Work permit program change is great news for international students, Canadian employers
In addition to its world-class education system and high standard of living, Canada offers another important advantage to international students: access to a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) after graduation.
The PGWP is an open work permit that can be used to gain Canadian work experience, a valuable asset in obtaining permanent resident (PR) status in Canada.
Gaining work experience in Canada is often a key factor in helping candidates successfully qualify for several immigration programs, including Express Entry and the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).
Express Entry is Canada's primary immigration pathway to PR and it works on a points-based system that takes into account human capital factors. Work experience in Canada gives those who use this route valuable additional points towards their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), making them more competitive in comparison with other potential candidates in the pool.
Those with a degree and Canadian work experience will also have a better chance of success when applying under the PNPs or, in the event of having studied in Quebec, under the Quebec Experience Program (or PEQ).
Beyond its importance to international students, Canadian employers also benefit significantly from PGWPs. Typically, to hire a foreign national, Canadian employers must go through a lengthy and costly process known as a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) which is an application they must submit to prove that they have tried to hire a Canadian but have been unable to do so.
That procedure, however, is not required for individuals with an open work permit, such as PGWP holders. Open Work Permit holders therefore often provide Canadian employers with the opportunity to retain much-needed foreign talent without the burdens and barriers usually associated with this process.
While the initial process of hiring someone on a PGWP may not require much legwork on the part of the employer, the same cannot be said if the employer would like the foreign national to continue working beyond the date of the PGWP’s expiry. Work permits have a limited duration and this is where the problem with the PGWP often lies.
In the vast majority of cases, a PGWP cannot be extended and an LMIA application must be submitted and approved before the worker can apply for a new, employer-specific, work permit.
This, however, is about to change. On January 8, 2021, the Canadian government introduced a new policy that will allow former international students with an expired or expiring PGWP to apply for a new open work permit.
Specifically, the new policy will allow individuals who meet the following conditions to apply for an 18-month open work permit:
- 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.
The application process is set to open tomorrow, January 27, and will run until July 27, 2021.
This policy change will enable many Canadian employers who employ foreign nationals on a PGWP to continue to do so without having to go through the lengthy and costly process that was usually required in the past.
For many Canadian employers who are benefiting from foreign talent, this means that they will not need to compromise the quality of their labour force as a result of Canadian immigration constraints. Being able to keep on the workers they need, regardless of nationality or immigration status, will prove invaluable for many Canadian companies and the Canadian economy as a whole.
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