return to Canada
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference January 8, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada. Source: Dave Chan/AFP

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada  (IRCC) has announced a further relaxation of online study rules pertaining to post-graduation work permit (PGWP) eligibility. International students in Canadian universities currently studying remotely can now count this time towards the length of their PGWP, starting from their application date. This overrides the previous rule that only took into account time spent studying online starting from permit approval.

The IRCC statement reads: “If you apply for your study permit before starting your programme, any time spent studying online from outside Canada since spring 2020 now counts toward the length of a post-graduation work permit. You won’t have time deducted from the length of your post-graduation work permit for studies you complete outside Canada until April 30, 2021.”

In late August, Canada announced that international students applying for a work permit will not have the length of their PGWP deducted even if they are studying online outside the country. This is to take effect until April 30, 2021.

What does this mean for online learners in Canada?

The new rule will allow more international students to become eligible for PGWP even if they can’t travel to Canada soon. This includes anyone with a valid study permit, anyone whose study permit has been approved, or anyone who has applied for a study permit before any 2020 semester. Even those who will apply for a study permit before starting a programme in January 2021 are eligible.

You can start your programme while outside of Canada and complete 100% of it online, and still apply for PGWP after. This is on two conditions: firstly, the programme duration is eight to 12 months, and it began between May and September 2020. Alternatively, you could complete 50% of your programme online (until April 30, 2021) if you complete the other 50% of your programme in Canada.

If you’ll graduate from two different eligible study programmes within two years of each other — where one of the programmes started between May and September 2020; each programme is at least eight months long; and you complete at least 50% of the combined length of the programmes in Canada — you can complete up to 50% of your studies online (until April 30, 2021).

Currently, foreign students must have a non-optional or non-discretionary reason to travel to Canada. Source: Cole Burston/Getty Images/AFP

Prior to the pandemic, international students were ineligible for a Canadian work permit if they studied online and were not enrolled in a full-time programme for at least eight months. The PGWP is highly coveted among international students as it allows them to remain in the country and gain valuable Canadian work experience after graduating from eligible Canadian designated learning institutions (DLIs). Students can work full-time for up to three years, but the ultimate duration of the PGWP depends on the length of time the individual studied at a Canadian DLI.

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