Post-Graduation Work Permit Holders Wanting to Become Licensed to Practice Their Profession Are Thwarted by IRCC’s Rules

by Ronalee Carey Law

June 2021

Last month, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Canadian Bar Association’s Immigration Law Online Symposium.  My paper and speaking notes are available here.

My presentation focused on matters affecting international students.  Some issues I highlighted for my colleagues were:

  • Those who study for less than two years in Canada are unlikely to qualify for permanent residence.
  • International students often work without authorization after graduation, not knowing that they cannot work until they submit their post-graduation work permit application.
  • International students who study part-time are not eligible for a post-graduation work permit, even if they dropped to part-time due to a medical issue or requiring a prerequisite for mandatory courses.
  • Only a fraction of international students achieve permanent residency.

In preparing for the presentation, one issue that I needed to research and discuss with my co-presenters concerned the ability of post-graduation work permit holders to take courses and write exams required to become licensed in a profession. Unfortunately, a gaping hole exists in the rules governing studies.  Individuals in law, healthcare, and insurance and securities are impacted, including those wishing to take courses through the Investment Industry Organization of Canada (IIROC)

All post-graduation work permits state that the holder may not engage in ‘unauthorized study.’  ‘Study’ includes ‘professional training.’  To engage in professional training, either a study permit must be obtained, or the individual must be authorized to study without a study permit. 

Study permits can only be issued for studies at a designated learning institution (DLI). However, many professional associations and regulatory bodies that provide professional training and credentialing are not DLIs.  As such, a study permit cannot be obtained for their courses. 

It is possible to study without a study permit at a non-DLI if the program of study is six months or less in duration and if the studies will be completed ‘within the period for their stay authorized upon entry into Canada.’ However, most post-graduation work permit holders are granted their permits as an application to extend their stay within Canada.  Since the period for their stay was not given ‘upon entry into Canada,’ they cannot rely on this exception to the rules concerning studies.  As a result, many international students cannot complete their professional training and become licensed to practice their profession.

My co-presenter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada assured me that she would raise this issue to policymakers.  In the interim, one of my clients who plans to become a certified accountant will be leaving Ontario to study at CPA Western School of Business, as it is a DLI, unlike CPA Ontario.  Hopefully, incoming students to the Telfer School of Business at the University of Ontario will not have to make the same move.