Finished School and Ready to Work? Read this before applying for your Post-Graduate Work Permit

May 2018

The last semester of studies is tough. Between coffee runs, final papers, and all-nighter cramming sessions, it’s hard enough to find time to eat and sleep. My associate reports that it used to take her quite some time before she could conversate like a normal human being, preferring to spend her days in a Netflix coma.

International students face additional pressures after final exams. With expiry dates of their study permits looming, they must either prepare to leave Canada, or, if they are eligible, apply for a post-graduate work permit (PGWP).  Some students are already in part-time jobs and may wish to pick up more shifts. Others have already been accepted for jobs and are ready to dive right into their new positions.  

International students face a complexity of rules and regulations surrounding working in Canada. Last month, we wrote a newsletter about common issues which arise when international students work during their studies.

The period after final exams and before PGWPs are received is another tricky time, where not knowing the rules can lead to disastrous consequences. International students must ensure that they do not work without the proper authorization during this time, or they may jeopardize their chances of continuing to live and work in Canada.  

Rules Regarding Permissible Work at Different Stages of the Post-Graduate Work Permit Application Process

1. When Exams Are Finished 

Once exams are finished, international students may work until the first date they receive written confirmation that they have met the requirements of their program. This could be by way of an email, or a letter, or in receiving their final transcript which shows they have passed all their courses.  Their study permit must remain valid during this period.

However, during this time, they may only work part-time. This is opposed to the full-time hours they were permitted to work when they were previously on summer vacation during their full-time studies.

Once they are given notice that they’ve fulfilled the program requirements, international students must stop working immediately. This operational manual explains this in further detail. 

2. When Applying for the Post-Graduate Work Permit

Once international graduates have received written confirmation that they’ve completed their program requirements, they are only permitted to work once they have applied for their PGWP. They must apply for the PGWP within 90-days of receiving the confirmation of program completion.  Their study permit must still be valid when they apply.  If it expires sooner than 90 days, then the window of time to apply is even shorter. Graduates must use the correct application guide and can apply either by mail or online.

3. While the Post-Graduate Work Permit is Being Processed

Once the application for the PGWP has been submitted, students are permitted to work full-time until the final decision on the application has been made. This authority to work is based on section 186(w) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. Be alert, however, that this only applies if conditions at this link are met.

Of note is that this authority to work is not based on having implied status after submitting an application. For this reason, even if graduates travel outside Canada during the processing of their applications, they will be permitted to work upon return. For more, see the IRCC Help Centre page titled ‘I’m waiting for my post-graduation work permit. Can I travel outside Canada and come back with my student visa?’.

Graduates should keep in mind that being able to work during the processing of the application is a fantastic opportunity, since work experience earned during this time counts for points in Canada’s Canadian Experience Class Program. Further, work done while waiting for processing to take place will be included when calculating Comprehensive Ranking System points for Canadian experience. 

If a graduate’s PGWP duration is relatively short, these extra few months of work could mean the difference between having accumulated 1 year of work experience and qualifying for the Canadian Experience Class, versus falling short and having to return home.      

4. When Post-Graduate Work Permit is Approved

Graduates with valid PGWPs can work for any employer, up to the date of expiry on their permit. At this point, students should really focus on not squandering their PGWP.   The PGWP is literally a once in a lifetime opportunity. If international graduates don’t obtain the right skill level of work experience in Canada, their chances of applying for permanent residence in the future may be lost.  

Students who Have Worked Without Proper Authorization

As seen above, the rules regarding permission to work fluctuates between being able to work part-time, to full-time, to not at all. These rules are not clear on the government’s website. We routinely have graduates come to our office who didn’t even realize they worked without authorization until we told them.

Working without authorization is a violation of Canadian Immigration laws and makes the graduate inadmissible to Canada. Further, not disclosing it on the post-graduate work permit application, or any other future application, could result in a finding of misrepresentation against the graduate. This could lead to a bar from Canada for 5 years. If you are an international graduate and have realized after the reading the above that you are working without authorization, stop working immediately and seek out legal advice. If you have worked without authorization, obtain legal advice before submitting any type of immigration application.

Missed Deadlines

Missing the deadline to apply within the 90-day window or during the validity of the study permit can happen for many reasons. For example, a graduate may think that the official confirmation of completion of a program is the convocation date, which is not the case. In other cases, the graduate may have applied for the PGWP in time, only to have the application rejected because the improper fee was paid (such as failure to pay the additional $100 open work permit fee). This leaves them outside of the 90-day window to re-apply.

If the student is within 90 days of losing their status, applicants in these cases may be permitted to submit a restoration of status request. However, there is no guarantee of success, and graduates will not be permitted to work during the wait time. Graduates may also be outside of this second 90-day window. Further, sometimes matters are complicated due to unauthorized work prior to losing status. In these cases, it is highly advisable that a lawyer is consulted, as creative solutions may exist to solve the problem.  

When should international students get immigration advice?

