The Canadian Post-Graduation Work Permit is one answer to the question, “How can I become a permanent resident after my student visa is complete?”
International students who have completed their studies in Canada may apply for any class of permanent residence for which they are eligible, although in some cases they may need to first depart Canada to do so. The main means by which a former student can become a permanent resident is through the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).
What is a Canadian Post-Graduation Work Permit?
The PGWP is a temporary open work permit available only to former students who have completed studies in Canada. An “open” work permit allows the holder to work for any employer and in any occupation, unless that occupation is specifically prohibited by the work permit itself.
Do I need a job offer to apply for the PGWP?
No, you don’t need a job offer to apply or to maintain the permit. While you will lose the opportunity to apply for a PGWP 180 days after the completion of your course, you do not need to reside in Canada or hold a job at all times to keep the work permit valid.
What makes me eligible for the Canadian Post-Graduation Work Permit?
The criteria for a PGWP are set out in paragraph 5.24 of Operational Policy 12, which is simply entitled “Students”, and are as follows:
- The student must have studied full-time at a Canadian university, community college, Collège d’Enseignement Général et Professionnel (CEGEP), publicly funded trade / technical school, or at a private institution authorized by provincial / territorial statute to confer degrees (but only if the applicant received the credential in a program of study leading to a degree as authorized by the province and not in all programs of study offered by the private institution).
- Studies must have taken place at a Canadian institution in Canada. Distance learning from outside or inside Canada does not qualify a student for this program.
- The student must have completed and passed a full-time course of study or program lasting at least eight months. Whether they received a “degree”, “diploma” or “certificate” is not an issue.
- The work permit application should include evidence that the student has completed the program or course of study. This may include a final transcript, letter from the institution or the formal notification of graduation.
- The application must be submitted within 90 days of formal written notification by the institution that they have met the requirements of the course of study or program. Students who have evidence of program completion may apply for the work permit before the formal notification. Calculation of the 90 days begins the day when the student’s final marks are issued or when formal written notification of program completion is received, whichever comes first.
- The student must still be in possession of a valid study permit at the time of application.
See full eligibility requirements here.
Is it possible I won’t be eligible for the PGWP?
It is important to note that not all student permit holders who successfully complete their course in Canada are eligible for a PGWP. Instead, only students at Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) that are also publicly funded are eligible. The IRCC website provides that the following student permit holders are eligible for a PGWP:
The applicant must provide evidence that the program or programs of study were taken in Canada at one of the following eligible Canadian designated learning institutions (DLIs):
- a public post-secondary institution, such as
- a college
- a trade or technical school
- a university
- CEGEP (in Quebec)
- a private post-secondary institution that operates under the same rules and regulations as public institutions in Quebec
- a private or public secondary or post-secondary institution in Quebec offering qualifying programs of 900 hours or longer leading to
- a diploma of vocational studies (DVS)
- an attestation of vocational specialization (AVS)
- a Canadian, private institution authorized by provincial statute to confer degrees, such as an associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree, but only if the student is enrolled in a program of study leading to a degree, as authorized by the province, which may not include all programs of study offered by the private institution
A student permit holder can check the list of DLIs to be certain of whether they qualify for a PGWP or not.
How long does the Canadian Post-Graduate Work Permit last?
The duration of a PGWP is explained on the IRCC website. In short:
- Graduates of a program of less than eight months of study are not eligible for a PGWP.
- If the course was more than eight months but less than two years, a PGWP can be granted for the same duration as the study program. For example, my LLM took 16 months, so I was granted a 16-month PGWP (back in 2013).
- If the course is two years or more, or undertake two courses of eight months or more, a PGWP can be granted for up to three years.
What kind of work can I apply for with the Canadian Post-Graduation Work Permit?
The criteria for a Canadian Post-Graduation Work Permit are set out in policy. The legislative basis for the PGWP is s.205(c) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations 2001 (IRPR), which relevantly provides as follows:
A work permit may be issued under section 200 to a foreign national who intends to perform work that:
(c) is designated by the Minister as being work that can be performed by a foreign national on the basis of the following criteria, namely,
(ii) limited access to the Canadian labour market is necessary for reasons of public policy relating to the competitiveness of Canada’s academic institutions or economy
Note the emphasis on “competitiveness” of the economy. It does not however state, that the area of work needs to match the field which you studied.
How does the PGWP help me achieve permanent residency?
A former student who holds a PGWP may work for any employer in Canada. Once the holder obtains employment, he or she will frequently be eligible for nomination under a Provincial Nomination Program (PNP), and after a year of employment, will be eligible to apply for permanent residence under the Canada Experience Class (CEC).
Are you considering applying for a Canadian Post-Graduate Work Permit?
Contact us today to book a consultation with our immigration lawyer, Alan Freckelton.
This blog is meant for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for legal advice.