IRCC to review the Post-Graduation Work Permit for first time in 10 years

Julia Hornstein
Published: November 7, 2023

On October 27th, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced changes to its International Student Program that will be implemented in the coming months to strengthen the program and protect students from fraud.

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The measures will require Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) to confirm every applicant’s letter of acceptance directly with IRCC in order to ensure that study permits are issued based only on genuine letters of acceptance.

By the 2024 fall semester, IRCC will adopt a “recognized institution” framework that will be benefit DLIs in a variety of ways, such as priority processing of study permit applications.

IRCC also announced that in the coming months, they will complete an assessment of the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) criteria and begin introducing reforms to better calibrate it to the needs of the country’s labour market, as well as regional and Francophone immigration goals. This would be the first review of the program in 10 years.

What is the Post-Graduation Work Permit?

International students who complete an eligible Canadian post-secondary program may apply for a PGWP. A PGWP allows you to work for any employer of your choice in Canada.

The PGWP is valid for up to three years, depending on the length of your Canadian educational program.

A major benefit of the PGWP is that is allows international students to gain professional work experience in Canada. This work experience is integral for PGWP holders hoping to go on to apply for Canadian immigration.

Many of Canada’s different immigration pathways reward applicants who have studied and/or worked in Canada. Usually, a PGWP holder will need a year of work experience in a National Occupational Classification (NOC) code of 0, A or B to then be eligible to apply for Canadian permanent residency.

What are the eligibility criteria for the PGWP?

To be eligible for a PGWP, international students must have:

  • Completed studies in an academic, vocational or professional training program that is at least eight months long at an eligible Designated Learning Institution (DLI) List. The study program must have lead to a degree, diploma or certificate.
  • 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;
  • Received a transcript and an official letter from the eligible DLI confirming that the applicant has met the requirements to complete their program of study;
  • 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 Canadian private school that can award degrees under provincial law (for example, Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctorate degree) but only if the student was enrolled in a study program that leads to a degree as authorized by the province.

It is important to note that Canada has waived the full-time student requirement during the coronavirus pandemic for certain international students. Exemptions may apply to those who have begun studying between spring 2020 and summer 2022, or those whose program was already in progress in March 2020. In addition, exceptions may apply for those who took a leave from their studies in their final academic session.

Growth of the PGWP

According to a Statistics Canada study released in 2022, the total number of PGWP holders in Canada has risen every year. According to the study, 29% of graduates in the 2008 cohort held a PGWP five years later, compared to 52% of graduates in 2013.

The data showed that the total number of PGWP holders between 2008 and 2018 increased from 10,300 to 64,700.

According to Statistics Canada, the reason for the rising prevalence of the PGWP is that it allows international students to earn a living in Canada, while median earnings for PGWP holders has increased substantially from 2008 to 2018.

In 2008, China and India were the countries of origin of 51% of all PGWP holders. By 2018, these two source countries accounted for 66% of all issued PGWPs.

At the end of 2022, more than 286,000 international graduates were in Canada with a valid PGWP. In addition, tens of thousands PGWP holders successfully transition to permanent residence each year, including more than 157,000 in 2021, a record high. In 2022, this number was nearly 95,000, the second-highest total ever.

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