work in Canada
Canada is extending its online study provisions in hopes of attracting foreign talent to eventually work in the country. Source: Cole Burston/AFP

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced it will extend and expand the online study provisions for the Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP), which allows foreign graduates to work in Canada. With this, more international students will still be eligible to apply for a work permit even if they complete their entire Canadian degree remotely. The announcement comes in response to students stranded abroad who are concerned that pandemic travel restrictions and visa processing delays would affect their future in Canada.

“This new policy means that students hoping to work in Canada after graduation won’t miss out on opportunities, while ensuring that Canada meets the urgent needs of our economy for today and tomorrow,” IRCC minister Marco Mendicino said in an official release. “Our message to international students and graduates is simple: we don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here.”

Canada relaxed online study rules for PGWP eligibility in September 2020 and more recently introduced open work permits for PGWP hopefuls. 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.

work in Canada

Good news for new enrollees: you can complete your entire course remotely and still apply for Canadian PGWP. Source: Anna Shvets/Pexels

More online graduates can eventually work in Canada

This announcement does not introduce a new rule — rather, it expands on the previous relaxation in September. It previously only applied to students who began their programme online between May and September 2020. Now, students who start remotely in any semester from spring 2020 to fall 2021 are eligible for future PGWP application, too — as well as those with a study permit, study permit approval, or study permit application that is eventually approved. You must still meet all other PGWP eligibility criteria, including graduating from an eligible programme.

“Whether as health workers on the pandemic’s front lines, or as founders of some of the most promising start-ups, international students are giving back to communities across Canada as we continue the fight against the pandemic. Their status may be temporary, but the contributions of international students are lasting,” Mendocino added. This policy update aims to secure Canada’s future immigrant workforce for in-demand industries including healthcare and technology.

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 work in Canada after graduating from eligible 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.

According to IRCC, international students contribute over 21 billion Canadian dollars to the economy. They are responsible for a quarter of new enrolments in Canadian universities and over 16% in colleges, according to Statistics Canada. Canada welcomed 572,000 foreign students in 2019; in the same year, 58,000 graduates successfully applied for permanent residency.