Working Too Hard in Canada Can Get you Arrested – A Cautionary Tale for International Students

May 2019

Earlier this month I presented at the Ottawa Immigration Law Conference on the topic of study permits. I help clients submit study permit applications regularly, so I am quite familiar with the challenges associated with these applications. However, by preparing for this presentation, I was able to step back and look at the study permit system as a whole. I wanted to share some of the information I learned with you.

You can find a copy of my presentation here.

In 2018, the overall refusal rate of study permit applications was 34%. Refusal rates vary significantly by country. Japan for example, had a refusal rate of only 1%. The top three source countries of study permits also had refusal rates below the average; India at 29%, China at 17% and Korea at only 2%. Other countries did not fare as well; Pakistan’s refusal rate was 80%, Nigeria’s 81% and Ghana’s a whopping 89%.

International students who successfully obtain a study permit face more hurdles once they arrive in Canada. According to the chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, international students pay, on average, four times more tuition than domestic students. To offset tuition and living expenses, international students may choose to work. What are the rules concerning working during studies? Well, they are complicated. I wrote a newsletter explaining the rules in April 2018 which can be found here.

Here are the three key rules for international students who are considering working:

  • Before school starts – Work is not permitted

  • During the school year – 20 hours off-campus, unlimited number of hours on-campus

  • Regularly scheduled academic breaks – Unlimited number of hours


Jobandeep Sandhu’s story is a cautionary tale for international students who are considering working in Canada during their studies. Jobandeep was an international student from India. He was studying to become a mechanical engineering technician at a college in Mississauga. To pay for his living expenses and $27,000 tuition, Jobandeep got a job as a truck driver. In 2017, just 10 days before finishing his diploma, Jobandeep was pulled over by police in a routine traffic stop and was arrested. What was his crime? Working too much. Jobandeep had been working an average of 35 to 40 hours per week which exceeded the limit of 20 hours per week permitted by his study permit. Jobandeep says that working full time was the only way he could stay in school. Jobandeep is now facing deportation. He has applied for a temporary resident permit, but if it is not accepted, CBSA has given him until June 15th to go back to India.

You can read more about Jobandeep’s story here and here.

Students who work without the proper authorization will be in violation of Section 30 (1) of the Immigration and Refugee Act and are ‘inadmissible’ to Canada. A finding of inadmissibility can lead to refused future applications and removal from Canada. On future applications, students must disclose if they worked without the proper authorization. Failure to disclose periods of unauthorized work is considered misrepresentation. If a finding of misrepresentation is made, then the student will be barred from entering Canada for a five-year period.

This is important information to know, because many international students come to Canada with the goal of becoming permanent residents and then Canadian citizens. If successful, they would join the 22% of Canada’s 36.5 million population who were born outside of the country. Applications for permanent residency are made through Canada’s Express Entry immigration program which is a points-based competition. Applicants receive points for personal characteristics including language, post-secondary education and Canadian work experience. This means that international students, particularly those who obtain a Post-Graduate Work Permit, are often ranked highly when they apply for permanent resident status. However, the Express Entry immigration program has an annual cut-off, and Canada is accepting an unlimited number of international students. This means there is a growing pool of highly qualified candidates, and not everyone will be selected.

There has been a steady increase in study permits year after year. There were 16% more study permits issued in 2018 than there were in 2017 and 20% more in 2017 than 2016. Last year, there were 572,415 international students studying in Canada. In 2017, Canada admitted 65,417 new permanent residents in the Economic Class through the Express Entry application management system. As more international students come to Canada, the Express Entry pool will become more competitive, and people will be left disappointed.

If you are unsure of whether you can work while studying, then please contact us and we would be happy to assist. We would also be happy to assist with study permit applications and applications to become a permanent resident through the Express Entry application management system.