Changes to Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit Program

Information for International Students and Employers of International Students

Earlier this year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) updated the processing instructions for its post-graduation work permit program (PGWPP), which allows international students to work in Canada after they graduate. This update has implications for international students studying in Manitoba – as well as for companies who employ or are looking to hire international students.

The updates contain two significant changes: international students are no longer required to hold a valid study permit when applying for a post-graduation work permit, and the deadline to apply for a work permit has been extended from 90 days after graduation to 180 days.

There are also several other changes and additions to the processing instructions, which we describe below.

The new IRCC guidelines apply to all post-graduation work permit applications received on or after February 14, 2019. The previous guidelines apply to all applications submitted on or before February 13, 2019. Reminder: an international student can receive only one post-graduation work permit in his or her lifetime.

Work permit eligibility

To be eligible for a post-graduation work permit, an international student must have studied at a Canadian designated learning institution (DLI).  View a complete list of DLIs.

Work permit issuance and validity

Post-graduation work permits may be issued for a minimum of eight months to a maximum of three years. IRCC officers will consider the length of the international student’s program of study when determining the validity period of a work permit.

If an international student has completed his or her studies in less time than the normal length of the program, the duration of the work permit should be assessed on the normal length of the program.

If an international student’s school has been impacted by a strike during the time of study, he or she is still considered a full-time student throughout the duration of the strike and the time away from class will not impact work permit eligibility.

International students who complete their programs of study exclusively by distance learning – whether it be from outside or within Canada – are ineligible for post-graduation work permits. If more than 50% of a program consists of distance learning, it is considered a distance-learning program and the student is ineligible for a work permit. If less than 50% of a program consists of distance learning, a work permit may be issued based on the length of the program.

Students who complete a program of study in Canada that has an overseas component are eligible for post-graduation work permits, although the length of the permit will be based on the length of time they studied in Canada, not abroad.

Applying for a work permit – As an International Student – What international students need to know

International students must apply for a post-graduation work permit within 180 days of graduating. This period commences the day a student receives his or her final marks or the day he or she receives written confirmation of completing the program—whichever comes first.

If an international student’s study permit is still valid, he or she may apply for a work permit from within Canada. If the student wishes to remain in Canada but the study permit is no longer valid, he or she must apply for visitor status prior to the expiration of the study permit.

If an international student, while waiting for notice of graduation, changes his or her status to visitor status before the study permit expires, he or she may apply for a work permit from within Canada.

If the international student’s study permit becomes invalid or expires, he or she must either leave Canada or submit an application to change his or her status in Canada before applying for a work permit.

Leaves from studies

If a student took leave from his or her studies during the program, an IRCC officer will determine if the student complied with the conditions of the study permit by being enrolled at a DLI, remaining enrolled and actively pursuing coursework.

If the officer determines the international student actively pursued studies during his or her leave, the student may still be eligible for a work permit. If the student has not met the conditions of the study permit, he or she may be banned from applying for a work permit for a period of six months from the date he or she stopped unauthorized study or work.

Work authorization after applying for a work permit – What employers need to know

If international students apply for work permits before their study permit expires, they are eligible to work full-time without a permit while awaiting a decision on their post-graduation work permit if:

  • they had a valid study permit at the time of their post-graduation work permit application;
  • they have completed their studies;
  • they were a full-time student enrolled at a DLI for the minimum time requirement and obtained a degree, diploma or certificate; and
  • they did not exceed the allowable hours of work during their period of study.

If a student’s application for a work permit is refused, he or she must stop working as soon as he or she is notified by IRCC.

This article first appeared in Communication Journal, a publication of Pharmacists Manitoba

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.