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Are you an international student finishing up your studies at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI – an approved post-secondary university, college, or institute) in Canada? Would you like the possibility of getting some return on the considerable investment you or your family have made in your Canadian post-secondary education? And take concrete steps towards permanent resident status in Canada?

Once you have a post-graduate work permit and are able to work (from 8 months to up to 3 years) in Canada after graduating you will be eligible for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) stream in Express Entry (after one year of skilled work). Here you can then apply for permanent resident status. Sound like an interesting path to PR status?

Then it’s time then to consider a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP).

 

What is a PGWP?

A post-graduate work permit is an open work permit that allows an international student to work for a legitimate Canadian employer once you have successfully finished your post-secondary degree, diploma, or certificate and have received your final grades from your DLI. (An "open" work permit is a work permit without a job offer.) A post-graduate work permit is generally valid for a period of 8 months to up to 3 years, depending on how long your post-secondary program was. Here is a table giving general guidelines on the length of your post-graduate work permit depending on the length of the academic program you completed.

Length of Academic Program Length of PGWP
Less than 8 months Ineligible for PGWP
From 8 months to less than 2 years Valid for same length as studies
2 years or more Up to 3 years
Completed more than 1 program where each program was at least 8 months and PGWP-eligible Combined length of the 2 or more academic programs

There are several benefits to having a PGWP:

  • Any job you take under a PGWP is exempt from LMIAs (Labour Market Impact Assessments). This makes it easier for your employer to hire you.
  • You can work:
    • Full-time
    • Part-time
    • Be self-employed.
  • If you apply for a PGWP while your study permit is still valid, you can work full-time without a work permit while waiting for your PGWP application to be processed. Once a decision is reached by IRCC you will either:
    • Be approved and receive your PGWP and continue working, OR
    • Be rejected for a PGWP in which case you will have to stop working immediately.
  • Your spouse or common-law partner may be eligible to apply for an open  under what is called the C41 exemption for spouses and common-law partners of skilled workers.
  • You can apply from within Canada or from outside Canada. (See below.)

 

Eligibility for a PGWP

The following conditions must apply for you to be eligible for a PGWP:

  • You must have a valid passport with an expiry date on or later than the expiry date on your PGWP. If your passport expires before your PGWP does, then:
    • You will be issued a PGWP that expires on the date your passport expires, and
    • You will be advised to extend/renew your passport so that its expiry date is on or after the expiry date of your PGWP. 
  • You must either have valid legal status or have left Canada and be applying from abroad:
    • You must apply within 180 days of the date your Designated Learning Institution (the school you studied at) issues your final grades.
    • To avoid having your study permit expire while waiting for your PGWP application to be processed or while waiting for your final grades, you must have applied for what is called a visitor record (go here) in order to extend your stay in Canada, before your study permit expires. If not, you may be able to apply for restoration of status, which you must do within 90 days of the expiry of your study permit. Go here for more information on restoration of status.
    • If you do not apply to change your status (from study permit to visitor) nor to restore your status, then you will have to leave Canada in order to apply for your PGWP.
  • You cannot have previously been awarded a PGWP. In other words, you are only eligible for 1 PGWP in your lifetime.
  • You must have completed a post-secondary program at an eligible educational institution in Canada (DLI) that is at least 8 months in duration and that leads to a degree, diploma, or certificate:
    • You must also make sure the program of study you are graduating from is eligible for a PGWP. Go here and scroll down to the bottom of the page, enter the province or territory in which your DLI is located and then scroll through the list of DLIs and make sure that the last column Offers PGWP-eligible programs, says Yes. Make sure as well that your program of study is a PGWP-eligible one.
  • No more than 50% of your program can have been completed by distance learning.
  • Your program of study can have an overseas component as long as the institute offering it is Canadian and the degree, diploma, or certificate is issued in Canada:
    • Only time spent studying in Canada will count towards the length of your PGWP.
  • If you transferred between 2 DLIs then the combined length of your program must be at least 8 months.
  • If you transferred from a non-DLI to a DLI, then only the time spent studying at the DLI will count towards your PGWP and must be at least 8 months in length.
  • Flight School graduates applying for a PGWP must meet ONE of the following additional requirements:
    • You must have completed a flight-training course at a DLI training centre and have been awarded a Canadian commercial pilot’s licence. OR
    • You must be in the process of getting or have an instructor’s rating AND have a job offer as a flight instructor from a DLI training centre.
  • You must have maintained full-time student status throughout your program of study with only 2 exceptions to this rule:
    • Leave from studies – for events like family issues etc. (Go here to learn more);
    • Final Academic session – here you can study part-time seeing that many final sessions involve finishing a thesis or project or completing coursework on a part-time basis. (Go here for more information.)
  • You have a transcript (a record of your grades in each course) and an official letter from your DLI (school you studied at) stating you have completed all the requirements for your program of study:
    • Make sure to include both in your application for a PGWP.
    • You may provide a transcript copy from your DLI’s official website instead of a paper transcript.
  • Within 180 days of applying for your post-graduate work permit, you must have met ONE of the following 3 conditions:
    • You hold a valid study permit;
    • You held a valid study permit in this period;
    • You were authorized to study in Canada without a study permit under the IRPR’s paragraph 188(1) (a) and (b) – generally for foreign nationals who are members of their country’s diplomatic services or military. Go here for more information.

