Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit Program in 2024
On December 7, 2023, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) made significant announcements regarding Canada’s international student program, particularly addressing the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), which brings changes to the extension policies that have been in place due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is the Post-Graduation Work Permit?
International students who complete an eligible Canadian post-secondary program may apply for a PGWP. A PGWP allows you to work for any employer of your choice in Canada.
Statistics Canada’s 2022 study revealed a consistent rise in PGWP holders, with 29% of 2008 graduates holding a PGWP five years later, compared to 52% of 2013 graduates. The total number of PGWP holders increased from 10,300 in 2008 to 64,700 in 2018, with China and India contributing significantly. At the end of 2022, over 286,000 international graduates held a valid PGWP in Canada.
The PGWP is valid for up to three years, depending on the length of your Canadian educational program. A major benefit of the PGWP is that it allows international students to gain professional work experience in Canada. This work experience is integral for PGWP holders hoping to go on to apply for Canadian immigration.
Many of Canada’s different immigration pathways reward applicants who have studied and/or worked in Canada. Usually, a PGWP holder will need a year of work experience in a National Occupational Classification (NOC) TEER code of 0, 1, 2, or 3 to then be eligible to apply for Canadian permanent residency; however, the requirement may vary by programs.
New Study Permit Measures:
IRCC is implementing measures to enhance the integrity of study permits. Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) will be required to confirm every applicant’s letter of acceptance directly with IRCC to ensure study permits are issued based only on genuine letters of acceptance.
By the 2024 fall semester, IRCC will adopt a “recognized institution” framework, benefiting DLIs with priority processing of study permit applications. This initiative aims to streamline the process and ensure the quality and authenticity of educational institutions.
In the coming months, IRCC will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the PGWP criteria, marking the first review of the program in a decade. The reforms aim to better align the PGWP with the needs of the Canadian labour market and regional, as well as Francophone immigration goals. This reflects a commitment to ensuring the program remains relevant and responsive to changing economic and immigration landscapes.
The End of PGWP Extensions:
One notable change is the confirmation that IRCC will no longer offer additional extensions to PGWP holders. The previous extensions were introduced to address disruptions in the labour market caused by the pandemic and to assist in the post-pandemic recovery. However, as of April 6, the last extension was granted, providing an open work permit valid for 18 months to PGWP holders expiring on or before December 31, 2023.
Impact on Express Entry Candidates:
The conclusion of PGWP extensions has raised concerns among Express Entry candidates, a popular pathway for PGWP holders seeking permanent resident status in Canada. With the recent pause in Express Entry draws from October 26 to December 6, 2023, candidates with expiring PGWPs may face challenges in maintaining eligibility to work in Canada while waiting for an Invitation to Apply (ITA).
Options for Those with Expiring PGWPs:
Express Entry candidates in this situation have several options to consider:
1. Visitor Record:
Applying for a visitor record at least 30 days before the PGWP expires allows individuals to stay in Canada, though this might require a pause in employment.
2. Work Permit Application:
Candidates can explore obtaining a new work permit, which may involve additional time and costs.
3. Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA):
Seeking an LMIA from their employer could enable PGWP holders to acquire a closed work permit, maintaining their ability to work in Canada.
4. Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP):
For those who have already submitted a PR application, BOWP allows continued employment while awaiting IRCC’s final decision, applicable to Express Entry, Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), Quebec Skilled Workers, or Agri-Food Pilot Program candidates.
The changes to Canada’s PGWP program signal a shift in policy after providing extensions to address pandemic-related challenges. Express Entry candidates and PGWP holders must carefully consider their options to maintain their status and employment in Canada. As the landscape evolves, staying informed about immigration policies remains crucial for international students aspiring to build their future in Canada.