Canada: International students still eligible for post-graduation work permit as courses go online

international students canada
As most international students enroled in Canada's universities have had their courses shifted online, the Canadian government had made efforts to ensure they can still be eligible to work in Canada after graduating. Source: Dave Chan/AFP

Since universities in Canada have shifted to online learning due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has changed the requirements for international students applying for a post-graduation working permit (PGWP).

According to Canada Immigration News (CIC), international students starting their programme at a Canadian university via online coursework will not be penalised when they apply for the PGWP after completing their studies.

Prior to the pandemic, students will not be ineligible for the work permit if they studied online and were not enrolled in a full-time programme for at least eight months.

The Canadian government has stated that despite travel bans, they are still allowing international students to enter Canada to begin their studies, provided they self-quarantine for 14 days upon entry. However, many international students are still unable to do so due to travel restrictions in their home countries.

These students can still start their courses virtually from wherever they are and will still be eligible to apply for the PGWP. They can also complete up to half of their programme from outside Canada if they are unable to travel to Canada anytime sooner.

This will come as welcome news to international students worried about applying for the PGWP but have no choice but to take online classes.

Canada is one of the top countries for international students due to its immigration pathways and welcoming attitude to international students and migrants.

According to CIC, one-quarter of the nearly 90,000 people who applied under Express Entry for immigration were international student graduates.

Express Entry is the application process for skilled immigrants (like international students) who are looking to settle in Canada permanently, done through an online system.

A pedestrian wearing a mask is seen during morning commuting hours in the Financial District as Toronto copes with a shutdown due to the Coronavirus, on April 1, 2020 in Toronto, Canada. Source: Cole Burston/Getty images via AFP

Support for international students in Canada

Despite the current COVID-19 outbreak, Canada is still sending a welcoming message for international students and supporting them through their academic and career goals.

Recognising that they contribute significantly to Canada’s economy, they are making provisions to ensure Canada’s study and work pathways are still, for the most part, available to them.

This is evident in this new waiver of eligibility for the PGWP and travel exemption, as long as they have been approved for a study permit prior to March 18.

Unlike Australia, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stated that international students should return home if they can’t afford to stay in Australia and where the government is not offering any financial assistance, Canada is offering financial support to those who have lost their part-time jobs due to the pandemic.

According to The PIE News, international students will be able to receive temporary income support of CA$500 a week for up to 16 weeks for those whose jobs are affected by COVID-19. They can access the Canada Emergency Response Benefit if they meet these criteria:

  • Above 15 years old and residing in Canada
  • Have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  • Have stopped working due to COVID-19/have not voluntarily quit their job
  • Income of at least CA $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application
  • Currently or expecting to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period.

Universities Canada president Paul Davidson said, “These international students and faculty are valued members of our university communities, and are contributing to Canada.”

“We are very pleased to see that the government recognises this and is ensuring they will be able to return to Canada.”

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