You are ineligible (NOT eligible) if any of the following applies to you:

  • You have previously been issued a PGWP.
  • You have received funding from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) UNLESS you were awarded a Study in Canada Scholarship, in which case you are still eligible.
  • You participated in a Government of Canada Awards program funded by GAC.
  • You were the recipient of an Equal Opportunity Scholarship, Canada-Chile.
  • You were a participant in the Canada-China Scholars Exchange program.
  • You participated in the OAS Fellowship program.
  • More than 50% of your credits were done by distance learning.
  • Your program of study was done at a non-Canadian institution located in Canada.
  • Your program of study was English or French as a Second Language.

 

How to Apply for a PGWP

Most PGWP applications are done online. If you need to extend or change the conditions of your post-graduate work permit, you will have to apply on paper. Often the need for additional documents will require a change of conditions on your PGWP. Do not apply to extend your PGWP unless immigration authorities have told you that you need to.

Remember that the two main documents you will need are:

  • An official transcript from your DLI;
  • An official letter from your DLI stating that you have completed all the requirements of your program of study.

You will also likely be asked to give biometrics as well as most citizens of most countries are now required to give biometrics to Canadian immigration officials.

To start the application process, go here and scroll down to the bottom of the page where you will find a survey. Start to answer the questions to obtain your instructions.

To apply from inside Canada, you need:

  • A scanner or camera to create electronic copies of your documents;
  • A valid credit or debit card.

Go here to read the Application Guide (Guide 5580) it gives you instructions on how to complete each field in the online form.

When you start filling out the online form, your first step will be to use the online tool to answer a few personal questions to enable IRCC to create a personalized document checklist depending on your specifics.

Pay your fees online, including the open work permit holder fee and the work permit fee.

Before filling out the forms or paying the fees, you will need to create an online account. Go here to create one. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Register.

To submit a paper application inside Canada you must:

  • Have a disability that prevents you from applying online, OR
  • Have problems with your online application.

Go here for more and answer some questions about why you can’t apply online from inside Canada, and you will receive further instructions.

To apply from outside Canada you must first choose if you want to apply online or on paper.

To apply online from outside Canada:

  • A scanner or camera to create electronic copies of your documents
  • A valid credit or debit card.

Go here to read the Application Guide (Guide 5487) it gives you instructions on how to complete each field in the online form

When you start filling out the online form, your first step will be to use the online tool to answer a few personal questions to enable IRCC to create a personalized document checklist depending on your specifics.

Pay your fees online, including the open work permit holder fee and the work permit fee as well as the biometrics fee which in most cases you will need. You may also need the following:

  • Police certificate which you must pay for if needed
  • Medical exam which you must pay for if requested
  • Visa Application Centre services which you must also pay for.

Before filling out the forms or paying the fees, you will need to create an online account. Go here to create one. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Register.

To apply on paper from outside Canada:

  • Go here to read the instruction guide (guide 5487). Make sure you carefully follow the instructions as your processing fees will NOT be refundable if you make any mistakes.
  • Go here to download the application package.
  • Print and complete your application form and attach all required documents
  • Pay all required fees including:
    • Work permit holder fee
    • Work permit fee
    • Biometrics fee (unless not required).

You will have to pay your fees online even if you are filing a paper application. To pay online you will need:

  • A valid credit or debit card
  • A valid email address
  • Access to a computer with an online connection and a printer
  • Remember to print a copy of your receipt and attach it to your application form.

Submit the application to the address given in your application package.


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