Relief for Post-Graduation Work Permit Holders One Time Extensions Coming Soon

by Ronalee Carey Law

January 2021

Lockdowns and the overall economic downturn due to COVID-19 have forced many employers to lay off employees, or at minimum place positions on hold. International students have been significantly impacted by these measures, as they only have a certain amount of time to obtain Canadian skilled work experience to be eligible to apply for permanent residence. Their time on the post-graduate work permit is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and if squandered, they have no choice but to return home. Due to the pandemic’s impact on employment opportunities, many international students who have worked hard to line up jobs have been unable to obtain the needed work experience.

In its news release early this year, the Canadian government acknowledged that international students bring a significant benefit to Canada, ‘contributing over $21 billion annually to the economy and supporting the vitality of our communities’. They emphasized that the pandemic has taken an unfair toll on their ability to gain the needed work experience to apply for permanent residence. They also noted the following:

- In 1971, there were 6.6 people of working age for each senior. There are currently 3 Canadian workers for every retired Canadian, but by 2035, there will be only 2 workers for every retiree. Without immigrants to help support the needs of an aging population, younger Canadians will end up paying more per person to provide the same benefits.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada estimates that as many as 52,000 graduates with expired or expiring PGWPs could benefit from the public 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.

Details about who will qualify for the one-time extension of 18 months are still unknown. For now, the announcement outlines that the applicants 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 they apply

- still be in Canada

- have a valid temporary status, or be applying to restore their status

Once the public policy is officially released on January 27th, more details will be known. We are interested to know whether those with only one-year post-graduation work permits will be eligible and whether applicants will need to show whether they were directly impacted by the pandemic. We also wonder whether there will be some leniency showed towards those students who have already had no choice but to return home because they couldn’t find work to support themselves.

The government’s policy is a welcome announcement. When international students choose to study in Canada, spending close to triple the amount of tuition fees compared to domestic students, they are providing Canada with a major economic benefit. They also make excellent new permanent residents, having already established themselves in Canada.  We hope this new policy offers relief to those who would have had a smooth path to the permanent residence had the pandemic not interfered