PGWP open work permit

International students get second chance to gain Canadian work experience for PR

The government of Canada on January 8, 2021 announced a new PGWP open work permit policy that will give international students affected by COVID-19 another chance to gain the work experience they need to be eligible for Canadian permanent residence. For many holders of a post-graduation work permit (PGWP), the pandemic’s disruption and uncertainty have jeopardized their chances of obtaining the work experience they need to apply for permanent residence. Under the policy former international students who hold or held a post-graduation work permit (PGWP) will have a one-time opportunity to apply for the new PGWP open work permit. 

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

Canada post-graduate work permit program (PGWPP) permits students who have graduated from eligible Canadian designated learning institutions to obtain an open work permit to gain valuable Canadian work experience in Canada after their studies, for a maximum of three years. Skilled Canadian work experience in the national occupational code A, O or B that is gained through the PGWPP helps graduates qualify for permanent residence in Canada through the Canadian experience class, within Canada Express Entry System, Quebec Experience Program, Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs), and several other programs that require Canadian work experience.


The government of Canada reiterates that international students bring so much to Canada, contributing over $21 billion annually to the economy and supporting the vitality of Canadian communities. More than 58,000 graduates successfully applied to immigrate permanently in 2019.

Yet the pandemic has presented myriad challenges for international students. PGWP holders have lost their jobs or seen their hours cut due to the coronavirus pandemic, making it impossible to accumulate within the mandatory three years, the Canadian experience required to be eligible for Canadian permanent resident.


“Whether as nurses on the pandemic’s front lines, or as founders of some of the most promising start-ups, international students are giving back to communities across Canada as we continue the fight against the pandemic. Their status may be temporary, but the contributions of international students are lasting. This new policy means that young students from abroad who have studied here can stay and find work, while ensuring that Canada meets the urgent needs of our economy for today and tomorrow. Our message to international students and graduates is simple: we don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here.”  

—The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Second chance – the PGWP open work permit

You may pre-qualify for a Canada immigration program.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) estimates that as many as 52,000 graduates with expired or expiring PGWPs could benefit from the new policy. Of nearly 61,000 PGWP holders whose work permit had an expiry date between January and December 2020, about half either have already become permanent residents or have a permanent residence application in processing.


International students in Canada affected by the pandemic with an expired or expiring PGWP will have a unique chance to apply for another open work permit. The policy provides PGWP holders with more time to gain, under any employer, the work experience they need to be eligible to apply for Canadian permanent residence.


Unlike closed work permits, which allow a foreign worker to work exclusively for just one employer in Canada, open work permits allow foreign nationals to work for any employer of their choice.

The new PGWP open work permit will be valid for 18 months and allow former international students to remain in Canada, continue to seek employment and build their future in this country.

Eligibility for PGWP open work permit

To apply for an open work permit under the new policy, the following criteria must be met:

  • you must have a PGWP that expired on or after January 30, 2020 or a PGWP that expires in 4 months or less from the date of application;
  • you need to be in Canada;
  • you need to have a valid temporary status or be applying to restore your status.

The application process will be open from January 27 to July 27, 2021.

You may pre-qualify for a Canada immigration program.