Canada announces major study and work visa change for fall 2020

Kareem El-Assal, Shelby Thevenot
Published: May 15, 2020

Canada is making a major change to its Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) rules for international students who want to study in Canada beginning this fall.

The PGWP enables international students to gain Canadian work experience after completing their educational program at a Canadian designated learning institution (DLI).

International students must have completed a full-time program of at least eight months in length at a DLI in order to be eligible for the PGWP. Their study program must have lead to a diploma, degree, or certificate. The ultimate length of the PGWP depends on the length of the student's program of study in Canada.

Students can begin program online, and still be eligible for 3-year PGWP after coming to Canada

Normally, online courses do not count toward the study requirement for a PGWP application. However, given coronavirus-related travel interruptions around the world, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is now allowing international students to study online while overseas and still be eligible to apply for the work permit after graduation.

IRCC announced the reform during the evening of May 14, 2020.

New international students will be able to begin their programs at a Canadian DLI online in fall 2020 and complete up to 50 per cent of the program while abroad, and then still be able to obtain the PGWP to work in Canada after completing their studies.

IRCC also noted that international students will not have time deducted from the length of their PGWP for the period they spent outside of Canada, up to December 31, 2020.

In a hypothetical scenario, a new international student can begin their program at a Canadian DLI online this coming fall, and still be eligible for a PGWP for the maximum three years so long as they arrived to Canada by the end of 2020 and completed a qualifying educational program at a DLI of at least two years in duration.

See if you are eligible to study in Canada in fall 2020

Why this is a major announcement

The PGWP is highly coveted among Canada’s international students since it enables them to work in Canada for up to three years after completing their studies.

Such work experience provides them with a major advantage when submitting their federal and/or provincial immigration application, which 60 per cent of international students plan to do, according to the Canadian Bureau for International Education's annual survey of foreign students.

Under Express Entry's Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), for example, former international students are rewarded with additional CRS points for their Canadian education and work experience.

In addition to federal pathways, a variety of Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) streams also exist to help former international students transition to permanent residence.

In recent months, more former international students have received invitations to apply for permanent residence through Express Entry draws that have only selected Canadian Experience Class and PNP candidates.

This major announcement will encourage more international students to pursue their studies in Canada this fall, rather than deferring their post-secondary education. The reason for this is that international students who wish to eventually apply for Canadian immigration will want to capitalize on the opportunity to complete a portion of their studies in their countries of origin, while still being able to access the same benefits had they been required to physically study in Canada.

Another major benefit is the cost to study in Canada will decline for them, since they will not have to incur additional living expenses at the outset of their Canadian education.

Announcement will be a boon for Canadian economy and jobs

Nonetheless, this policy reform should prove to be a boon for the Canadian economy since the tuition that international students will pay will help to support jobs at colleges and universities across Canada. Moreover, international students will support economic activity in a number of ways once they arrive to Canada, through their spending, labour, and the taxes they will pay as workers.

Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the over 640,000 international students in Canada were contributing $22 billion annually to the economy and supporting some 170,000 Canadian jobs.

See if you are eligible to study in Canada in fall 2020

Furthermore, many of these students will eventually make the transition to permanent residence, which will help Canada’s economy over the long run since they will possess the key human capital characteristics that support strong labour market outcomes of Canada’s immigrants. These characteristics include being young in age, fluent in English and/or French, and possessing Canadian education, work experience, and social and professional connections.

In early April, IRCC first applied this measure to international students whose courses started in May and June. The May 14 announcement is an extension to the students who will begin their semester in September.

Though international students who received their study permit after March 18 are still not able to come to Canada, new permits are still being processed and IRCC says they will notify new students as to when they are able to travel to Canada again.

Canada will become even more attractive to international students

Canada has proven to be one of the world’s most attractive destinations for international students in recent years due to the following reasons:

  • Canada offers a very high quality of education;
  • students and their spouses and partners can work during and after their studies;
  • Canada offers the opportunity to study and live in English and/or French environments;
  • Canada is a very safe country;
  • Canada welcomes immigrants, international students, foreign workers, and visitors from some 200 countries each year;
  • Canada is more affordable than other popular international student destinations, in part because of the weaker Canadian dollar; and
  • there are over 80 permanent resident pathways for international students; in 2018, nearly 54,000 former international students obtained Canadian permanent residence.

This newly-announced reform makes Canada even more attractive for international students.

See if you are eligible to study in Canada in fall 2020

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