Staying in Canada after graduation with a PGWP

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: October 25, 2022

International students bring a vibrant, new, and fresh perspective to the academic landscape in Canada when they arrive from their home countries to study at a Canadian designated learning institution (DLI).

Canada takes immense pride in being a preferred destination for international students looking to further their lives and educations.

Beyond their institutional education, however, another point of pride for Canada is that most international students have shown a desire to stay here after graduation. In fact, a 2022 Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE) survey revealed that “59.4% of respondents” said that they wanted to become Canadian permanent residents after graduation.

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One step towards this goal for international students is through Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) program. This program provides a maximum three-year open work permit that enables eligible DLI graduates to work for a Canadian employer of their choice without an existing job offer at the time of application. It is important to note that while this program allows for permits of up to three years, the actual length of a permit will depend on the length of the educational program from which the applicant graduated.

PGWP eligibility criteria

PGWP eligibility is determined by whether the applicant has:

  • Completed studies at an eligible DLI in an academic, vocational, or professional training program (minimum eight months in length) that leads to a degree, diploma, or certificate
  • Received a transcript and an official letter confirming they have met the requirements to complete their program
  • Held full-time student status in Canada during every academic session of the program or programs of study completed and included as part of their post-graduation work permit application (note below)
  • Graduated from a public post-secondary institution, such as a college, a trade or technical school, a university, CEGEP (in Quebec), a private post-secondary school (in Quebec) that operates under the same rules as public schools in Quebec; a private secondary or post-secondary school (in Quebec) that offers qualifying programs of 900 hours or longer and results in the issuance of a diplôme d’études professionnelles (DEP) or an attestation de spécialisation professionnelle (ASP); or a Canadian private school that can award degrees under provincial law (but only if the student was enrolled in a study program that leads to a degree as authorized by the province)

Quebec note: Graduates of vocational and professional training programs in Quebec must meet additional PGWP criteria outlined by IRCC depending on the type of diploma issued

“Full-time student status” requirement note: Exemptions may apply to those who have begun or will begin a program between spring 2020 and summer 2022, graduates whose program was already in progress in March 2020, or international students who took a leave from their studies in their final academic session

Distance learning and PGWP eligibility

Students studying at a DLI via distance learning due to the coronavirus pandemic may still be eligible for a PGWP. Provided that all other criteria are met, there are several date-specific exceptions to the typical eligibility requirements set out by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). They are as follows:

  • August 31st, 2022: International students who study online from abroad or submit a study permit application before this date can complete all their studies online and remain PGWP-eligible
  • September 1st, 2023: Starting from this date, study time completed abroad “will be deducted from the length of international student's PGWP regardless of when the international student began their studies”

PGWP application process

All PGWP hopefuls have six months (180 days) to submit their application from the day they receive their official transcript and letter confirming program completion.

Upon receiving the above documentation, which must be included in the application itself, the process becomes rather simple.

Much of the applicant’s basic responsibilities surround simply gathering the following documents identified on the Canadian government’s website:

  • A degree or diploma
  • An official letter from your school
  • An official transcript, or a copy of your transcript from your school’s website

Note: IRCC may request additional documents when an application is received

Once this step is complete, applicants can proceed to apply for their PGWP either online or on paper, if necessary. Application steps will vary based on whether the PGWP hopeful is applying from within or outside of Canada.

It is crucial to note that applicants must prove they either currently hold a valid study permit, have held a study permit in the past or have been authorized to study in Canada without one. If an applicant’s current study permit is set to expire, they can either apply for a visitor record to stay in Canada longer or depart Canada and apply for a PGWP from abroad.

Key information regarding the PGWP

  • The PGWP program requires international graduates to submit two key documents alongside their application: a letter and an official transcript confirming completion of a program of study at a DLI
  • The length of a PWGP’s validity is determined by the length of the applicant’s educational program. According to IRCC guidelines:

If the completed program lasted:

  • Under eight months: Applicant is not eligible for a PGWP
  • More than eight months but less than two years: The validity of the applicant’s PGWP will match program length (16-month program equals 16-month PGWP)
  • Over two years: The validity of the applicant’s PGWP will be three years

Additionally, if an applicant has completed more than one (min. eight-month) program, they may be able to combine the earned PGWP’s together

How a PGWP can jumpstart the path toward permanent residence

PGWP holders put themselves in an advantageous position when eventually applying for permanent residence (PR) in Canada. This is because PGWPs provide successful applicants with professional work experience. Generally, “a PGWP holder needs to gain one year of professional work experience in a National Occupational Classification (NOC) code of 0, A, or B” to become eligible to apply for a PR program in Canada.

Therefore, having a PGWP is helpful during the evaluation of a PR application because several of Canada’s immigration programs look favourably upon PR applicants that have previously studied and/or worked in this country.

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