International students should speak to an immigration lawyer or registered immigration consultant during their last semester, to review their eligibility for a PGWP and to ensure that there are no inadmissibility issues. They can also ask questions about applying for permanent residency, so they know what to expect once they have the required Canadian work experience.  Immigration law is constantly changing, and it is important students get information about eligibility requirements before their status in Canada expires. 

That way, they’ll be clear about the rules, and can spend their post-exam days enjoying some well-deserved Netflix time.

International students must navigate complex rules regarding work in Canada: The Rules, Simplified

April 2018

Can I work in Canada while I am studying? This seems like the type of question that should be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. However, what most international students don’t realize is that the answer is not as straightforward as they think.

International students can work if they are full-time students enrolled in a Designated Learning Institution and their study permit authorizes them to work on-campus full time under Section 186 (f) of the Immigration and Refugee Regulations or off-campus under Section 186 (v) of the Immigration and Refugee Regulations.

Over the past several years, the rules surrounding working off-campus have been unclear, and in some cases, contradictory. On March 12 2018, IRCC updated their guidelines on study permits: off-campus work in response to grumbling lawyers and international students.

Section 186 (v) (iii) of the Immigration and Refugee Regulations, states that students may work off-campus for 20 hours per week during a school semester, and full-time during a regularly scheduled break that is part of the school’s academic calendar. International students cannot work off-campus if they are enrolled in a course or program of study that is a pre-requisite for their program, such as English or French classes.

That seems straightforward enough. But consider these scenarios:

  1. Excited about starting a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, Laura arrived in Ottawa several weeks prior to the start of her program. While exploring the area around her university, she met the owner of a local café. Impressed by Laura’s enthusiasm, the owner offered her a full-time job as a barista until she can start school. Laura accepted the offer and began working immediately.


  2. Ahmed is in his final semester of his Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. He only needs two courses to finish his degree. Ahmed increased his hours as a server from part-time to full-time during his final semester.


  3. Hye-Won finished her Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering in April. She decided to stay in Canada for the summer as she is starting her Master’s degree in September. She worked full-time at a bookstore during the summer.


  4. After a tough first month, Jesus decided to take two weeks off from school. At the end of the two weeks, Jesus decided to leave the business program he was enrolled in. Instead, he enrolled in the Graphic Design program. Jesus continued working part-time until his new program started in January.


    Did these students have authorization to work?  


  1. The new guidelines make it clear that Laura should not have started working before her school program started. Laura only became eligible to work off-campus as a full-time student when her program of study began.


  2. Ahmed was not authorized to work full-time during his final semester. According to the new guidelines, students who have maintained their full-time status for the duration of their program, and who only require a part-time course load in their final semester, may work off-campus for a maximum of 20 hours per week during their final semester.


  3. Hye-Won can work full-time between her two programs if:

    1. She received written confirmation that she completed her Bachelor’s program

    2. She received a letter of acceptance for her Master’s program

    3. The Master’s program is beginning within 150 days from the day she received the letter of completion of her first program

    4. She applied to extend her stay as a student or her study permit is still valid


  4. Jesus should have stopped working immediately when he discontinued his studies. The two weeks break from school was considered a leave from studies, as opposed to a regularly scheduled break. Further, he was not authorized to work while waiting for his new program to begin.

As can be seen from the above examples, the answer to the question of “can I work while I am studying” is complicated. Students who work without the proper authorization will be in violation of Section 30 (1) of the Immigration and Refugee Act and are ‘inadmissible’ to Canada. A finding of inadmissibility can lead to refused future applications and removal from Canada.

On future applications, students must disclose if they worked without the proper authorization. Failure to disclose periods of unauthorized work is considered misrepresentation. If a finding of misrepresentation is made, then the student will be barred from entering Canada for a five-year period.

The new guidelines cleared up several questions which had been lingering. However, the wording of the new guideline is difficult to follow and, in some cases, requires multiple readings.

An example of this is IRCC’s explanation of whether students can work during a regularly scheduled break, such as summer break while taking some courses. The guidelines explain this by stating “Students who are enrolled full time during the academic sessions before and after a regularly scheduled break and who decide to undertake a full-time or part-time course load during that regularly scheduled break are eligible to work off campus on a full-time basis”.

Can I just yell out RUN-ON SENTENCE? IRCC should have considered that its audience, immigration lawyers and students, continuously suffer from caffeine jitters!

If you are unsure of whether you can work while studying, then please contact us and we would be happy to assist. Stay tuned for our newsletter next month where we will talk about the process of applying for a post-graduate work permit. 

How many immigrants does Canada need?

March 2018

I am a ‘basketball mom’. Less familiar than ‘soccer mom’, this phrase describes a person who spends most of her free time ferrying children to basketball practices and driving to tournaments hours away from home.  A high tolerance for whistle blowing is required for the role.

As a basketball mom, I was aware that the game of basketball was invented by a Canadian, James Naismith. My children regularly play against teams from the Naismith Basketball Association, located in Almonte, where James Naismith was born.

