Temporary Foreign Workers Can Now Study Without a Study Permit

by Ronalee Carey Law

August 2023

Earlier this month, IRCC announced a new public policy that allows some temporary workers to study without a study permit.

This announcement solves a problem I first wrote about in June 2021: Post-Graduation Work Permit Holders Wanting to Become Licensed to Practice Their Profession Are Thwarted by IRCC’s Rules. PGWP holders needing to take licensing courses and examinations who benefit from the new study permit exemption will no longer be shut out from entering their professions.

However, there are significant concerns with the new policy. It only applies to some temporary workers. There is inconsistency in IRCC’s documents about who is eligible.

The program delivery update states the following foreign nationals are eligible:

  • who hold a valid work permit issued on or before June 7, 2023, or
  • who submitted an application to renew a work permit under section 201 of the Immigration and refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) on or before June 7, 2023, and are authorized to work as per paragraph 186(u) of the IRPR

The instructions state the same, but also that the authorization is valid until:

  • the work permit referred to in (1) or associated with the application referred to in (2) expires
  • the work permit application referred to in (2) is refused
  • this public policy expires (June 27, 2026) or
  • the public policy is revoked

However, another IRCC webpage, Public policy allowing some work permit holders to study without a study permit states to be eligible, you must have:

  • a valid work permit that was issued on or before June 7, 2023, or
  • a letter authorizing you to work while we process your work permit extension application

The letter must have been issued on or before June 7, 2023.

If you applied for a work permit after June 7, 2023, you’re not eligible for these measures.

The requirement to have a letter authorizing you to work dated on or before June 7th is not mentioned in the other two IRCC web pages. This is quite confusing.  Regardless, even though the policy is (currently) valid until June 27, 2026, anyone who applies for a work permit today would need to apply for a study permit, making it of limited utility.

High costs of tuition are another concern. Former international students will be well aware of the high tuition imposed on foreign nationals, which is significantly higher than what domestic students pay. However, for other foreign workers, there may be sticker shock. Work permit holders do not pay domestic tuition rates.

However, my biggest concern regards section 15(7) of the Ministerial Instructions respecting the Express Entry system, which states: a period of employment during which the foreign national was engaged in full-time study is not to be included in calculating a period of work experience.

This restriction is not well known. I often get inquiries from international students who have acquired Canadian work experience and think they can apply for permanent residence through the Canadian Experience Class before graduation. I am concerned that foreign workers who take advantage of this new policy and study in addition to working will also be caught. With so much competition for permanent residence programs, I can see how a foreign worker would want to add another educational credential to increase their Express Entry score or to make them eligible for a provincial nominee program. But if studying full-time ‘cancels’ any work experience gained, the foreign worker may be doing themselves a disservice.