New PGWP Rule’s Real Message—Canada’s Obsessed with Retaining International Students as Immigrants

Our message to international students and graduates is simple: we don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here.

Will Canada lose its popularity among foreign skilled workers and students now that the US no longer has an anti-immigrant President?

The answer lies in how the two countries have tried to help immigrants and foreign students cope with the impact of the pandemic. The new US President has announced a few changes but there have been no new policies specific to the pandemic.

Canada, on the other hand, kept its immigration system running through the pandemic. Provinces have introduced new programs to cope with labor shortage in key occupations. And now, Canada has allowed more than 50,000 international graduates to apply for an open work permit and live and work in the country for an additional 18 months.

About the PGWP

The PGWP is a LMIA-exempt open work permit that allows the international graduate to live, search for jobs, and work in Canada for a period between eight months and three years after graduation.

It is similar to the US Optional Practical Training with these important differences.

  • It is open to all eligible study programs and not just STEM courses.
  • Duration of the permit depends on the duration of your course. Anybody studying for two years or more in Canada automatically qualifies for a three-year PGWP.
  • A job offer is not mandatory to qualify for the PGWP. You can use this permit to search for jobs.
  • No assessment similar to LCA in the US/LMIA in Canada is required. This is a big plus for employers.

The New PGWP Rule

This new rule targets PGWP holders impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and allows them to apply for an open work permit and stay an additional 18 months in Canada.

The eligibility requirements of this rule are:

  • You were or are a PGWP holder and the expiry of your permit falls between January 30, 2020 and November 27, 2021. You are not eligible if your permit expired on January 29, 2020 or if it will expire on November 28, 2021.
  • You are still in Canada.
  • You have valid temporary status or are applying to restore the status.

This public policy covers two types of PGWP holders.

  1. Those who had a PGWP and it expired after January 30, 2020 after which they got a work permit to live and work in Canada, or
  2. Those who have a PGWP and it shall expire within four months of the date of application under this rule. Since the last date of application under this rule is July 27, 2021, this means those holding a PGWP that will expire on or before November 27, 2021 can apply.

If you are eligible, then you can apply for an 18-month open work permit. This is a LMIA-exempt permit that allows you to work for any eligible employer.

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Rationale of the Rule

The goal of this rule is to give international graduates another opportunity to complete the Canadian work experience requirement.

Normally, any talented international graduate would fulfill this requirement easily and would then be in a position to apply through Express Entry for permanent residence.

New graduates have found it very tough to find or retain their Canadian jobs due to the pandemic. One year of work experience is a mandatory requirement under the Federal Skilled Worker program.

Now, those with a PGWP in hand as well as those whose PGWP expired during the pandemic crisis can live in Canada with an open work permit for 18 months to try and get employment in the country.

Impact of the New Rule

This is a temporary rule but it still underlines how serious Canada is about immigration. No other nation has made this attempt to give international graduates an opportunity to find a job and settle in the country.

The open work permit has no LMIA requirement, which employers won’t have to fulfill any additional hiring or advertising compliances to hire these PGWP holders.

The difference between US and Canada is best summed up by the Canadian Immigration Minister’s quote—”we don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here.”

Canada sees every foreign student as a potential permanent resident. So, if you plan to study and have a career abroad, the smartest thing to do would be to choose Canada over all other study destinations across the world.  

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