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After graduating from a designated learning institution (DLI), international students frequently use post-graduation work permits (PGWPs) to gain Canadian work experience.

For one thing, it can assist international students become eligible for more permanent residence programs, which is just one of the numerous reasons this work experience can be beneficial.

PGWPs have gained attention recently in Canadian immigration news because of adjustments that are being considered for permit eligibility. It has recently come to light that immigration officials in Canada, both federal and local (provincial/territorial), are thinking of changing the eligibility requirements for PGWPs in order to “[align the] issuance of PGWPs to labour market needs.” No formal announcements of changes have been made, though.

It is important for international students to understand that PGWPs are never guaranteed to them after graduation. This means that just because an international student has completed a qualifying program at a Canadian DLI, it does not automatically qualify them for a PGWP from IRCC. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) may actually reject a candidate’s PGWP application for a variety of reasons.

Failure to meet eligibility criteria

Obtaining a PGWP requires applicants to meet a strict set of eligibility criteria.

Among those criteria are conditions such as:

  • The international graduate must have completed a PGWP-eligible program of at least eight months in length at a Canadian DLI
  • The international graduate must have always studied full-time outside of their final semester
  • The international graduate must have completed a program of study that leads to a degree, diploma or certificat
  • The international student must have graduated from an eligible post-secondary institution
    • Graduates of a Quebec-based vocational or training program must meet additional IRCC-established PGWP criteria to be eligible (depending on the type of credential issued)

Failure to adhere to IRCC’s eligibility criteria will result in the refusal of an international graduate’s PGWP application.

Missing required documents

IRCC does not require international graduates to wait until they have their educational credential to apply for a PGWP.

However, IRCC does mandate the submission of one of the following three documents as part of every PGWP application:

  • An official letter from the student’s DLI confirming they completed their program of study
  • An official transcript from the student’s DLI
  • A copy of the student’s transcript from their DLI’s website

Therefore, international graduates who do not include any of the above documents with their application may receive a refusal from IRCC.

Unexplained study gap

At times, there are reasons that students need to take a break from their studies. For example, this may happen due to a family emergency or other uncontrollable factor.

For this reason, IRCC provides students with ways to formally pursue a leave of absence from their studies. However, should students not pursue an authorized leave of absence or have another way to formally explain any gaps in their studies may see their PGWP application refused.

Late application submission

IRCC provides international graduates with 180 days to apply for a PGWP (from the day their DLI issues final grades to students). Those who do not submit their application during this period will have their permit application refused by IRCC.

Failure to maintain legal status in Canada

Further to the above, IRCC notes that eligibility for a PGWP requires students to ensure that their study permit is “valid at some point during” the 180 days IRCC gives them to apply for a permit.

This means that students must make sure their study permit does not expire and they maintain legal status in Canada while they apply for a PGWP.

Note: Students may also have their PGWP application refused if they violate their student visa conditions or remain in Canada beyond their authorized stay.

IRCC clarifies that study permits expire on the earlier of the following dates:

  • The day marked on a student’s permit
  • 90 days after a student completes their studies

If a student’s study permit expires before they apply for a PGWP, they can either restore their status as a student and apply for a PGWP accordingly or leave the country and apply for a PGWP from outside Canada.

Meanwhile, if a student’s study permit expires after they apply for a PGWP but before a decision is made, IRCC says they can remain in Canada as a temporary resident and continue working if they were also “already able to work off-campus during their studies.”

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