IRCC announces new eligibility criteria for Post-Graduation Work Permits

Julia Hornstein
Published: January 23, 2024

On January 22nd, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced it is implementing changes to stabilize growth and decrease the number of international study permits for international students in 2024.

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To better align the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) with these changes, IRCC announced updates to the programs’ eligibility criteria.

In particular, starting in September 2024, international students who begin a study program that is part of a curriculum licensing agreement will no longer be eligible for a PGWP after graduating.

Under curriculum licensing agreements, students attend a private college that has been licensed to deliver the curriculum associated with a public college.

Put differently, if a public college has established licensing agreements with a private college, and a student is enrolled in the private college, they will not be eligible for a PGWP.

IRCC has explained that these programs have less oversight than public colleges and this can act as a loophole with regards to PGWP eligibility.

It has become increasingly common for institutions to accept more students than they have the capacity to host. This sometimes results in these institutions having to revoke students’ letters of acceptance (LOAs). This phenomenon has been exacerbated by Canada welcoming record-high numbers of international students.

To illustrate, in October 2023, 500 students had their admission offers revoked by Northern College in Ontario. The college said they had to rescind offers because of a lack of housing and jobs available for international students.

By implementing this change, IRCC intends to mitigate these situations and maintain a more controlled and sustainable environment for international students in Canada.

Longer work permit for shorter graduate level programs

IRCC also announced that graduates of master’s and other short graduate-level programs will soon be eligible to apply for a 3-year work permit.

Under current criteria, a PGWP length is based on the length of an individual’s study program. Since master’s programs are usually shorter than undergraduate programs, the current criteria have limited the amount of time master’s students or shorter-term graduate students can work in Canada.

This change will allow masters students to be eligible for a longer work permit, which will provide them with an extended opportunity to gain valuable Canadian work experience. This often makes it easier for them to become permanent residents.

How does the PGWP work?

A PGWP is an open work permit, which allows international graduates to work for any Canadian employer without needing a job offer.

The PGWP is valid for up to three years, however the actual length of each person's PGWP generally depends on the length of their study program in Canada. For example, if the completed program was between 8 months and less than 2 years, then the PGWP will be valid for the same length (e.g., a 10-month program will result in a 10-month PGWP).

The major benefit of the PGWP is that it allows international graduates to gain professional work experience in Canada. Such work experience is helpful when PGWP holders go on to apply for permanent resident status.

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)
  • Study program must have led to a degree, diploma or certificate
  • Held full time student status in Canada during every academic session of the program of study and included as part of their post-graduation work permit application
  • Obtained a transcript and an official letter from the DLI confirming the applicant has met all requirements to complete their program of study

The student must also have graduated from:

  • A public post-secondary institution, such as a college, a trade or technical school, a university, or a 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.

According to the latest data from November 2023 provided IRCC, 62,410 international student graduates successfully obtained permanent residency in Canada. This marked a notable rise of 9,670 individuals compared to the 52,740 international graduates who transitioned to permanent residency in 2022.

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