Author: Al Parsai, LL.M, RCIC-IRB
Last Updated On: June 24, 2024

Post-graduation work permit (PGWP) in 2024 – IMP C43

PGWP in 2024

Aravinda, a determined 23-year-old from Sri Lanka, recently celebrated his graduation from the University of Manitoba. Holding his degree, he sets his sights on the next big goal: remaining in Canada to gain valuable work experience. He knows about the Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) but wonders if he meets the criteria. Canada offers this opportunity to graduates from specific programs, and Aravinda is eager to find out if his studies qualify. Of course, this curiosity marks the beginning of his journey into understanding Canadian immigration policies. With aspirations to build a career in a nation known for its inclusivity and opportunities, Aravinda is ready to tackle the challenge head-on, seeking to transform his educational achievements into a stepping stone for his future.

What is a PGWP?

The Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) bridges international students transitioning from education to employment in Canada. Essentially, it allows them to work for any employer across the country. This flexibility opens doors to gaining Canadian work experience, a crucial step for those aiming to secure permanent residency. Notably, the duration of the PGWP can vary, extending up to three years, depending on the length of the study program completed. Consequently, students can leverage this time to explore diverse career paths and integrate more deeply into Canadian society. Furthermore, the experience gained during this period significantly enhances their applications for permanent residency, paving the way for a future in Canada.

A few preliminary notes for post-graduate work permits in 2024

Please consider the following before moving forward. However, I have a lot more to share. Therefore, make sure to read the whole article.

  • PGWP is an open work permit. Therefore, you may work for any employer. However, it won’t allow you to work in healthcare or at educational facilities that deal with minors. Consequently, you must do an upfront medical examination to overcome this hurdle.
  • IRCC issues three-year PGWPs for most Master’s programs, even under two years. Therefore, the best educational option is completing the Master’s degree in Canada. However, the duration of your program must be at least eight months (or 900 hours in Quebec).
  • PGWP is a one-time opportunity. Consequently, in most scenarios, you need to apply only after finishing your highest level of education in Canada. Of course, you may book a consultation to explore your options.
  • For practitioners: PGWP falls under LMIA exemption code C43. Moreover, this code is under R205(c)(ii) or competitiveness and public policy exemption codes.

The 180-day rule for the application

Suppose you are an international student with a study permit and have completed a program at a designated learning institution (DLI) that qualifies you for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). In that case, you can apply for an open work permit. This application falls under the administrative code C43, specifically for the PGWP category. Nonetheless, make sure to check the eligibility of your school or program on the official IRCC website. Here is a screenshot.

You have a 180-day window to submit your PGWP application after receiving written proof, like an official completion letter or transcript from your DLI, confirming you’ve finished your study program. This 180-day countdown starts from the earlier of two dates: the day your final grades are issued or the day you get formal written notice of your program completion.

When applying, you must include proof of the date you received your completion letter or transcript. Immigration officers might verify this date with your DLI to ensure everything is in order. This process is designed to be straightforward, guiding former students through their transition from education to working in Canada.

NOTE: The 180 rule does not extend your stay in Canada. Therefore, if you intend to apply for PGWP from inside Canada, you must apply before the expiry of your study permit. Book a consultation to explore your options if you have lost your status.

Eligibility requirements for PGWP

To qualify for a PGWP, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • No Previous PGWP: They should not have previously received an open work permit under the PGWP category.
  • Study Authorization Expired Recently: Their authorization to study in Canada must have expired within 180 days before applying for the PGWP. This includes:
  • Graduated from an Eligible DLI and Program: They must have completed a program at a designated learning institution (DLI) that qualifies for a PGWP. Programs offered through a curriculum licensing agreement with a PGWP-eligible institution do not qualify unless specific exceptions apply.
  • Completed a Qualifying Program: They need to have finished an academic, vocational, or professional training program in Canada lasting at least eight months, which led to a degree, diploma, or certificate.
  • Maintained Full-time Status: Applicants must have been full-time students in Canada during each academic session of their program(s), except for:
    • Leaves of absence.
    • The final academic semester.
    • Special measures will occur from March 1, 2020, to August 31, 2024.
  • Received Confirmation of Program Completion: They must obtain a transcript or an official letter from their DLI confirming they have met the requirements to complete their program of study.
  • Applied Within 180 Days After Program Completion: The application for a PGWP must be submitted within 180 days of receiving confirmation of program completion.

