Canada’s Post-Graduate Work Permit (“PGWP”) program allows international students who have completed certain Canadian post-secondary programs to obtain work permits after graduating. The work permits are open, meaning that the graduates can work for any employer(s) in any Canadian province(s). It is a fantastic program that enhances the competitiveness of Canadian post-secondary institutions internationally, and is normally an essential transitory step for international graduates looking to eventually obtain Canadian permanent residency.
However, every year there are many international students who mistakenly think that they will be eligible to participate in the program after graduating only to discover midway through their studies that they cannot. It is accordingly very important that all international students in Canada understand how the PGWP program works.
Basis in Law
Section 205 of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations provides the government with the authority to create programs to issue work permits to foreign nationals when it is satisfied that public policy objectives relating to the competiveness of Canada’s economy or academic institutions are met. The PGWP is one of these programs, and detailed information about it can be found on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC“) website here.
As the Federal Court has noted in numerous decisions (such as Osahar v. Canada), immigration officers can determine these requirements to be binding.
Eligibility and Validity
Outside of Quebec, in order for an international graduate to obtain a PGWP after graduating, an international student must:
- have a valid study permit when applying for their PGWP;
- have continuously studied full time in Canada, except for the final academic session, where part-time studies are permitted;
- have completed and passed a program of study that is at least eight months in duration at either a public post-secondary institution,
During Canada’s 2015 federal election, the Liberal Party of Canada, led by Justin Trudeau, promised that if they were elected government that Canada would lift its visa requirement on Mexico. This campaign promise is reflected in now Prime Minister Trudeau’s mandate letter to John McCallum, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, which states that one of Minister McCallum’s top priorities will be to lift the visa requirement on Mexico.
The decision by the previous Conservative Government of Canada in 2009 to implement a visa requirement for Mexican citizens was extremely controversial. It is difficult to determine whether it was a good public policy decision because of the numerous factors involved, each with corresponding benefits and costs. It is clear, however, that the implementation of the visa requirement did achieve the government’s primary objective, which was to dramatically reduce refugee claims from Mexican citizens in Canada. However, subsequent changes to Canada’s immigration refugee system, likely mean that the visa requirement is no longer necessary to achieve this objective.
The Visa Requirement
Canada imposed a visa requirement on Mexican citizens on July 14, 2009. The Canadian government stated that it did so to dramatically reduce the number of unfounded refugee claims made by Mexican nationals due to their visa-free access to Canada. Mexico was at the time the top source country for asylum claimants in Canada, and had been so since 2005.
The imposition of the visa requirement imposed a significant burden on Mexican citizens wishing to travel to Canada. Instead of being able to simply board an airplane and travel to Canada, Mexican citizens now prior to travel have to apply for a temporary resident visa at a Canadian consulate, or online. In addition to completing numerous forms,Read more ›
On December 10, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its most significant immigration judgment in almost twenty years. Its decision in Kanthasamy v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) will likely result in visa officers assessing applications for Canadian permanent residence on humanitarian & compassionate grounds in a much more holistic and equitable manner than previously.
People who would not normally be eligible to become permanent residents in Canada may apply to immigrate on humanitarian & compassionate (“H&C”) grounds. A typical H&C applicant is someone who does not meet the requirements of any of Canada’s economic or family reunification programs. As well, applicants who do qualify for more traditional immigration programs, but who are inadmissible to Canada, may also request (with narrow exceptions) that their inadmissibility be waived for H&C reasons.
When visa officers review H&C applications, they analyze several factors, including the person’s establishment in Canada, their family ties to Canada, the best interests of any children involved, and what could happen to the applicants if their H&C applications are not granted.
Prior to Kanthasamy, the criterion for an H&C application was whether applicants would suffer “unusual and undeserved or disproportionate hardship” if their applications were refused. Indeed, Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s guidelines on numerous occasions explicitly instructed officers that the assessment of a H&C application was a determination of whether the applicant met this test. “Unusual and undeserved hardship” was defined as hardship that was not anticipated or addressed by immigration legislation, and was “beyond the person’s control.” “Disproportionate hardship” was defined as an “unreasonable impact on the applicant due to their personal circumstances.”
In Kanthasamy, the Supreme Court of Canada found that while immigration officers should treat the “unusual and undeserved or disproportionate hardship” factors described above as descriptive,Read more ›