Canada announces major study and work visa change for 2021-2022
International students will be able to enroll in online courses while abroad this fall and still be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit after moving to Canada.
Canada is making a major change to its Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) rules for international students who want to study in Canada beginning this fall.
Post-Graduation Work Permits for International Students In Canada
International students who complete an eligible Canadian post-secondary program may apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit.
Canada has introduced special measures during the coronavirus pandemic to enable international students overseas to complete their Canadian education will abroad and still be eligible for a PGWP. In addition, Canada is offering a new open work permit of up to 18-months in duration to PGWP holders currently in the country.
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Canada offers the PGWP as part of its efforts to attract international students and retain them as immigrants. The PGWP is valid for up to three years. The PGWP is an open work permit, which allows international graduates to work for any Canadian employer without needing a job offer.
You Can Study Overseas and Still Be Eligible for a PGWP
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has a special policy in place during the coronavirus pandemic that allows international students to complete their Canadian program while living overseas and still be eligible to obtain a PGWP when they move to Canada. In order to benefit from this policy you must:
- enroll at a Canadian Designated Learning Institution. DLIs are colleges and universities that are accredited by the Canadian government to welcome international students.
- you have begun or will begin a program between spring 2020 and fall 2020, or your program was already in progress in March 2020.
- have a study permit, OR approval for a study permit, OR apply for a study permit prior to starting your program and are eventually approved.
- meet all other PGWP criteria.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for PGWP Holders
From January 27, 2021 until July 27, 2021, certain Post Graduation Work Permit holders may be eligible to apply for new open work permits of up to 18 months in duration. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada estimates that as many as 52,000 PGWP holders stand to benefit from this new open work permit.
To apply for an open work permit under this public policy, an applicant must meet the following 5 conditions:
- You possess a valid PGWP that expired on or after January 30, 2020, or a PGWP that expires in 4 months or less from the date of the application.
- You were in Canada as of January 27, 2021 when the policy took effect and have remained in Canada since this date.
- You possess valid temporary status; or lost your temporary status but have already applied to restore it; or be applying for the restoration of your status.
- You include in your application you are applying for an open work permit under this policy.
- You have a valid passport. If your passport expires in under 18 months from the date of approval, your open work permit will only be valid for the same length of time. IRCC encourages you to ensure you possess a passport that is valid for at least 18 months from the date of approval.
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PGWP Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit, international students must have:
- Completed studies in an academic, vocational or professional training program that is at least eight months long at an eligible Designated Learning Institution (DLI) List.
- Study program must lead to a degree, diploma or certificate.
- Held full-time student status in Canada during every academic session of the program or programs of study completed and included as part of their post-graduation work permit application;
- Note: Canada has waived this requirement during the coronavirus pandemic for certain international students. Exemptions may apply to those who have begun or will begin a program between spring 2020 and fall 2021, or those whose program was already in progress in March 2020. In addition, exceptions may apply for those who took a leave from their studies in their final academic session.
- Received a transcript and an official letter from the eligible DLI confirming that the applicant has met the requirements to complete their program of study;
- The transcript and official letter must be included in a post-graduation work permit application.
- Graduated from:
- a public post-secondary institution, such as
- a college
- a trade or technical school
- a university
- CEGEP (in Quebec)
- a private post-secondary school (in Quebec) that operates under the same rules as public schools in Quebec;
- a private secondary or post-secondary school (in Quebec) that offers qualifying programs of 900 hours or longer and results in the issuance of a diplôme d’études professionnelles (DEP) or an attestation de spécialisation professionnelle (ASP); or
- Canadian private school that can award degrees under provincial law (for example, Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctorate degree) but only if the student was enrolled in a study program that leads to a degree as authorized by the province.
Note: Graduates of vocational and professional training programs in Quebec must meet additional PGWP criteria outlined by IRCC depending on the type of diploma issued.
PGWP Application Deadline: 180 days
The deadline to apply for the Post-Graduation Work Permit is within 180 days (six months) of obtaining a transcript and an official letter from the eligible DLI confirming that the requirements to complete the program of study have been met.
