Options to stay in Canada after your PGWP expires
If you want to stay in Canada beyond your Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), there are a number of routes you can take depending on your goals and personal circumstances.
The PGWP is a one-time deal, and there are no extensions. Generally, it lasts as long as your study program. So if you did a one-year credential, you get a PGWP for one year. It can be valid for up to a maximum of three years.
As an open work permit, a PGWP allows you to work for any employer anywhere in Canada. However, if you want to apply for Canadian immigration, it will benefit you to get a job in what is called a "skilled" occupation.
This term, "skilled" currently refers to occupations that Canada categorizes into skill levels 0, A, and B on the National Occupational Classification (NOC). These skill levels will change in 2022 when the new occupation classification system comes into effect. You can check the skill level of your occupation on the government website.
Although there are certainly immigration options for people who work in other occupations, having work experience in a skilled occupation can qualify you for Canada's most popular immigration pathway, Express Entry.
We are not here to tell you which pathway to Canadian immigration you should take. There is no easy route. However, what we would like to do with this article is spell out all your options to stay beyond your PGWP so you can make an informed decision based on your individual preference.
Apply for immigration
Applying to certain immigration programs will qualify you for a Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP), which allows you to keep working in Canada if your PGWP expires before you get approved for permanent residence.
Many people think of Express Entry as an immigration program, but actually it is an application management system for three federal immigration programs, and some Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). The three Express Entry-managed programs are the:
- Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP);
- Canadian Experience Class (CEC); and
- Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).
To immigrate through Express Entry, you first need to be eligible for one of the three programs. Once you are in the pool of candidates, you get a score based on the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).
In order to get an ITA, you need to have at least the minimum amount of CRS points required in a given Express Entry draw. IRCC holds these draws roughly every two weeks, where they invite the top scoring candidates to apply for Canadian immigration.
Provincial Nominee Program
Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) are managed by most Canadian provinces and territories, with the exceptions of Nunavut and Quebec.
There are two broad categories of PNPs. Enhanced PNPs search the Express Entry pool to invite candidates to apply for a provincial nomination. With a provincial nomination, Express Entry candidates get an automatic 600 points toward their overall score. This award pushes them to the top of the pool of Express Entry candidates, and primes them to receive an ITA in a subsequent draw.
People who do not qualify for Express Entry, may be able to immigrate to Canada through a base PNP. These programs allow you to apply for a provincial nomination directly to the province, which then supports your application for permanent residence to the federal government. Some of these base PNPs are also available to people whose work experience does not fall under a "skilled" occupation category.
PNPs do not necessarily require you to have any experience in the province, nor a job offer — although those things generally help. Choosing a PNP is one part determining what you qualify for, and another part deciding which province you really want to settle in.
Quebec has its own immigration system. In order to immigrate to Quebec you need a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ), which supports your immigration application to the federal government. Even though Quebec is the most independent province in terms of immigration, only the federal government can issue permanent residency status.
If you speak French, studied and worked in Quebec, you may be eligible for the Quebec Experience Program (PEQ). This is a popular option for Quebec PGWP holders. You can apply as an international student, or as a temporary foreign worker. International students need to meet certain eligibility criteria for their education, prove their French language proficiency, and demonstrate that they intend to settle in Quebec. Workers need at least two years of full-time work experience in a skilled occupation, and must be employed at the time of application. They also need to prove their language ability in French.
Alternatively, if you speak French and have skilled work experience, you may be able to immigrate to the province through the Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP).
Atlantic Immigration Pilot
The Atlantic Immigration Pilot makes it easier for Atlantic Canada employers to hire foreign talent. You may qualify if you are hired in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, or Nova Scotia. There are three streams under this program: one for skilled workers, one for intermediate skilled workers which includes occupations under skill level "C", and one for graduates of the Atlantic region.
If your spouse or common-law partner is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, then spousal sponsorship may be for you. If you are applying as in-land applicants, you may be able to benefit from an open work permit specifically for spouses and common-law partners of Canadians who are going through the immigration process.
Stay as a temporary resident
Say none of these options work out for you, yet. There may be options to extend your stay in Canada under a different work permit.
Work permits: LMIAs and trade agreements
In order to get a work permit in Canada, your employer often need to do what is called a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This process is usually long and comes with a fee.
However, there are other work permit options under the International Mobility Program that facilitate the process. These work permits exist to promote Canada's broad economic, social, and cultural policy objectives. These work permit programs cover workers whose presence would add a "significant social or cultural benefit" to Canada. Some examples include film and TV workers, as well as entrepreneurs and self-employed workers.
Canada also has some trade agreements that allow citizens of certain countries to work in Canada without an LMIA. Citizens of the U.S. and Mexico may qualify for a CUSMA Professionals work permit, for example, if they have arranged employment in one of the 60 eligible occupations. Canada has trade agreements under CETA for citizens of the European Union, as well as CUKTCA for U.K. citizens.
Also, if you are from a country that has a bilateral agreement with Canada, you may be able to stay on an International Experience Canada (IEC) program.
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