The Post-Graduation Work Permit (“PGWP“) allows students who have graduated from most Canadian public post-secondary institutions to stay and work in Canada upon graduation.  As someone who remembers when I was in undergrad the frustration of international students who had to leave Canada upon graduating even though they would have jumped at the opportunity to stay, work, and pay taxes in Canada, it is certainly a welcome program.

PGWPs are open work permits. This means that international graduates who possess them can work for any employer.  There is no restriction on the type of work that can be performed.  Having said that, if a student wishes to work in health care or in education they will need to first obtain a medical exam. And, as with all work permits, PGWP holders are prohibited from working in the sex industry.

There is no requirement for a job offer prior to applying.

Eligibility

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, a private post-secondary institution that operates under the same rules and regulations as public institutions, or at a Canadian private institution if the student was enrolled in a program of study which led to a degree; and
  • apply for the work permit within 90 days of receiving written confirmation from their educational institution that they have met the requirements for completing their program of study.

If an international student in Canada completes a post-secondary program of study that is two or more years, the student can apply for a three-year work permit. If the program of study is between eight months and two years, then the student will be eligible for a work permit lasting for a period equal to the duration of the student’s  studies.

How to Apply

An international graduate must submit the application for a PGWP within 90 days, from either the date their final marks are issued or when they receive a formal written notification of graduation from the institution, whichever comes first, indicating that they have met the requirements of their program of study.

As well, their study permit must continue to be valid when you submit your application for a work permit.

The work permit application package and guide can be found on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website here. The checklist can be downloaded here. In addition to the standard forms and documents that are required for work permit applications, PGWP applicants are required to provide the following:

Combining Programs

One question that frequently arises is what would happen if a student obtains a second one-year diploma after having already completed a one-year diploma prior to that.  Would the student be eligible for a one year PGWP or a two-year one?

The answer is that the length of the two one-year degrees may be combined to obtain a three-year work permit.  For example, a student who obtains a one-year diploma program in Canada, and then completes a one-year MBA, well receive a three year PGWP.

Distance Learning

Students who complete a program of study by distance learning (from outside or inside Canada) are not eligible for the PGWP.

After much uncertainty over how this distance-learning policy was to be interpreted, pursuant to the IRCC website officers are recommended to use the following guidelines in their assessment of an applicant’s PGWP eligibility when they have taken distance or online learning in Canada:

  • when less than the majority of all the credits earned by the student toward the completion of a program of study were earned by completing online courses, a post-graduation work permit may be issued based on the length of the program as confirmed by the school, including credits earned from both in-class and online courses; and
  • when the majority of the credits earned by the student toward the completion of a program of study were earned by completing online courses, the applicant is ineligible for the PGWP, as the program may reasonably be considered a distance-learning program.

Implication of Doing a Victory Lap and Going on Exchange

While the PGWP requires full-time study, there is an exception for people in their last semester.

As well, going on exchange outside of Canada will not result in someone being ineligible to obtain a PGWP.

Open Spousal Work Permits

The spouse or common-law partner of a PGWP holder can obtain a work permit only if the PGWP holder is working in a skilled occupation as defined in National Occupational Classification 0, A or B of the National Occupational Classification website. To demonstrate this, the spouse or common-law partner should show the following.

  • a letter from their current employer confirming employment or a copy of their employment offer or contract; and
  • a copy of 3 of their pay stubs.

Refusal Rates

One of the more surprising things about the PGWP is its rather high refusal rate.  Indeed, during the first six months of 2016, the PGWP refusal rate exceeded 20% in every month except May, and in both June and March the refusal rate was 40% or more.

Although a breakdown of the reasons for refusal of PGWP applications has not been published, it is likely because international graduates either:

  • attended a private school whose graduates are not eligible to receive PGWPs (which, contrary to the opinion of some private institutions) is mot of them;
  • their application was returned for being incomplete and when they tried to apply again their study permit had expired; or
  • a visa officer determined that they did not meet the full-time studies requirement.

In order to avoid such rejections, it is important that students:

  • research their prospective educational institution so that they know whether it qualifies;
  • ensure that their PGWP application is complete and that it includes the correct fee amount; and
  • if there is any question about whether their studies were full-time, to make sure that it is explained in their application.

As with all applications, the onus is on the applicant to make sure that they have shown that they meet the requirements of the PGWP.  If something is unclear, the visa officer is not under any obligation to seek clarification, but can refuse the application. For this reason, it is imperative that international graduates ensure that their application is complete and satisfactory.