IRCC loves announcing major changes around the holidays. It is probably because it is easier to roll out changes during quieter times, but I choose to believe it is because IRCC likes to give us presents on holidays. This time it was a change to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program, which came as a Valentine’s Day gift.
International students who study in Canada at a Designated Learning Institute (‘DLI’) are eligible to apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (‘PGWP’) if they meet certain conditions. PGWPs are open work permits that enable students to gain work experience in Canada. Obtaining a PGWP is a huge advantage as it creates a path to permanent residency through the Express Entry program.
However, the rate of refusals for PGWPs was high as strict criteria had to be met. Any deviation from the criteria left it up to the officer to use their discretion to approve the application, but more likely than not led to a refusal of the application.
The changes to the program were initially quietly released on February 14, 2019, and are titled ‘Program delivery update: Processing Instructions for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.’ However, the changes did not remain unnoticed for long:
As you can see, news of these changes was met with joy and probably constituted the best Valentine’s gift any immigration lawyer could ask for.
The most significant changes are the following:
Students can now submit their PGWP application within 180 days (6 months) from receiving a transcript or an official letter confirming that they met the requirements to graduate. The calculation of the 180 days begins as soon as the student receives their transcript or the letter. This is a welcome departure from the 90 days requirement as it allows students the time to consider their next steps (further study, or work) and prevents students from missing the short window of time where they had to apply.
Previously, students had to have valid student status before they could submit their application. That meant that students often had to apply to renew their status even though they already received their final grades or transcript. Now, students may apply even though their study permit has expired, as long as they apply within the 6-month period.
The requirement that the student maintain full-time student status in Canada during each academic session has not been changed. However, IRCC introduced a new exception for leave from studies. Under the old scheme, any type of leave of absence was not allowed. This rendered students who took a leave of absence for medical reasons, family emergency, or death of a family member ineligible to apply for a post-graduation work permit. Under the current scheme, the student may still be eligible for a PGWP if an officer determines that the student actively pursued their program of studies during their leave and remained in compliance with their study permit conditions. A student will be considered actively pursuing their studies if their leave was authorized by the DLI and did not exceed 150 days from the date the leave was approved by the institution.
While all these changes are excellent, I would like to highlight the following two issues:
Graduates who submit a PGWP before the expiry of their study permit are eligible to work full-time while they are waiting for a decision on their application. This does not apply to students who changed their status as visitors and then submitted their PGWP application.
Students who wish to remain in Canada after graduation must still maintain their temporary status either as a student or visitor. Study permits become invalid 90 days after studies are completed, pursuant to Section 222 (1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. Though you have six months to submit your PGWP application, you must apply within 90 days in order to benefit from implied ‘status’, which allows you to have status in Canada while your PGWP application is being processed. If you do not want to submit your PGWP application within 90 days, then you must apply to stay in Canada as a visitor.
The new rules apply for applications received on or after February 14, 2019:
Students who previously submitted their applications and were refused can still submit a new application if they meet the requirements and are still within the 180 day period.
If you are unsure how the new rules affect you, then please contact us, and we would be happy to assist.