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As an international student in a co-op program, getting your work permit is a necessary step to working in Canada.

We are here to help. The resources below can help answer any questions you may have about obtaining your work permit. Our international employment specialist (IES) for international visa students will also be in touch to support you throughout the process.

The University has a dedicated team of Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) that provide free and confidential services to Waterloo students. Learn more about the RCIC team and available resources.

exclamation point Temporary policy for students in co-op programs

The Government of Canada announced temporary changes to co-op work permit policies that may impact you as an international student in co-op. Between November 15, 2022, and December 31, 2023, co-op students may be able to work without a co-op work permit if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • You applied for a study permit (or extension) on or before October 7, 2022,
  • You have a valid study permit and are studying full-time (or have been approved but have not yet arrived in Canada),
  • Your study permit includes authorization to work off-campus,
  • You are either in Canada or coming to Canada by December 31, 2023, and
  • You are eligible to benefit from the temporary policy change to work more than 20 hours per week on a study term.

To confirm you are eligible for these temporary provisions, an immigration consultant must assess your situation and deem you eligible to work without a co-op work permit. Without confirmation of your eligibility for the temporary provisions, Co-operative Education will continue to require a co-op work permit. 

Despite this temporary policy, we advise all international students to apply for their co-op work permit as soon as possible to ensure that necessary authorization is in place for all future work terms. Please visit the Government of Canada website for more details, or contact the Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) in the Student Success Office or our International Employment Specialist.

Applying for your co-op work permit

If you are in a co-op program, you must have your co-op work permit before your first work term in Canada. It is essential to maintain your co-op work permit status during all your co-op work terms.

A month before your studies begin, our international employment specialist (IES) for international visa students will be in touch. The IES can help outline the process. You will need to confirm with the IES when you receive your co-op work permit so that you can proceed with your Canadian work terms. Please note:

  • You should apply for the co-op work permit while you apply for your study permit. This can be done in one application. Having both permits issued when you begin your studies will ensure that you can start your work terms as scheduled.
  • If you are unable to apply for your co-op work permit before coming to Canada, please apply as soon as possible after you arrive. Processing times can be as long as six months. The current processing times are available on the Government of Canada website.
  • An IES will send you periodic reminders to keep up to date on your co-op work permit application status. The more information we have, the more likely it is that we can help.
  • Once you receive your co-op work permit, submit a copy to the IES as soon as possible. Without proof of your work permit, you will not be authorized for work terms in Canada.
  • Ensuring that you have the necessary permit to legally work in Canada is your responsibility. We will be in touch regularly to make sure you have all the information you need to obtain your co-op work permit on time. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out for support immediately. 

Frequently asked questions about co-op work permits

Have more questions?

If you have outstanding questions after reviewing the resources above, we’re here to help! Our international employment specialist is here to support you through the process. If your specific questions need guidance from our Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants, we can connect you with them or you can contact them directly.