How to take a break from your studies and maintain eligibility for a work permit

Asheesh Moosapeta
Published: July 9, 2024

The Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) is an important document for international students looking to gain work experience and build eligibility for certain permanent residence (PR) pathways.

Eligibility for this document is contingent on a few factors, one of the most important of which is maintaining full-time status* for each semester of the entire duration of a student’s studies. Taking extended breaks from one’s studies (outside of scheduled breaks) can therefore be detrimental to a student's PGWP eligibility.

*Note: While “full-time" is slightly different based on each school’s method of counting course credits, this is usually defined by Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) as students actively pursuing their studies, taking (at least) roughly three courses per semester.

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How can students take a break from their studies without compromising their chances at a work permit?

While students do need to maintain full-time status during their studies, there are exceptions that IRCC makes, if certain conditions are met.

Specifically, these are:

  • If a student was not a full-time during a scheduled time off (for example summer break); or
  • Having to stop studying, or change to part-time study between March of 2020, and the fall semester of that year, due to complications arising from the COVID-19 pandemic; or
  • If a student was not full-time for the last semester of their studies; or
  • If a student took an authorized leave of absence for less than 150 days.

Students who need to take a leave from their studies during study periods can therefore apply for an authorized leave of absence.

This is a document provided by a student’s Designated Learning Institution (DLI)*, that explains to IRCC that the student had a legitimate need to leave their studies for a period of less than 150 days, and had the school’s approval. DLIs are the only schools in Canada authorized to accept and provide housing for international students.

Authorized leave of absence letters can be requested for several different reasons, some of the most common of which are:

  • Medical illness or injury;
  • Pregnancy / parental leave;
  • Family emergency;
  • Mandatory military service;
  • Change of program at the same school; and/or
  • Suspension from school.

How can I request an authorized leave of absence letter from my school?

Different schools have varied processes to request an authorized leave of absence. However, these processes follow general themes.

Usually, students will have to submit a request form to petition a leave of absence letter. At this time they may also be asked to submit supporting documentation for their request, to verify their need to pause studies. In addition, students may be asked to submit immigration and travel documents including:

Most schools have an immigration expert or even an international education hub, for students to consult about their specific cases.

Below are the dedicated authorized leave of absence letters for some of Canada’s most popular DLIs:

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