International students now eligible for PGWP with online courses


International students starting their Canadian study program in the coming weeks will not be penalized for online coursework if they eventually apply for a Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).

The PGWP allows international students to work in Canada for up to three years. It is a way to get Canadian work experience, which is highly valued in economic class immigration programs that lead to permanent residence.

Canadian government research shows that those with Canadian experience prior to becoming permanent residents tend to integrate quickly into the labour market. As such, many of Canada’s more than 80 economic class immigration programs reward candidates who have Canadian experience with extra points, or are geared specifically for international students.

Under normal circumstances, international students must have continuously studied full time in Canada in a program that is at least eight months long in order to be eligible for this work permit. Studying online could render an applicant ineligible for a PGWP.

This temporary reform is yet another step taken by Canada to make its immigration policies more flexible and avoid disrupting the plans of immigration clients during a period in which it is seeking to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Given that many courses were forced to move online in accordance with coronavirus prevention measures, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is allowing international students enrolled in these courses to be eligible for a PGWP.

This also includes students who have a study permit, or who were approved for a program starting in May or June, but who are unable to travel to Canada amid travel restrictions.

International students in this predicament can begin their classes while outside Canada and may complete up to half of their program while abroad if they cannot travel to Canada sooner.

International students who were approved for a study permit after March 18 are currently not exempt from Canada’s travel ban, which is set to be in place until June 30.

IRCC’s temporary reform will be welcomed by the many international students who wish to eventually transition to permanent residence.

According to a survey by the Canadian Bureau for International Education, 60 per cent of Canada’s international students indicate this desire. Obtaining a PGWP is an important stepping stone for such students as it enables them to gain the Canadian experience they often need to become eligible for an economic class immigration program.

In 2018, one-quarter of the nearly 90,000 people who received an invitation to apply under Express Entry were former international students.