Following these guidelines ensures applicants are on the right track to securing a PGWP, opening the door to valuable work experience in Canada.

Ineligibility for PGWP

Certain conditions make applicants ineligible for a PGWP. It’s crucial to understand these to avoid unsuccessful applications:

  • Previous PGWP Holders: You cannot receive another if you’ve already been issued a PGWP.
  • Distance Learning: Those who completed more than 50% of their program’s credits through distance learning are not eligible. However, from March 1, 2020, to August 31, 2024, there were special measures regarding distance learning.
  • Specific Programs of Study: Ineligibility also applies to those who completed:
    • English or French as a second language (ESL/FSL) courses or programs.
    • Courses or programs for general interest or self-improvement.
    • Programs at private career colleges, including those under a curriculum licensing agreement with a public institution. However, certain exceptions apply.
  • International Scholarship Participants: If you participated in international scholarships funded by Global Affairs Canada, such as the Canada-China Scholars’ Exchange Program or the Organization of American States Academic Scholarship Program, you’re generally ineligible, except for Study in Canada Scholarship recipients.
  • Non-Canadian Institutions in Canada: Completing a program offered by a non-Canadian institution in Canada disqualifies you, regardless of your time in Canada.
  • Non-Eligible DLIs: Completing a program at a DLI that does not qualify for PGWP eligibility makes you ineligible. This includes programs offered through curriculum licensing agreements with PGWP-eligible institutions. Nonetheless, specific exceptions are met.

Understanding these rules helps clarify who cannot apply for a PGWP, ensuring that applicants meet all necessary criteria before submitting their application.

Documentary evidence for PGWP applications

Clear documentary evidence is crucial when applying for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). Obviously, officers need this evidence to verify that applicants meet all eligibility criteria. Here’s what you need to include:

  • Proof of Program Completion: This is usually an official letter from the DLI confirming you have completed your program of study. Of course, this document should clearly state the completion of your program.
  • Evidence of Full-time Enrollment: You must show that you were enrolled full-time in a program that lasted eight months or more. This evidence typically comes in the form of:
    • An official transcript from your DLI.
    • A copy of your transcript from the DLI’s website.
  • Confirmation of No Previous PGWP: You should be verified that you have not previously been issued a work permit under the administrative code C43. This is usually confirmed through a search of the department’s processing system. Therefore, you may not have a document supporting this claim.

The transcript or the completion letter alone may suffice if it includes all the necessary information. For instance, a transcript might be unnecessary if the completion letter details the program and confirms full-time attendance and completion. However, if the provided evidence lacks any critical information, officers may request additional documents or proceed to make a decision based on the available evidence.

Ensuring you have these documents ready and accurately reflecting your study and program completion status is key to a smooth PGWP application process.

Where to apply

Almost everyone may apply for a PGWP while they are outside Canada. However, they must meet the eligibility requirements of this program. Some applicants may also apply while they are inside Canada. I have explained this option below.

Note: Applicants can submit an outside Canada application even while they are physically in the country. However, they must keep their visitor status until they get their work permit. But they can’t work while waiting for their PGWP application decision. Also, they must leave, re-enter Canada for an examination, and receive any work permit approved in principle.

How to apply for a PGWP from inside Canada

Applying for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) from inside Canada is straightforward if you follow a few key steps and meet specific conditions. [practitioners see R199].

First, ensure your study permit is still valid. Study permits typically extend 90 days beyond your program’s end date, giving you 180 days to apply for a PGWP. However, if the expiry date of the study permit is sooner, you lose your study permit.

You can apply from within Canada if your study permit is valid. If you apply while your study permit is still active, you might be allowed to work without a permit until a decision is made on your work permit application, according to paragraph R186(w). However, you may not leave Canada or lose your work permission.

Note to practitioners: If your client applies to extend their study permit under section R189, section R199 won’t apply. They must wait for their new study permit before being eligible under R199.

If Your Study Permit Expires: If your study permit expires before you apply for a PGWP, you may not qualify to apply from within Canada due to the requirements of section R199. If you’ve maintained your status as a visitor, you’ll need to apply for your PGWP outside Canada.

However, there’s an exception if you’re eligible for status restoration under section R182. In this case, you can apply to restore your status as a student. Once your study permit is restored, you can apply for a work permit, meeting the R199 requirement for in-Canada applications.

Applying for a post-graduate work permit at a port of entry (not available anymore)

Important: As of June 21, 2024, foreign nationals seeking a post-graduation work permit can no longer apply at a port of entry.

