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Canada announces extension for international students with post-graduation work permits

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • International students in Canada who have post-graduation work permits (PGWPs) that have expired or that are about to expire can now apply for an 18-month “open work permit”
  • The Canadian government estimates that more than 50,000 international student graduates of Canadian universities and colleges can benefit from the new policy

Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marco Mendicino, has announced that international graduates with post-graduation work permits (PGWPs) that have expired or are about to expire are eligible to apply for an open work permit valid for 18 months. The Government of Canada says this policy will “allow former international students to remain in Canada, continue to seek employment and build their future in this country.”

The policy means that international graduates whose plans to remain in Canada to work have been thwarted by COVID restrictions have a new window with which to be able to accumulate in-Canada work experience, and, in turn, to be eligible to apply for Canadian residency. Among the students it will benefit are:

  • Students who have exhausted their three-year PGWP work permit (who can now stay in the country an additional 18 months);
  • Students who lost jobs or whose work hours were cut during COVID.

On top of that, the new permit is an “open” permit, which means it is not tied to a specific employer (as is usually the case). This will give students more flexibility to pursue different work opportunities during the extended window.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada estimates that there are “as many as 52,000 graduates with expired or expiring PGWPs could benefit from the public policy.”

In 2019, nearly 60,000 graduates were successful in their applications for permanent residency in Canada. And Statistics Canada reports that one-third of international students who earn a Canadian bachelor’s degree become permanent residents in the 10 years after they get their first study permit, and this rises to half of those with master’s degrees.

The Canadian government views international graduates who stay on to work in the country as being essential to a post-COVID economic recovery, especially those who can contribute their skills to “pressing needs” in areas like health care and technology.

Minister Medicino adds,

“Whether as nurses on the pandemic’s front lines, or as founders of some of the most promising start-ups, international students are giving back to communities across Canada as we continue the fight against the pandemic. Their status may be temporary, but the contributions of international students are lasting. This new policy means that young students from abroad who have studied here can stay and find work, while ensuring that Canada meets the urgent needs of our economy for today and tomorrow. Our message to international students and graduates is simple: we don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here.”

How to apply

For international students to be eligible for the open work permit, they must be in Canada and also:

  • Have either a PGWP that expired on or after 30 January 2020 or a PGWP that expires in four months or less from the date of application;
  • A valid temporary status or be applying to restore their status.

The application process will open 27 January and remain open until 27 July 2021. Details will soon be posted on the IRCC website.

Clear market signal

Canada’s rapidly rising popularity over the past few years as a study abroad destination is tied in no small measure to its welcoming policies regarding international student graduates. The announcement about the new 18-month open work permit for former/current PGWP holders sends a clear signal that the Canadian government remains committed to providing international students with clear pathways to post-study work and immigration, even amidst COVID.

For additional background, please see:


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