International students unable to meet Canadian work experience requirement get another chance

Alexandra Miekus, Kareem El-Assal
Updated: Aug, 21, 2023
  • Published: January 8, 2021

A new policy was introduced today, January 8, 2021, by the Government of Canada that will allow former international students with an expired or expiring Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) to apply for a new open work permit.

The purpose of the policy is to provide PGWP holders with more time to gain the work experience they need to be eligible to apply for Canadian immigration. The Canadian government has introduced this policy to help PGWP holders who have lost their jobs or seen their hours cut due to the coronavirus pandemic. Canadian government research shows that former international students are able to integrate quickly into the Canadian labour market upon gaining permanent residence due in large part to their Canadian education and work experience.

The new open work permits will be valid for 18 months and will enable former international students to stay in Canada and continue to look for work. Unlike closed work permits, which tie a foreign worker to just one employer in Canada, open work permits allow foreign nationals to work for any employer of their choice.

To apply for an open work permit under the new policy, the following criteria must be met:

  • you must 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;
  • you need to be in Canada;
  • you need to have a valid temporary status or be applying to restore your status.

The application process will be open from January 27 to July 27, 2021.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has estimated that 52,000 graduates with expired or expiring PGWPs could benefit from this public policy.

About half of 61,000 PGWP holders whose work permits had an expiry date between January and December 2020 have already become permanent residents or have an application for permanent residence in process, according to IRCC data.

Contact Campbell Cohen for Work Permit Assistance

International students who complete their post-secondary education in Canada can apply for a PGWP, which allows them to gain work experience in Canada after their studies for a maximum of three years.

The Government of Canada offers the PGWP as part of its efforts to attract international students and retain them as skilled workers. PGWP holders can use their years of Canadian study and work experience toward an application for immigration.

The PGWP is highly coveted among former international students since surveys suggest some 60 per cent want to transition to Canadian permanent residence. They often need to obtain professional Canadian work experience to be eligible for a skilled worker immigration pathway. The PGWP enables them to gain such experience and then go on to submit a skilled worker immigration application to the likes of Express Entry, Quebec Experience Program, Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), and many other streams that reward candidates with Canadian work experience.

Canada recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has put students graduating in 2019 and 2020 at a disadvantage due to the weakened labour market. A significant number of international graduates have been laid off. As a result, it has become difficult for them to meet the Canadian work experience requirement of the PGWP.

The new policy will help "more graduates fill pressing needs in areas like health care, technology, and more" IRCC said in a press release.

"As we confront the pandemic’s second wave and chart a course for our recovery, attracting skilled immigrants is a central part of our plan."

International students contribute to the local economy as they study in Canada, and provide a large pool of highly educated people who can become permanent residents and contribute to the workforce.

A recent Statistics Canada study shows that almost one-third of international students who get Canadian bachelor’s degrees and almost half of international students who graduate with master’s degrees became permanent residents in the 10 years after they get their first study permit.

Contact Campbell Cohen for Work Permit Assistance

© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Visit to discover your Canadian immigration options.

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