open work permit
Good news for international graduates in Canada: you now have more time to look for work. Source: Armin Rimoldi/Pexels

The Canadian government has introduced a new open work permit for international students with an expired or expiring Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). The 18-month permit will allow international graduates to continue looking for full-time employment in Canada even after their three-year PGWP is up. This policy will assist PGWP holders who have lost jobs or work fewer hours because of the pandemic, facilitating a smooth integration into the Canadian labour market.

International students in Canada have been calling for a PGWP extension as many were unable to secure a job that would qualify them for permanent residence in 2020. This latest measure will help “more graduates fill pressing needs in areas like health care, technology, and more,” IRCC stated in a press release. The Canadian government hopes to welcome over 1.2 million new Canadian permanent residents in the next few years international graduates play a big part in reaching this goal, as nearly one-third who earn a Canadian degree become permanent residents in the 10 years after they get their first study permit. 

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is accepting applications starting Jan. 27, 2021, until the window closes on July 27, 2021. You may check the IRCC website for details on how to apply closer to January 27. Here’s what we know about the open work permit so far.

What is an open work permit?

While the PGWP can be a bridge to permanent residence, the open work permit is a graduate visa specifically for international students to job-hunt in Canada. You can only apply for it as your PGWP comes to an end. The permit allows foreign nationals to work for any employer of their choice, unlike a closed work permit, which limits you to one Canadian employer.

How to qualify?

So you have a PGWP, but is that enough to attain an open work permit? The new policy only covers you if:

  • you are in Canada
  • you have a PGWP that expired on or after Jan. 30, 2020, or a PGWP that expires in four months or less from the application date
  • you have a valid temporary status or are applying to restore your status.

Graduates rely on the PGWP to obtain the work experience necessary to apply for a skilled worker immigration pathway; surveys suggest 60% of PGWP holders want to transition to permanent residence. According to IRCC, this new policy could benefit up to 52,000 graduates with expired or expiring PGWPs. Approximately 30,500 PGWP holders whose permits ended in 2020 are either processing their permanent residence applicants or have already become residents.