As of December 7, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has delivered updates impacting Canada’s international student program, specifically concerning Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) holders. Notably, IRCC has clarified that it will not extend PGWPs further, ending a series of extensions offered during the post-pandemic recovery period.
These extensions, introduced in response to COVID-19-induced labor market disruptions, allowed PGWP holders to maintain their work status in Canada amid processing delays and temporary pauses in Express Entry draws. The final extension, granted on April 6, provided an open work permit valid for 18 months, catering to PGWP holders set to expire on or before December 31, 2023.
Despite the cessation of extensions, IRCC emphasizes that PGWP holders facing expiration on or before December 31 remain eligible for the extension, underscoring the importance of this measure for impacted individuals.
PGWPs play a crucial role in enabling international students to stay and work in Canada post-graduation. The permit’s validity, up to three years, is contingent on the duration of the academic program, with limited renewal options outside of special extensions.
In 2022, 98,000 PGWP holders transitioned to permanent residency, constituting nearly 82% of all temporary residents who achieved permanent resident status that year. IRCC estimates that in 2023, Canada will host 268,000 PGWP holders, with 127,000 permits set to expire.
Impact on Express Entry Candidates
Express Entry stands out as a popular avenue for PGWP holders aspiring to attain permanent resident status in Canada. However, the conclusion of extensions raises concerns for those with expiring PGWPs, potentially jeopardizing their eligibility to work in Canada while awaiting an Invitation to Apply (ITA).
The recent hiatus in Express Entry draws, lasting from October 26 to December 6, adds pressure to PGWP holders in the Express Entry pool. Without an ITA, they cannot proceed with permanent resident status applications or maintain status during IRCC’s processing.
While IRCC did resume draws between December 6 and December 8, including category-based selections, concerns linger for PGWP holders awaiting ITAs, particularly given the higher Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score of 561 in the all-program draw on December 6.
Options for PGWP Expiry in Express Entry
For Express Entry candidates facing PGWP expiration, several options can be explored to stay in Canada while awaiting final decisions from IRCC. However, these alternatives may necessitate a temporary halt to employment during the waiting period.
- Apply for a visitor record at least 30 days before PGWP expiry.
- Typically valid for six months, but case-specific variations may occur.
Apply for Another Work Permit
- Explore options for a different Open Work Permit.
- Consider obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) for a closed work permit through employer collaboration.
Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP)
- If a permanent residence application is submitted but a final decision is pending, eligible candidates can apply for a BOWP.
- Applicable to those in economic immigration programs like Express Entry, Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), Quebec Skilled Workers, or the Agri-Food Pilot Program.
As PGWP holders in Express Entry navigate this transition, weighing these options becomes crucial. While uncertainties persist, proactive measures can ensure a smoother continuation of the immigration journey. Staying informed about evolving immigration dynamics and exploring alternative pathways are essential strategies for individuals facing PGWP expiration in the Express Entry system. As the landscape evolves, adapting to these changes will remain pivotal for a successful immigration experience.