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.
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.