, but I want to pause occasionally and bring up the specifically international student aspect.

As part of the Public History program here at Western, I have to complete a 12 week, full-time internship this summer for my degree.  Now these internships can be paid or unpaid (as I will be getting college credit for working) but obviously I would prefer if I could find something paid.  I have applied to programs both here in Canada and back in the States, but I would much prefer to stay here in London with Doug.  

The student permit that I currently hold allows me to attend university and work on-campus.  Since I have a research assistantship (RA) I am technically employed by Western, even though I spend my time out at Fanshawe Pioneer Village.  So I could remain in Canada on my student permit only if I take an unpaid internship.

So I have started the process of applying for a work permit in order to legally work anywhere in Canada.  (By starting the process I mean filling out all the forms and making sure I have copies of all the necessary documents.)  I went to a seminar a few weeks ago for international students about immigrating to Canada.  Though Doug and I aren't to the point where we want (or are able) to start the immigration process, I was hoping they would provide some information relevant to my situation.

I had to sit though a two and a half hour presentation (much of which did not pertain to me) but I got the nugget of information I needed.  Basically, there are three different ways I could apply for a work permit.  (These are all without already having a job lined up, which I don't, or falling under the category what Canada considers a "skilled worker.")

First, there is an option for a co-op work permit if it is required for your degree and the co-op isn't more than 1/3 of your program.  However, this permit would only be good for the length of the co-op, then you would need to renew.  That's a lot of money to spend for a relatively short period of time.

Second, I could apply for a post-grad work permit.  This allows someone who has just earned a graduate degree to get a work permit that would be the same as the duration of their program - up to two years.  So for me that would amount to a one-year work permit.  Not bad, but still not great.

Finally, I can apply for a spousal work permit.  Since Doug's PhD program is longer than my MA program (his student permit is valid until 2015), as his spouse I can apply for a work permit that matches the duration of his student permit.  Three years, now we're talking.

I talked with one of the speakers at the seminar to make sure I understood everything correctly (it can all get pretty confusing) and I've also made an appointment with a counselor at the International and Exchange Student Center next week to go over everything.

In the meantime, as I already had a planned trip to Ohio to visit family this weekend, I am going to stop by the Consulate in Detroit and try to apply for one in person, rather than mail in the application and wait to hear back.  I just like the idea of talking with someone face to face before paying the fee and possibly being rejected because I filled something out incorrectly.  If that happens, they keep our money, and we have to pay again when I reapply.

So here's to hoping I'm as over-prepared as I was when we crossed the border the first time and things go as smoothly.  I'll feel a lot better when all this government paperwork is behind me, and I can stop worrying about it for a few years! 

(Oh, and here's to hoping I get a paid internship - or better even - a job in the area to go along with my work permit!) 

Renaissance Center, Canadian Consulate Detroit



I have decided that there needs to be a special link on the Citizenship and Immegration Canada website that is specifically for those coming from the United States.  All it need say is - "whatever documentation you want to get, you can do it at the port of entry."

Much like my last time crossing the border, I didn't need to go to the Consulate in Detroit, they just directed me to the port of entry (I stopped in Sarnia on my way back from Ohio.)  Once again, I had more paperwork than necessary, and I spent about an hour waiting for the immegration officer to put all my information in the computer, and then printing out a nice work permit for me.

Though it was frustrating to go through way more work than was necessary (espcially since I was just doing what I had been instructed to do) in the end I guess it's better safe than sorry.

Most importantly, I have a permit to work in Canada through May, 2015.  Let the job hunt begin!

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