How to maintain status in Canada as a CEC candidate with an expiring PGWP

Edana Robitaille
Published: March 14, 2023

Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates in the Express Entry pool have not been invited to apply for permanent residence since the last-all program draw, nearly two months ago, on January 18.

Since then, draws have been program-specific for candidates in the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) and the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), leaving many Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) holders in the CEC anxious while their permits get closer to their expiration date.

Express Entry draw patterns have been irregular compared to all the draws that took place between July and November 2022. Express Entry draws during that period were all-program, meaning every candidate in the Express Entry application management system who had at least the minimum Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score, was eligible to receive an invitation to apply (ITA).

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Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) dealt with a similar situation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic when Express Entry draws were paused for both the FSWP (in January 2021) and the CEC (in September of 2021).

In response to the pause, last April Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced a one-time extension for those who had a PGWP expire between September 2021 and December 2022. A similar measure has not been announced for those with PGWPs that expire in 2023.

PGWPs are issued to graduating students who wish to stay in Canada after they have completed an eligible program of study in Canada at a Designated Learning Institution. The permits are valid for up three years (depending on the length of the study program) and cannot be extended or renewed.

Maintaining status as a PGWP holder waiting for a CEC draw

As long you apply for another work or study permit before your PGWP expires, you can continue working and living in Canada as a temporary resident while IRCC processes your new application, and you wait for the next CEC draw.

If you do not maintain your temporary resident status, you will need to stop working on the day your PGWP expires and leave Canada. There are multiple temporary permits to apply for, depending on your budget and circumstances.

LMIA-required work permits

If you are employed, you may be able to change from a PGWP (an open work permit) to one that requires a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This means that your employer will need to submit an application to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to assess if “hiring” you will have a positive, neutral, or negative impact on Canada's labour force. If the outcome is positive or neutral, you will likely still be able to work for your current employer, but you will not be able to work anywhere else until the permit expires or you get permanent resident status.

There are some programs, such as the Global Talent Stream, that allow employers in certain tech occupations to skip the advertising requirements usually required by EDSC. LMIA processing times under this stream can take as little as two weeks. Typically, advertising requirements for an LMIA mean that employers must advertise all job vacancies across the Canadian job market for at least four weeks.

LMIA exempt work permits

Most often, LMIA-exempt permits, or those under the International Mobility Program, fall under the significant benefit and reciprocal employment categories. To be considered under significant benefit, the applicant must be deemed to be doing work that has a social, cultural, or economic benefit to Canada.

Reciprocal employment occurs when Canada has an existing agreement with another country, such as the agreements under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), which allows some workers from these countries to work across borders, or work in Canada on an intra-company transfer (ICT) agreement.

Study permit

As you may have already experienced as a PGWP holder, you are eligible to work in Canada if you are enrolled in a post-secondary Designated Learning institution. Full-time students are eligible to work 20 hours a week off campus during the academic year and full-time during scheduled academic breaks. The recently announced temporary removal of the cap on hours students are eligible to work only applies if IRCC received your application for a study permit, or extensions, on or before October 7, 2022.

Visitor visa

If none of these options work for your situation, you can leave Canada when your PGWP expires and return under a visitor's visa (TRV). Under a TRV you may stay in Canada but are you not legally allowed to work or study. You must also be able to prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself for the length of your stay.

Visitor record

You can also maintain your status by applying for a visitor record. A visitor record is different from a visitor visa in that you do not need to leave Canada to get it. To be eligible, you must apply at least 30 days before your PGWP (or any other work or study permit) expires. While in Canada on a visitor record, you will not be allowed to work or study. Additionally, you will not be able to leave Canada unless you plan to return with a visitor visa instead.

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