Curriculum licensing agreements and PGWP eligibility

Curriculum licensing agreements provide a pathway for students to graduate from programs delivered by private career colleges on behalf of public PGWP-eligible institutions. However, these programs qualify for a PGWP only under specific exceptions:

Exception 1: Cross-Jurisdictional Programs

  • Eligibility Timeline: Students enrolled in programs at private colleges, delivered on behalf of public colleges in another province or territory before January 31, 2023, may qualify for a PGWP.
  • Cut-off Date: Enrollment in these programs after February 1, 2023, does not qualify for PGWP eligibility.
  • Application Deadline: Those who completed their program and applied for a PGWP by January 31, 2023, remain eligible.
  • Continuous Eligibility: Applicants must meet all other PGWP criteria to qualify.

Example: A student starting a cross-jurisdictional program on September 1, 2022, and finishing in May 2024 would be eligible for a PGWP, assuming they meet all other criteria.

Exception 2: Within the Same Province

  • Eligibility Timeline: Students who started their program at a private college, delivered on behalf of a public college within the same province before September 1, 2024, may be eligible for a PGWP.
  • Continuous Eligibility: To qualify, these students must also fulfill all other PGWP eligibility requirements.

Example: A student who began their studies under a curriculum licensing agreement on August 31, 2024, may qualify for a PGWP, provided they meet the remaining criteria.

No Exceptions Post-Deadline: Students starting curriculum licensing agreement programs on or after September 1, 2024, will not be eligible for a PGWP.

These exceptions highlight the nuanced eligibility criteria for students under curriculum licensing agreements, emphasizing the importance of meeting all necessary conditions for PGWP qualification.

Special measures for PGWP eligibility (March 1, 2020 – August 31, 2024)

The Canadian government implemented special measures to support students affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions. These measures span from March 1, 2020, to August 31, 2024, and are divided into two critical periods.

March 1, 2020 – August 31, 2022: Waiver of Full-time Status Requirement

For students during this timeframe, the obligation to maintain full-time student status in Canada was lifted under certain conditions:

  • Possession of a valid study permit, approval for a study permit, or submission of a study permit application that was later approved before beginning their online program.
  • Enrollment in, commencement of, or completion of a PGWP-eligible program between March 1, 2020, and August 31, 2022.
  • Submission of a PGWP application within 180 days following program completion.

September 1, 2022 – August 31, 2024: Reduced Facilitation Measures

Following the end of travel restrictions on September 1, 2022, IRCC made adjustments to the special measures:

  • Requirement for a valid study permit, approval for a study permit with pending arrival in Canada, or submission and approval of a study permit application before August 31, 2024.
  • Initiation or commencement of a PGWP-eligible program between September 1, 2022, and August 31, 2024.
  • It was necessary to complete at least 50% of their program in Canada.

Time spent studying outside Canada is considered towards the PGWP if it constitutes less than 50% of the program. The study permit application must have been submitted before any portion of the program was completed abroad.

For example, suppose a program requires at least eight months to complete. In that case, any study period shorter than four months outside Canada after receiving the study permit application will still render a student eligible for a PGWP.

Students who graduate while outside Canada under the reduced facilitation measures:

  • They must either have a current study permit or have had one within 180 days before their PGWP application.
  • They are permitted to complete up to 100% of their program online from outside Canada and apply for a PGWP within 180 days of receiving a completion notification from their DLI.

The mandate to have authorization to study in the 180 days leading up to the PGWP application is annulled for these graduates, provided they apply for and receive approval for a study permit before completing their studies and applying for the PGWP.

Part-time status adjustments

Students might have had to pause their studies or switch to part-time status in Canada or abroad due to course cancellations. These cancellations were often due to public health measures at Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs). Specifically, for the winter, spring, and summer semesters of 2020 — from January 1, 2020, to August 31, 2020 — a change from full-time to part-time status won’t affect a student’s eligibility for PGWP. Of course, IRCC made this adjustment to accommodate the unique challenges presented by the pandemic.

Assessing PGWP applications

When reviewing Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) applications, officers consider several vital factors to determine eligibility. The following sections briefly explain these factors. However, it is best to consult a professional regarding these issues.

No previous PGWP

Firstly, officers verify that the applicant has not previously received a PGWP. This check is done through an integrated search.

Authorization to study

Next, officers confirm that the applicant has authorization to study in Canada in the 180 days preceding their application. Of course, this process involves reviewing the applicant’s study permit status and any supporting documents provided.

