COVID-19: All You Need To Know About Canada’s Post Graduation Work Permit

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COVID-19: All You Need To Know About Canada’s Post Graduation Work Permit
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International students who are either already in eligible programs or will begin them by this autumn are benefitting from Canada’s temporary changes to its Post-Graduation Work Permit Program to make things easier during the pandemic.

Usually, the time these students spend on distance learning courses is excluded from consideration for the length of their PGWP – and at least half a student’s courses have to be completed in person in Canada.

But during the COVID-19 global pandemic, Canada is recognizing border closures imposed by governments throughout the world to curb the spread of the coronavirus are making it impossible for international students to meet those requirements. 

So, Ottawa is temporarily relaxing those rules.


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Under the policy changes, international students who were enrolled in – or started or will start one of these PGWP-eligible programs – anytime from March last year up to this autumn session can complete up to their full school program online or from outside of Canada. 

“Time spent studying outside of Canada can be counted towards the overall length of the post-graduation work permit until Dec. 31, 2021,” states the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website. “Any time spent studying outside of Canada after Dec. 31, 2021 should be deducted from the length of the post-graduation work permit.”

Graduates Of Multiple Programs Can Sometimes ‘Stack’ Them For More Time

PGWPs are issued for a minimum of eight months and are eligible to students under the temporary policy changes when they have a study permit, have been approved for a study permit, or submitted a study permit before the beginning of their program and it was eventually approved.  

Sometimes international students will graduate from more than one eligible program. When that happens, these students can stack those programs, meaning they can combine the length of both programs of study when they apply for their PGWPs.

Under the temporary policy, both programs can be completed outside of Canada provided they fall into the time frame of the changes to the policy, from March last year to the fall of this year, and each program is at least eight months long.

It’s important under the program that the applicant was enrolled in a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). 

Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS) programs in Quebec must be at least 900 hours in length but students who have an Attestation of Vocational Specialization (AVS) in that province can also submit an application for a PGWP with an AVS provided it is submitted in combination with a DVS.

Another break Ottawa is giving to international students who want to apply for the PGWP is a relaxation in some cases of the requirement of those studies being full-time. 

PGWP Applications Allowed From Those Forced Into Part-Time Studies

When universities or colleges changed the student’s status from full-time to part-time because classes were cancelled as a result of public health measures, they are still eligible for the PGWP under the temporary policy changes.

In its bid to make things easier for international students seeking these work permits after graduation, Ottawa is even waiving the requirement that they must provide a letter of completion or final transcript from their school with their initial application.

“When IRCC processes the application, the documents will be requested by the processing officer as per the procedures for requests for additional documents on open applications,” states the federal government website. 

“Applicants who need to restore their status will also be eligible to apply without their letter of completion or final transcript.”

Similarly, those foreign nationals who studied in Quebec will be able to apply for the PGWP even if they do not yet have a valid Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ).

“As the PGWP is an open work permit and Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exempt, a valid CAQ or study permit is not required at the time of PGWP issuance,” says Ottawa.

Graduates With Valid Study Permits Can Work Full-Time

Until the PGWP is issued, any graduate who still holds a valid study permit is allowed to work full-time without the work permit as they await a decision on their PGWP application provided:

  • They hold a valid study permit at the time of the PGWP application;
  • They have completed an eligible program of study;
  • They meet the requirements for working off-campus without a work permit which are that they were a full-time student enrolled at a DLI in a post-secondary academic, vocational or professional training program of at least eight months in duration that led to a degree, diploma or certificate, and;
  • They did not exceed the allowable hours of work.

Under the temporary pandemic policy relaxation, Ottawa is giving an 18-month reprieve to those who had PGWP and lost their jobs or saw their hours reduced. 

PGWP Holders With Soon-To-Expire Permits Can Apply For Open Work Permits

During the six months from Jan. 27 through to July 27 this year, the IRCC is accepting applications for open work permits to current PGWP holders with soon-to-expire permits and former PGWP holders. Those open work permits will be issued for a maximum duration of 18 months. 

The criteria for those open work permits are:

  • a valid PGWP that expires within four months of the date the application was submitted or a PGWP that expired on or after Jan. 30 this year;
  • being in Canada on Jan. 27 when the public policy took effect;
  • remaining in Canada;
  • either have valid temporary resident status or having submitted an application to restore that status;
  • being eligible to have a lost temporary resident status restored and having submitted an application to restore this status at the time of application for the open work permit; 
  • submission of an application from within Canada and requested consideration under this public policy, and;
  • submission of the application online. Applicants can only apply on paper if they can’t apply online because of a disability or because there is a problem with the online application.

Although the maximum length of these open work permits is 18 months from the date of approval, they can end sooner if the applicant’s passport expires before that time. The duration of the open work permits cannot, however, be extended.

To apply for these open work permits, applicants must have a copy of their passport and pay the corresponding fees. 

These include: 

  • a $155 work permit fee;
  • a $100 open work permit fee must be paid upfront but is later refunded under the temporary policy changes, and;
  • if the applicant needs to restore his or her status, a $200 restoration fee.

The applicants also need to provide a letter of explanation or client information indicating they are applying for an open work permit under the temporary public policy to facilitate the issuance of an open work permit to former or current PGWP holders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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