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International Students Affected by the Pandemic Can Now Apply for Open Work Permit

A new policy was announced by the Government of Canada for International students with expired or expiring PGWP. Students unable to gain the required work experience due to COVID will be allowed to stay in Canada by applying for an open work permit.


Another group to be deeply affected by the ongoing pandemic?

International students.

Recognizing that COVID may have impacted an international student’s ability to gain the work experience they need in order to apply for immigration to Canada, the government introduced a new policy on January 8 2021.

The policy essentially allows a former international student to apply for a new open work permit if their Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) is expiring or has already expired. Many international students lost their jobs or had their work hours decreased due to the pandemic.

This policy ensures the affected students have the time they need to gain the required work experience. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) estimates this policy could be beneficial to approximately 52,000 recent graduates. 

The policy states the new open work permit will be valid for 18 months and during this time, graduates will be able to remain in Canada while they look for work.

The open work permit also gives former students the freedom to accept a job offer from any employer, instead of being tied down to one foreign worker like a closed work permit.

The requirements which need to be met for the new open work permit are simple:

  • The student needs to be in Canada;
  • They must have a valid temporary status or must be in the process of restoring it;
  • Their PGWP must have expired on or after January 30 2020 or it must expire in 4 months or less from the date they applied.

Interested or affected students will have from January 27 2021 to July 27 2021 to submit their application.

Osaka, Japan
courtesy of Note Thanun

Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP):

The PGWP is designed for international students who completed their post-secondary education from a Canadian institution. Students who are interested in gaining work experience in Canada or who wish to settle permanently in Canada can apply to this program as a way of fast tracking their permanent residency.

Students who apply for a work permit are permitted to work in Canada after completing their studies for three years. This is a win-win situation for both the graduate and the government.

The graduate gains work experience in a country like Canada. This can help their career development back home or it can qualify them for immigration programs and streams like, Express Entry, Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), Quebec Skilled Worker Program, which requires the applicant to demonstrate Canadian work experience.

And the Canadian government gets to retain skilled workers and acquire new immigrants where declining population is a cause for concern.  

International Students and the Canadian Economy:

International students play a rather significant role in Canada’s economy. According to a report by the Royal Bank of Canada published in June of last summer, the pandemic has resulted in a 45% drop in international student permits when compared to March 2019.

This could result in a $6 billion annual loss for post-secondary institutions and has a ripple effect which trickles down to the rest of the Canadian economy. When rent, food, shopping and miscellaneous spending is taken into account, Canada is looking at a $22 billion deficit annually.

Aside from the immediate financial impact, losing international students means losing potential newcomers. In 2019, more than 58,000 graduates were successful in their bid to become permanent residents. It is these newcomers who will help to address the demographic challenges faced by Canada.

One of the reasons why immigration is so important to Canada is it’s declining population. A study done by Statistics Canada found that fertility rates in Canada are declining and births amount to less than one-third of the population, therefore permanent residents and immigrants are vital to Canada’s growth and prosperity which cannot be sustained unless there is a steady stream of immigrants coming in to fill the gaps in the labor force.

The new PGWP policy was announced in recognition of this. Minister Marco Mendicino acknowledged and addressed the important role international students’ play in Canada’s economic growth by stating, students

…bring strong employment and language skills….as we confront the pandemic’s second wave…attracting skilled immigrants is a central part of our plan…contributing in ways large and small to our short-term recovery and long-term prosperity.

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