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International students graduating

Changes to post-graduation work permit open pathways for international students

Thursday, April 08, 2021 @ 8:27 AM | By Daniel Lee


Daniel Lee %>
Daniel Lee
Canada has consistently been ranked as one of the best countries to immigrate to. Most skilled workers immigrate to Canada under the economic class that uses the Express Entry case management system. Within that management system, candidates will receive a comprehensive ranking system score based on their skills, education, language ability, work experience and other factors. Candidates in the online Express Entry pool with the highest score would normally receive an invitation to apply for permanent residency.

The comprehensive ranking system score was designed to attract candidates with Canadian work experience and education from Canada. Accordingly, many foreign nationals would study in Canada to take advantage of the post-graduation work permit program. The post-graduation work permit program allows international students who have graduated from eligible designated learning institutions in Canada to obtain an open work permit to gain Canadian work experience. The Canadian work experience will help the international students to qualify for permanent residency through different programs, including the Canadian Experience Class via Express Entry. This article will highlight the temporary policy changes to the post-graduation work permit program to facilitate pathways for international students to immigrate to Canada during COVID-19.

Prior to the introduction of the temporary policy changes to the post-graduation work permit program, international students were required to meet the below eligibility requirements:

  1. The applicant must apply for a post-graduation work permit within 180 days of obtaining written confirmation, such as an official letter or transcript, from the designated learning institution that confirms the applicant has met the requirements for completing their program of study.
  2. The applicant must either be in Canada with a valid study permit or have restored their temporary resident status or have left Canada.
  3. The applicant graduated from an academic, vocational or professional training program at an eligible designated learning institution in Canada that is at least eight months in duration leading to a degree, diploma or certificate.
  4. The applicant has maintained full-time student status in Canada during each academic session of the program unless the applicant meets one of the exceptions. The common exceptions include being on academic leave from studies or not enrolling as a full-time student during the last semester of study.
  5. The applicant must complete the studies in Canada. This means if the applicant completed the program of study exclusively by distance learning (outside or within Canada), then they will not be eligible for a post-graduation work permit.

In March 2020, the government of Canada introduced travel restrictions in order to control the spread of COVID-19. International students were originally not exempt from the travel restrictions until recently. Currently, international students are allowed to travel to Canada. However, as of Feb. 22, 2021, all travellers, including international students, are required to stay at a government designated hotel for up to three days to wait for their COVID-19 test results. The cost of the three days’ mandatory hotel stopover is up to $2,000 and the traveller is responsible for the hotel cost. Many of the designated learning institutions in Canada are still delivering their courses online. There is a growing number of international students who choose to study remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic for different reasons, including to avoid the cost of the mandatory hotel stopover.

As noted from above, one of the requirements for the post-graduation work permit program is that the applicant must complete the studies in Canada. In order to maintain the $21.6-billion education industry, the government of Canada has introduced the below temporary policy changes to the post-graduation work permit program to encourage international students to enrol in programs offered by designated learning institutions in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Distance learning: The applicant who is enrolled in a post-graduation work permit eligible program in progress in March 2020 or who started a program of study between the spring 2020 and fall 2021 semester can now complete up to 100 per cent of their program online from outside Canada. This means time spent outside of Canada can be countered towards the overall length of the post-graduation work permit until Dec. 31, 2021. Accordingly, any time spent studying outside of Canada after Dec. 31, 2021, will be deducted from the length of the post-graduation work permit.
  2. Part-time status: The applicant who is enrolled in a post-graduation work-permit-eligible program may still be eligible for a post-graduation work permit if they were required to study part time due to course cancellations as a result of public health measures at the designated learning institutions during the winter, spring and summer 2020 semesters. This means for all other semesters the applicant is required to study full time in order to meet the requirements for the post-graduation work permit program.

Further, many international students study in Canada with the objective of immigrating to Canada as a permanent resident. The post-graduation work permit allows international students to gain the required one year of skilled work experience in order to meet the basic requirements to immigrate to Canada under the Canadian Experience Class. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic many international students were not able to gain the required Canadian work experience for the Canadian Experience Class. Under normal circumstances, the post-graduation work permit cannot be renewed. On Jan. 27, 2021, the government of Canada introduced a temporary public policy, which is valid until July 27, 2021, to allow eligible individuals who hold a valid post-graduation work permit that will expire within four months from the date of application or held a post-gradation work permit that expired on or after Jan. 20, 2020, to apply to renew their post-graduation work permit for up to 18 months.

Canada has a growing demand for new immigrants with Canadian work experience and education from Canada. The temporary policy changes to the post-graduation work permit program indicate that the government of Canada values the education industry. The temporary policy will assist international students to gain the necessary work experience in Canada in order to immigrate to Canada as a permanent resident under the economic class through the Canadian Experience Class via Express Entry.

Daniel Lee is a corporate immigration lawyer at Fasken. His practice focuses on corporate immigration law and employer immigration compliance. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee advises his clients on the frequent changes in immigration laws, including the Quarantine Act and travel exemptions.

Photo credit / michaeljung ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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