Foreigners working in Canada should be aware that their years of employment here do not have to equal years spent apart from their spouses. Any foreign professionals or skilled tradesmen recruited into employment in Canada should consider the fact that, very often, their spouses are permitted to join them and hold gainful employment in Canada.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s policy currently provides work permits to spouses of foreigners who hold valid work permits for Canada. For example, it may be the case that a foreign technician enters Canada bearing a one-year work permit for an Alberta employer and may wish to have his spouse accompany him. In that case, the foreign technician’s spouse can apply for and will also receive a work permit that reflects the validity of her husband’s work permit. Unlike the technician’s work permit, however, which will generally limit the worker to one particular employer, the spouse’s work permit will be ‘open’, enabling her to work in essentially any occupation. Also, the work permits of the technician and his spouse may be issued at the same time, or, the spouse may apply later on to secure an open work permit, sometimes right at a Canadian port-of-entry. In all cases, no labour market opinion will be required and no recruitment efforts must be made for the spouse. Furthermore, the couple’s children may also join them in Canada upon securing study permits.
The benefits of this policy are multifold. From the foreign worker’s standpoint, the policy promotes family unity while enabling both spouses to benefit by earning a Canadian income and gaining Canadian experience. Also, the foreign workers’ children, where applicable, gain access to a Canadian education. From the employer’s standpoint, the policy’s family reunification objectives ensure happier workers and therefore greater long-term employee retention. Finally, from the point of view of other short-staffed Alberta businesses, the policy is a source of additional foreign workers without the related recruitment and immigration costs. In effect, going back to our foreign technician, while an Alberta company benefits by hiring him, another short-staffed Alberta company, be it a manufacturing plant, food cafeteria or office, will benefit by hiring the technician’s spouse and therefore saving the cost of otherwise recruiting and sponsoring the immigration process of another foreign worker. As more and more women choose to pursue higher education and careers in their countries of origin, Canada’s policy toward spousal work permits will surely benefit Canadian businesses and ensure economic competitiveness.