A new policy that allows former international students to obtain a new one-time open work permit if theirs is about to expire takes effect today.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is now accepting applications submitted by former international students who wish to obtain a new open work permit if their Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) is expired or about to expire.

The new open work permits will be valid for up to 18 months.

It will enable former international students to stay in Canada and continue to look for work. Unlike employer-specific work permits, where a foreign worker is bound to a single employer in Canada, open work permits allow foreign nationals to work for any employer they choose.

To apply for an open work permit under the new policy, international students must meet the following requirements:

  • have a PGWP that expired on or after January 30, 2020, or a PGWP that expires in 4 months or less from the date of application;
  • be in Canada;
  • have a valid temporary status or be applying to restore your status;
  • have a valid passport.

The online application period is open from today until July 27, 2021.

IRCC offers the PGWP as part of its efforts to attract international students and retain them as skilled workers. International students who graduate from Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) may qualify to apply for a PGWP for up to three years.

Obtaining a PGWP gives international student graduates the opportunity to look for and secure employment across Canada from any employer of their choice. All the years of Canadian work experience they accumulate can then be used toward an immigration application.

Skilled worker immigration programs highly value education and work experience that is gained in Canada. Express Entry, Quebec Experience Program, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), and other pathways put great value on Canadian work experience. Express Entry candidates, for instance, are given additional Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points based on their Canadian study and work experience.

For students with little or no work experience, having Canadian work experience and being already integrated into a local labour market can often be the deciding factor in determining if they will be eligible for permanent residence under Canada’s immigration programs.

Former international students who wish to make the transition to permanent residence in Canada often count on the PGWP to achieve this goal.

PGWPs have a fixed duration and cannot be renewed or extended, which means that those who hold these permits have a limited amount of time to take advantage of all the benefits they can offer. The COVID-19 pandemic has put students who recently graduated at a disadvantage compared to previous cohorts due to a weaker labour market.

A significant number of international graduates have not been able to secure work, have been laid off, or have seen their hours reduced.  The Government of Canada hopes that this new international student policy will help offset the challenges and barriers that the current global health crisis has created for this population.

The new policy is also the latest in a series of measures introduced by IRCC in recent months to address growing concerns about the decline in the number of international students who have been able to study, stay and work in Canada since the start of the pandemic.

IRCC has emphasized on several occasions during the past year that it places a high priority on retaining international students who come to Canada. They are an important part of the pool of workers capable of meeting labour needs in areas such as health care and technology and ensuring Canada’s future economic and social success.


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