On December 7, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced significant updates to Canada’s program for international students.
One significant revelation was IRCC’s decision against granting additional extensions to Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) holders.
In response to COVID-19-induced labor market disruptions and subsequent recovery phases, IRCC had previously extended PGWP work permits thrice. These extensions provided essential continuity for PGWP holders, enabling them to persist in their Canadian employment amid IRCC’s processing delays and the temporary halt of Express Entry draws.
The extension measure was iterated three times, with the latest update occurring on April 6, catering to PGWP holders whose permits are due to expire on or before December 31, 2023. This extension grants an unrestricted 18-month open work permit.
IRCC emphasizes that PGWP holders with permits expiring on or before December 31 remain eligible for this extension.
Post-graduation work Permits (PGWPs) allow international students to continue residing in Canada and pursue employment following the completion of their academic programs.
Typically valid for a duration of up to three years, contingent on the duration of the candidate’s academic program, these permits, apart from special extensions, are non-renewable.
During 2022, 98,000 holders of Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWPs) successfully transitioned to permanent residency status, constituting nearly 82% of all temporary residents who attained permanent residency within that year.
Moreover, upon the release of 2022’s statistics, IRCC projected that by 2023, there would be approximately 268,000 PGWP holders present in Canada, with an estimated 127,000 permits set to expire during that year.
Impact of this on Express Entry candidates:
Express Entry remains a favored avenue for PGWP holders seeking permanent resident status in Canada. As their PGWP expiration nears, many individuals harbor concerns about the conclusion of extensions.
For candidates yet to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) and facing an impending PGWP expiry, there’s a looming risk of losing their eligibility to work in Canada. The recent unexplained hiatus in Express Entry draws, spanning from October 26 to December 6, has intensified pressure on some PGWP holders in the Express Entry pool. Without an ITA, they are unable to apply for permanent resident status or maintain their status while IRCC processes their applications.
Although IRCC conducted three draws between December 6 and December 8, two of these were category-specific selection draws targeting candidates proficient in French (1,000 ITAs) and those with work experience in STEM fields (5,900).
In the all-program draw on December 6, 4,750 candidates with a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score of 561 were invited—an elevated threshold compared to recent all-program draws, contributing to the evolving landscape for aspiring permanent residents.
Options to look out for if your PGWP is expiring
Express Entry candidates facing this predicament possess a few alternatives to remain in Canada while anticipating IRCC’s final decision on their application. Nevertheless, there’s a possibility that candidates may need to suspend their employment while waiting to secure an ITA and during the subsequent processing of their application by IRCC.
Apply for Visitors Record:
To remain in Canada beyond your PGWP expiration, applying for a visitor record at least 30 days before its expiry is an option. IRCC notes that a visitor record usually spans six months, although individual circumstances might lead to variations in the granted duration.
You can apply for another Visa:
While awaiting an Express Entry draw, candidates have the option to apply for a new work permit. Though it involves time and extra expenses, individuals seeking to sustain employment can explore alternative Open Work Permit options.
Another avenue is for candidates to inquire if their employer would pursue a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to secure a closed work permit. This would enable the permit holder to retain eligibility for ongoing employment in Canada, albeit exclusive to the current employer.
Bridging open work permit:
If you’ve submitted your application for permanent residence and are awaiting IRCC’s final decision, you might qualify for a Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP).
BOWPs permit PR candidates to sustain employment in Canada during the waiting period for IRCC’s final decision. Eligibility extends to applicants through economic immigration pathways like Express Entry, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), Quebec Skilled Workers, or the Agri-Food Pilot Program.
Navigating the transition from a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) to permanent residency in Canada presents challenges, especially with the cessation of extensions and uncertainties in Express Entry draws. However, alternatives like visitor records, different work permit types, and Bridging Open Work Permits (BOWPs) offer avenues for candidates to continue their stay and employment while awaiting IRCC decisions. Exploring these options provides valuable strategies for maintaining status and livelihoods during this transitional phase for aspiring permanent residents.