April 12, 2021

2021 Update for International Students & Recent Graduates

International students have long been a focus of immigration programs in Canada, as they generate more than $21 billion in economic activities, and make immense contributions to Canada both culturally and socially. Upon graduating from a Canadian post-secondary institution, many international students become ideal candidates for Canadian permanent residence as they often speak one of Canada’s official languages and possess in-demand labour skills.

To facilitate international students’ transition to permanent resident status, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) offers a Post-Graduation Work Permit Program designed to provide recent graduates from Designated Learning Institutions, the opportunity to look for and secure employment in Canada. As many of Canada’s permanent residence programs place a high value on both Canadian post-secondary education credentials, and Canadian work experience, the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program is crucial in transitioning international students from temporary to permanent resident status and retaining global talent in Canada.

Typically, international students can only participate in the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program once, and these permits cannot be renewed or extended. The work permits are also issued for a fixed duration, determined by the length of the international student’s post-secondary program, and more specifically, by the in-person classes taken while physically present in Canada. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it has become increasingly difficult over the past year for international students to meet the specific requirements of the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program, as international travel is discouraged, and the majority of courses have transitioned from in-person to online. Furthermore, it has become increasingly difficult for recent graduates to secure employment at this time because of the negative impact the pandemic has had on the global economy. The status of the economy combined with the fixed duration of the Post-Graduation Work Permit has made it even more challenging for recent graduates to acquire enough Canadian work experience to successfully transition from temporary to permanent resident status.

In light of the unique challenges international students and recent graduates face due to the pandemic, IRCC has announced many changes to the study permit application process and the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program. Study permit applicants who are unable to submit complete applications should now be given additional time to provide missing items, as long as an explanation letter is provided with the application.  IRCC has also announced that all students who were enrolled in a Post-Graduation Work Permit eligible study program in March 2020, or who started an eligible program from spring 2020 to fall 2021, can now complete up to 100% of their program from outside of Canada. This time spent studying outside of Canada can be counted toward the overall validity of the Post-Graduation Work Permit until December 31, 2021.

IRCC will also be making a one-time exemption to the Post Graduation Work Permit Program’s one participation rule, to allow recent graduates additional time to obtain crucial Canadian work experience. Until July 21, 2021, IRCC is accepting applications for Post-Graduation Work Permits from applicants who held a Post-Graduation Work Permit that expired on or after January 30, 2020, or who hold a Post-Graduation Work Permit that is due to expire in 4 months or less from the date of the new application. In order to be eligible for this second participation, applicants must have been physically present in Canada when the policy took effect on January 27, 2021, remained physically present in Canada, and either have valid temporary resident status, or be applying to restore their status.  Work permits issued under this policy will have a maximum duration of 18 months from the date of approval. This temporary policy has been put in place to allow recent graduates additional time to acquire the Canadian work experience that is often required to successfully transition to permanent resident status.

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