Pandemic changes expand eligibility of new graduates for post-grad work permits

The Government of Canada has extended and expanded the temporary changes made to the post-graduation work permit program (PGWPP) earlier in the pandemic — changes that may impact graduating international students currently going through the process.

The PGWPP allows international students who have graduated from a Canadian institution to obtain an open work permit, which “can be used for any type of work anywhere in Canada,” said Michelle Suderman, UBC’s director of international student development. This work experience can later be used to help graduates qualify for permanent residence in Canada.

International students have up to 180 days to apply for a permit after receiving their degree, diploma, transcript or an official letter from their school. If the student’s study permit has expired and a PGWP application is not made within 90 days of the expiration date, they must leave Canada.

In a news release, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced that with the potential for continued online learning, “temporary changes to the PGWP Program put in place earlier in the pandemic are being extended and expanded.”

As a result of these changes, open work permits will be available to former international students who hold or held a PGWP.

According to Suderman, the modified process is “relatively straightforward” because it targets previous PGWP holders and merely requires that they repeat the application process.

In addition, studies completed outside of Canada will count towards a future work permit. Students who have completed their entire program remotely overseas will still be eligible.

These measures apply to all international students who are enrolled in a PGWP-eligible program; began, or will begin, a program from spring 2020 to fall 2021 or whose program was already in progress in March 2020; and meet all other PGWP criteria.

“[PGWPs] open up a world of opportunity [for students] to practice the skills they’ve learned during their studies [and] give[s] students a chance to try out careers that they might not otherwise have thought about,” said Suderman.

Nghi Cong Le, who will be graduating in June 2021 from UBC’s faculty of science with a major in microbiology and immunology, recently submitted his application.

For Le, the permit is “a short-term thing for [him] to stay” and work in Canada as he pursues his long-term goal of permanent residency or citizenship.

According to Suderman, UBC has supported students going through the process by providing tutorials, immigration information and free advice from regulated Canadian immigration consultants. UBC also offers a variety of personal and career development opportunities, which prepare students for their lives after graduation.

“[The PGWPP] is very welcome, as we’ve heard from hundreds of international students who have expressed their interest in pursuing it, and allows more UBC international students to benefit from Canadian work experiences longer and make meaningful contributions to Canadian society while they’re here,” Suderman said.