Applying for the International Student Work Opportunity (ISWO) program

The International Student Work Opportunity (ISWO) program is a joint initiative between the Student Success Centre and Student Financial Aid & Scholarships to help international students gain valuable Canadian work experience at McMaster and beyond.

February 16, 2022

Are you an international student seeking ways to earn money and gain experience?

The ISWO program offers paid positions for eligible students. Keep reading to learn about the types of opportunities, eligibility and more. Then, we’ll help guide you through the application process.

  • Work-study positions
  • Research positions
  • Co-op positions (prior approval required)
  • External options (prior approval required)
  • Experiential learning opportunities (where funding is available, prior approval required)

New! As of September 2021, wage subsidies are available to help McMaster and external employers hire students.

  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer/Spring

To be eligible for the ISWO program, you must…

  • Be registered as an active undergraduate international student (degree seeking) at McMaster University
  • Live in Canada
  • Have a Canadian Social Insurance Number (SIN)

You don’t need to demonstrate financial need to participate in this program.

Not eligible? Find other ways to gain experience

If you aren’t eligible for an ISWO position, don’t worry. There are other ways to gain experience and, in some cases, earn money.

Experiential learning opportunities can help you build skills, network and fill your resume. At the Student Success Centre, we work with campus, community and employer partners to connect you with Canadian work and volunteer experiences. Some of these opportunities can be paid, depending on funding availability. Learn about these opportunities on the Experience Building page and OSCARplus.

The Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a nine-digit number that you need to work in Canada. A SIN is unique to a specific individual and legally cannot be used by anyone else. You need a SIN to secure an ISWO position.

If you have concerns about work permits, study permits or other immigration-related topics, contact the immigration team (

How to apply

You can apply for the ISWO program and explore applicable positions on AwardSpring, McMaster’s aid and awards application portal. After you create an AwardSpring profile, the platform matches you with all the aid and award opportunities you’re eligible for. It also tracks the completion of any additional requirements on a user­-friendly dashboard.

  1. Sign in to Mosaic and click the Aid & Awards tile.
  2. Log in to AwardSpring using your MacID.
  3. If this is your first time using AwardSpring, you must create a profile or common application to be eligible for “Scholarships” on the platform.
  4. Fill out all the required information under all the tabs (Privacy, Application Tips & Personal Information, Academic Information, Financial Information, Qualification Questions, Consents and Declarations).

If you would like to be considered for financial need-based funding, return to your profile application on AwardSpring > Financial Information to check the box which reads, “Would you like to be considered for aid that requires you to demonstrate financial need?” Then, fill out the required information.

Income tax notices of assessment (NOA)

You can submit income tax notices of assessment or tax forms verified by Canada or another country/government for the most recent completed tax year.

If your income was $0 and you didn’t file income taxes or you’re not required to report your income for tax purposes, you must draft a signed and dated letter detailing how you pay for your daily living costs.

  • Examples of daily living costs include housing, food, utilities, transportation, etc.
  • Examples of financial resources include parents/guardians, work, savings, awards, etc.

Bank and financial statements

If you’re submitting documents in a foreign currency, please provide a current conversion from the foreign currency to Canadian dollars (CAD). Here’s a suggested approach.

  1. Select a trusted currency conversion source (some bank websites have them).
  2. Make an accurate conversion from the foreign currency to CAD for every figure mentioned in your statement/document.
  3. Translate your document in English (if applicable).

  1. Once you’ve completed your AwardSpring profile, select the Scholarships tab.
  2. Enter “International Student Work Opportunity” in the search bar.
  3. Select the application for the appropriate term and year.
  4. Fill out the ISWO application and submit.
  5. Your application will appear as in progress.

You will receive a notice that your application is in progress. You can expect to find out about your application acceptance or denial via AwardSpring and a follow-up email. Applications are reviewed weekly.

We encourage equity-deserving and international students to contact the Career Access Professional Services team ( for employment support, including application assistance, accommodation, requests for information in alternative formats, interview preparation and more.

ISWO program approval

Once AwardSpring processes your application, the platform will let you know if you’ve been awarded or denied for the ISWO program.

In order to complete your approval, you must download and save the approval notice to your device immediately. You will need to include a copy with every ISWO job application as proof of your eligibility, as it will not be stored in AwardSpring to download at a later time.

You will receive a denial on your ISWO application for the following reasons.

  • You are currently living outside of Canada.
  • You have not obtained or you’re in the process of obtaining your Social Insurance Number (SIN).

If your situation changes to meet the ISWO eligibility, please contact Andrea Gyamfi, coordinator, undergrad students (international) at

For applications with employers outside of McMaster, we recommend you use the following language in your cover letter.

This is to confirm that [INSERT YOUR NAME] has been approved for the McMaster University, Student Success Centre, Diversity Inclusion Award. The specialized funding includes opportunities such as training, onboarding, wage subsidies and accommodation supports for employers who hire or provide an experiential learning opportunity to eligible students and alumni under our Career Access Professional Services (CAPS) or the International Student Work Opportunity (ISWO) program.