What I didn’t realize was that James Naismith didn’t invent basketball in Canada. Instead, he developed the game while working at a YMCA in Massachusetts. 

In his book Maximum Canada Why 35 Million Canadians Are Not Enough, author Doug Saunders tells the story of James Naismith, as well as James L. Kraft and Alexander Graham Bell.  These Canadians all had to move to the United States to find investors, resources, and markets to develop their entrepreneurial ideas.  In their era, Canada was seen only as a provider of raw materials for British industry.  Rather being selected to for their skills or entrepreneurialism, immigrants were selected for their ability to work in mining, forestry or agriculture. 

While exploring the history of Canada through the lens of population, Saunders analyses Canada’s immigration policies. He examines how political decisions have impacted the type and number of immigrants that Canada has accepted. He argues that the impact of these decisions has been a country which lacks a sufficient population density to develop the infrastructure its citizens need.

Take Toronto. Many have argued that Toronto is accepting more than its fair share of the immigrants coming to Canada, causing transportation gridlock.  Saunders argues that in fact, Toronto doesn’t have a sufficient enough population density (and therefore taxpayer base) to fund the high-efficiency public transportation system it needs outside of its downtown core.  Its housing model simply doesn’t provide for this density make-up. 

Further, Saunders argues that more densely populated cities are less ecologically damaging. A denser population needs less material infrastructure and uses less energy. 

He also notes that many immigrants to Canada come from areas of the world that are more densely populated. Yet, when these immigrants come to Canada, they end up having no more children than Canadians do.  Additionally, when they remit money back to family members, those family members also end up having less children. Apparently, prosperity leads to a lower birth rate. This is something I find paradoxical.  However, as a result, a higher Canadian population does not mean more pollution or environmental degradation, but rather less.

Saunders sees immigration as an opportunity for Canada to grow its metropolitan densities. He urges Canada to seek out more immigrants now, because by mid-century, most of the countries where our immigrants come from will be experiencing population decline.  Canada will then be competing with other countries for a dwindling supply of migrants. 

However, he doesn’t agree that Canada should bring in a sufficient number of immigrants to reach a population of 100 million. This is a figure which was floated a few years ago by the government advisors who created the Century Initiative. 

Instead, Saunders is leery of increasing the population through immigration, unless there are sufficient employment opportunities, housing prices are at a level where there can be an integration of neighbourhoods, and the foreign credentials of skilled immigrants can be recognized. Canada would have to make some upfront investments in the systems that help immigrants integrate prior to making a commitment to radically increase immigration.  He says that it is better to have less immigrants, than to tip public opinion against immigration.

He and I disagree on this point. As a signatory to the 1951 United Nations (UN) Convention on the Status of Refugees, Canada has an obligation to resettle refugees, whether or not it is in our economic benefit or politically advisable.  Though, many are of the opinion that settling refugees is in Canada’s economic interests.

Others disagree that Canada will need a large number of immigrants to compensate for an aging demographic. In a podcast for the Global Affairs Institute, Andrew Griffith argues that Saunders has ignored the impact that technological innovation will play in Canada’s employment needs.  For example, compared to the past, the use of automation in the manufacturing sector will mean less workers are needed.  

Since my children’s basketball fees are paid from the money I earn helping people immigrate to Canada, it would be foolhardy of me to completely agree with Griffith. Thankfully, the Canadian government agrees that immigrants bring necessary skills and entrepreneurship to Canada.  This is why in 2017, it committed to a three-year plan which will see an increasing number of immigrants brought in annually, up to 340,000 by the year 2020.

You can read a condensed version of Saunder’s thesis in his article for the Walrus magazine. He also commented in the Globe and Mail about Canada’s three-year immigration plan.

Why I’m Not Worried My Job Will be Taken Over by a Robot

February 2018

A recent article entitled, ‘Is artificial intelligence the future of immigration in Canada?’ describes an upcoming computer program that will be the ‘best artificially and emotionally intelligent virtual immigration advisor in Canada’.  It will work as an ‘AI-based chatbot’, which will help immigration applicants complete the required forms.  It promises to slash the costs associated with coming to Canada. 

Medical Inadmissibility

December 2017

On November 7th, 2017, Norma Lee MacLeod, the host of CBC Maritime Noon, invited myself, along with York University professor Felipe Montoya, to discuss the medical inadmissibility provision in the Immigration Refugee Protection Act. I spent countless hours preparing, so that I would be ready for any question that might be posed.  In my research, I discovered that truth is stranger than fiction.

The difficulties in travelling AFTER becoming a permanent resident but BEFORE your permanent residence card arrives

October 2017


When I was taking legal ethics courses prior to becoming a lawyer, I was warned against giving ‘cocktail party advice.’ This is when legal advice is given in a social setting, without obtaining the required background information, and properly documenting the advice given.  The Law Society of Ontario frowns upon giving advice in these circumstances.