Are you an international student enrolled in co-op? We're here to help!
We know that co-op can be challenging, especially if it's your first time looking for work in Canada. On this page, you'll find tips and resources to help you through the co-op process. If you have any questions, connect with your assigned co-op advisor - they can help point you in the right direction!
Tips for international students who are studying at UWaterloo on study permits:
If you are studying at UWaterloo in a co-op program on a study permit, please keep the following things in mind:
- Apply for your co-op work permit and submit a copy of your co-op work permit in a timely manner
- As an international student on a study permit, you will require a co-op work permit to do your work terms in Canada. The international employment specialist in Co-operative Education will reach out to you to either request a copy of this document if you have one, or get you started on the application. You must respond to that immediately.
- Applying for this documentation can take up to 4 months, and you want to ensure that you have your co-op work permit in hand in time for the work term to start.
- You cannot work during your scheduled co-op work term in any capacity – on/off-campus, full/part-time, paid/unpaid – for co-op credit, without your co-op work permit. Your study permit cannot be used to work at a co-op work term job. A co-op work permit is required. During your co-op term, legally, you may also work on your study permit for non-co-op creditable work for up to 20 hours/week off-campus and / or unlimited hours/week on-campus. Please consider discussing this with your co-op advisor so that you can balance your time and life expectations, and perform well in all your commitments. The immigration consultants in the Student Success Office (SSO) have information on the co-op work permit application on their website and you can contact them if you have any immigration questions. Contact the international employment specialist – IVS if you have any questions about co-operative education.
- Changing your work/study sequence
- When you apply to a co-op program, you are assigned a "work/study sequence" that indicates when you will be in class, and when you are scheduled for a work term. All students are expected to follow their program's assigned work/study sequence, found on the Undergraduate Calendar or on the "co-op" tab of your WaterlooWorks dashboard. First, consult with your faculty and co-op advisor if a change is possible. Once confirmed, make sure you speak with an immigration consultant in the SSO before you trigger a request to change this sequence.
- Taking your co-op work term "off"
- Sometimes, students decide that they do not need a job on their scheduled co-op work term. This could be because they have all the credits they need, and might want to travel on a co-op work term. As an international student, taking a co-op work term "off" can negatively affect your study permit status in Canada, and your eligibility for a post-graduation work permit. Visit the immigration consultants website to make sure you are following immigration regulations and speak with an immigration consultant in the SSO before you consider taking your work term "off."
- Working on "inactive" terms
- If, for any reason, you decide to be "inactive" for a term in your degree, remember that you cannot work during that term in any capacity – on/off-campus, full/part-time, paid/unpaid, on either your study permit, or your co-op work permit. Visit the immigration consultants website regarding the impact of an "inactive" term and make sure you speak with an immigration consultant in the SSO before you consider going "inactive."
- Extending your work term with a Canadian employer
- It might be the case that toward the end of your work term, you are really enjoying the work, or value the salary you’re making, and decide to continue to work with the employer for another term. Your faculty might even allow you to change your sequence to accommodate an ‘off’ term. Remember that you are not able to work on such an ‘off’ term on your co-op work permit or your study permit. Hence, you should not be extending your work term as an "off term" at all. But, you can still work with your faculty to modify your sequence so that you are scheduled for 2 legitimate co-op terms back-to-back.
- Extending your work term with a non-Canadian employer
- If you decide to extend your work term as an "off" term with an international or USA employer, you need to speak with an immigration consultant in the SSO before you consider extending your work term as it could negatively impact your current and future status in Canada. You can still work with your faculty to modify your sequence so that you are scheduled for 2 legitimate co-op terms back-to-back.
- If you are unemployed by the time the work term starts
- Sometimes, it might be the case that you do not have a job in time for the start of the work term. As an international student on a study permit, not being employed on a scheduled co-op work term can negatively impact your current and future status in Canada. Contact your assigned co-op advisor immediately so that they can provide support with your job search, and guidance on alternatives. Visit the immigration consultants website to make sure you are following immigration regulations.
- Working in certain industries
- Think carefully before applying to jobs – working in some industries (e.g., but not limited to, cannabis, liquor, genetics, etc.) may restrict your ability to travel to some countries, and/or, even re-enter your home country. It is your responsibility to find out what challenges you might face. You will need to seek your own legal advice on such immigration matters; it is beyond our scope to advise or consult in this case.
- Working in the United States
- Every student is responsible to determine for themselves whether they are eligible to work in a given country. To assess your eligibility to work in the United States, review this resource and read the information listed in its entirety. We strongly recommend that international students (students who are studying at Waterloo on a study permit) have completed at least two full-time academic study terms before they apply for a co-op work term in the USA. Contact the international employment specialist – USA if you have further questions about your eligibility to work in the USA.
- Entering and working in any country outside Canada
- Some countries do not allow certain nationalities to work, or even enter, that country. It is your responsibility to know if you might face challenges getting a visa/permit to be in and undertake an internship in that country. You will need to seek your own legal advice on such immigration matters; it is beyond our scope to advise or consult in this case.
Tips for international graduate students
- Going international on a scheduled co-op work term: If you only have one or two co-op work terms, think carefully about where you want to work. The length of a post-graduation work permit can be shortened by study and/or work terms spent outside of Canada. Additionally, the Canadian work experience will be an asset for your future Canadian work prospects. Speak with an immigration consultant in the SSO before you decide to take a work term outside Canada.
Resources for international visa students:
- Review this checklist to make sure that you’re ready to be hired for a co-op work term in Canada.
- For any questions about your co-op work permit application or the post-graduation work permit, contact the immigration consultants in the SSO.
- The Student Success Office has a number of resources for international students, including:
- For questions about working in the cannabis industry in Canada and how this may impact your travel plans, visit the Government of Canada's website.