Full-time studies

Officers assess whether the applicant was enrolled in full-time studies for the duration of their program, generally defined by the DLI as 3 to 5 classes per semester. Exceptions include part-time status during the final academic session or authorized leaves.

In-person studies in Canada

It’s crucial that the majority of the applicant’s studies were in person within Canada. Exceptions apply for distance learning under special measures from March 1, 2020, to August 31, 2022, allowing up to 100% of studies to be completed online due to COVID-19.

Eligible program and DLI

The program must be at least eight months long and completed at a PGWP-eligible DLI. Officers verify this through documentation provided by the applicant, such as transcripts or a letter of completion.

Distance learning considerations

For distance learning programs, if over 50% of the courses were online, the applicant might be ineligible for a PGWP unless special measures apply.

Leave from studies

Applicants who took authorized leave from their studies and provided documentation from their DLI may still be eligible for a PGWP, provided they continued to meet the conditions of their study permit.

Part-time status in the final academic session

Applicants maintaining full-time status until their final academic session, where they might have been part-time, are still considered for a PGWP.

Transfers between educational institutions

If a student transfers between eligible DLIs, the combined length of study must meet the 8-month minimum. Transfers from ineligible institutions are considered only for the time spent at the eligible DLI.

Programs with an overseas component

Programs, including overseas components, qualify for a PGWP as long as the educational credential is from an eligible Canadian DLI, with the PGWP length based on the time studied in Canada.

DLIs losing designation

Applicants from DLIs who lose their designation before program completion may still be eligible for a PGWP if they transfer to another program or complete their studies at the institution, meeting all other PGWP requirements.

Flight school graduates

Flight school graduates must provide evidence of completing a flight training course at a DLI and obtaining a Canadian commercial pilot’s licence or an instructor’s rating, along with an offer of employment from a DLI flight training centre.

Study duration versus program length

Officers also assess differences between the study duration and the program’s expected completion time. If a student completes their studies in less time than the program typically requires without an accelerated study plan, the PGWP’s validity may be adjusted. In these circumstances, the officers consider the duration proposed by the school. For example, if the duration is two years, but the student finishes in 18 months, they still consider two years for PGWP.

Passport validity and PGWP duration

When reviewing the validity period of a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), officers match it with the applicant’s passport expiry date. This ensures the PGWP does not extend beyond when the passport is valid.

Applying for a work permit extension

If an officer notes the PGWP’s shortened validity due to the passport’s impending expiry in the GCMS, the applicant can extend their work permit later. However, this step is possible once they renew their passport, aiming for the full PGWP duration based on the length of their program.

Criteria for PGWP extensions

Extensions for PGWPs are specific to cases where the initial permit’s length was cut short by the passport’s expiry date. Consequently, this policy allows applicants to achieve the intended full eligibility period of their PGWP by renewing their passport.

PGWP eligibility for Quebec vocational graduates

Graduates from Quebec with either a Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS) or an Attestation of Vocational Specialization (AVS) have a pathway to the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). These programs might be at the secondary or post-secondary level. The Canada–Quebec Memorandum of Understanding supports international students aiming for a PGWP. Eligibility hinges on graduating from a recognized Quebec secondary institution. The Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur (MEES) must issue the diploma.

To qualify, applicants need to meet several criteria. They must be 18 and have completed a full-time vocational or professional training program in Quebec. The program should last at least 900 hours, equivalent to eight months. They must also provide an official letter from their institution. This letter should detail the program’s length in hours or months. This aids in processing the PGWP and confirms the work authorization duration. The work permit application must include the credential, an official program completion attestation, or an official transcript from a Quebec school recognized by the MEES.

Officers verify eligible institutions through Inforoute. This website, managed by the MEES and Compétences Québec, confirms details about schools, programs, their duration, and the credentials they offer. For applicants who studied at multiple institutions, the total course duration across these schools must reach at least 900 hours in Quebec to be eligible for a PGWP (source: IRCC).

What about the family members?

Generally, a simple PGWP does not qualify your spouse or common-law partner for a work permit. However, you may consider the following:

  • If you have a job prospect, they could qualify.
  • If you don’t, you may apply for a visitor record for them.

The same applies to your children. However, since I see a lot of family members’ refusals, please consider a consultation session.

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    Al Parsai, LL.M, RCIC-IRB

    Al Parsai is a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University (Osgood Hall Law School). A respected member of CICC, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.