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Canada announces changes to post-graduation work visa to help international students

Canada is making a major change to its Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) rules for international students who want to study in Canada beginning this fall but need to do some of their courses online from outside Canada due to coronavirus restrictions. International students will be able to enrol in online courses while abroad this fall and still be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit after moving to Canada. The changes were announced on May 14, 2020 by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

See also 2022 announcement: Canada’s PGWP International Students can now stay longer in Canada.

The PGWP is a highly sought-after program because enables international students to gain Canadian work experience after completing their educational program at a Canadian designated learning institution (DLI). Such work experience provides them with a major advantage when they eventually submit their federal and/or provincial immigration application for Canadian permanent residence.

International students must have completed a full-time program of at least eight months in length at a DLI in order to be eligible for the PGWP and must have received a diploma, degree, or certificate. Normally, distance learning and online courses do not count toward the study requirement for a PGWP application and time spent studying outside Canada is deducted from the length of the work permit for which they are eligible. However, given coronavirus-related travel interruptions around the world, IRCC is now allowing international students to study online while overseas and still be eligible to apply for the work permit after graduation.

According to the IRCC,

“International education represents a significant economic benefit to Canada, with international students contributing $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP and supporting nearly 170,000 jobs in 2018. International students are also often excellent candidates to apply to remain in Canada permanently, with nearly 54,000 former students becoming permanent residents in Canada in 2018.”

See IRCC “Flexibility in post-graduation work permit rules to help international students and Canadian post-secondary institutions”

PGWP eligibility will not be affected for international students whose fall 2020 courses will be online due to COVID-19. Students in this situation may begin their classes while outside Canada and complete up to 50% of their program via distance learning if they cannot travel to Canada sooner.

In addition, they will not have time deducted from the length of a future post-graduation work permit for studies completed outside of Canada, up to December 31, 2020.

As a result of these changes international students who wish to eventually apply for Canadian immigration can commence a portion of their studies online in their countries of origin rather than postponing their studies due to Canada coronavirus travel restrictions.