If the study permit is set to expire before the marks have come in, candidates have two options:
- apply for a visitor record to stay in Canada longer; or
- leave Canada and apply for the PGWP
When applying, applicants must demonstrate that they either hold a valid study permit, held a study permit, or were authorized to study in Canada without the requirement to obtain a study permit under paragraphs 188(1)(a) and (b) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
PGWP Application: Required Supporting Documents
While program officers may request additional documents, two important documents required at the time of applying are a letter confirming the completion of the program of study and an official transcript by their DLI.
The PGWP enables international students to gain Canadian work experience after completing their educational program at a Canadian designated learning institution (DLI).
International students must have completed a full-time program of at least eight months in length at a DLI in order to be eligible for the PGWP. Their study program must have lead to a diploma, degree, or certificate. The ultimate length of the PGWP depends on the length of the student’s program of study in Canada.
Students can begin program online, and still be eligible for 3-year PGWP after coming to Canada
Normally, online courses do not count toward the study requirement for a PGWP application. However, given coronavirus-related travel interruptions around the world, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is now allowing international students to study online while overseas and still be eligible to apply for the work permit after graduation.
New international students will be able to begin their programs at a Canadian DLI online in fall 2020 and complete up to 50 per cent of the program while abroad, and then still be able to obtain the PGWP to work in Canada after completing their studies.
IRCC also noted that international students will not have time deducted from the length of their PGWP for the period they spent outside of Canada.
In a hypothetical scenario, a new international student can begin their program at a Canadian DLI online this coming fall, and still be eligible for a PGWP for the maximum three years so long as they arrived to Canada by the end of 2020 and completed a qualifying educational program at a DLI of at least two years in duration.
Why this is a major announcement
The PGWP is highly coveted among Canada’s international students since it enables them to work in Canada for up to three years after completing their studies.
Such work experience provides them with a major advantage when submitting their federal and/or provincial immigration application, which 60 per cent of international students plan to do, according to the Canadian Bureau for International Education’s annual survey of foreign students.
Under Express Entry’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), for example, former international students are rewarded with additional CRS points for their Canadian education and work experience.
In addition to federal pathways, a variety of Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) streams also exist to help former international students transition to permanent residence.
In recent months, more former international students have received invitations to apply for permanent residence through Express Entry draws that have only selected Canadian Experience Class and PNP candidates.
This major announcement will encourage more international students to pursue their studies in Canada this fall, rather than deferring their post-secondary education. The reason for this is that international students who wish to eventually apply for Canadian immigration will want to capitalize on the opportunity to complete a portion of their studies in their countries of origin, while still being able to access the same benefits had they been required to physically study in Canada.
Another major benefit is the cost to study in Canada will decline for them, since they will not have to incur additional living expenses at the outset of their Canadian education.
Announcement will be a boon for Canadian economy and jobs
Nonetheless, this policy reform should prove to be a boon for the Canadian economy since the tuition that international students will pay will help to support jobs at colleges and universities across Canada. Moreover, international students will support economic activity in a number of ways once they arrive to Canada, through their spending, labour, and the taxes they will pay as workers.
Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the over 640,000 international students in Canada were contributing $22 billion annually to the economy and supporting some 170,000 Canadian jobs.
Furthermore, many of these students will eventually make the transition to permanent residence, which will help Canada’s economy over the long run since they will possess the key human capital characteristics that support strong labour market outcomes of Canada’s immigrants. These characteristics include being young in age, fluent in English and/or French, and possessing Canadian education, work experience, and social and professional connections.
In early April, IRCC first applied this measure to international students whose courses started in May and June. The May 14 announcement is an extension to the students who will begin their semester in September.
Though international students who received their study permit after March 18 are still not able to come to Canada, new permits are still being processed and IRCC says they will notify new students as to when they are able to travel to Canada again.
Canada will become even more attractive to international students
Canada has proven to be one of the world’s most attractive destinations for international students in recent years due to the following reasons:
- Canada offers a very high quality of education;
- students and their spouses and partners can work during and after their studies;
- Canada offers the opportunity to study and live in English and/or French environments;
- Canada is a very safe country;
- Canada welcomes immigrants, international students, foreign workers, and visitors from some 200 countries each year;
- Canada is more affordable than other popular international student destinations, in part because of the weaker Canadian dollar; and
- there are over 80 permanent resident pathways for international students; in 2018, nearly 54,000 former international students obtained Canadian permanent residence.
This newly-announced reform makes Canada even more attractive for international students.
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