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Top 10 most common questions about your Post-Graduation Work Permit

June 7, 2022 by Katie Enman, Immigration Consultant
Top 10 most common questions about your Post-Graduation Work Permit

First and foremost, what is a PGWP?

A PGWP is an open work permit that a student who has graduated from a Canadian post-secondary program/DLI greater than 8 months in duration is eligible to apply for. This allows them to remain in Canada and work full-time in any province/territory, without a job offer, for up to three years. Students must be enrolled in a DLI, PGWP-eligible program and complete a certificate, diploma, or degree program.

Many factors go in to determining one’s eligibility for a PGWP. A complete list of requirements can be found on the Government of Canada website.

Here are some of the most common questions students have when it comes to applying for their PGWP:

  1. How do I apply for an extension?

    A PGWP is a ‘once in a lifetime’ work permit. You cannot extend it nor can you receive it again if you’ve completed two academic programs. For example, a student earns a Bachelor’s Degree, receives a PGWP for 3 years, and then decides to study at the Master’s level. A PGWP will not be given for the Master’s program if it’s already been used for the time spent earning the Bachelor’s Degree.

    The only time you can apply for an extension is if you were given a shorter period on because your passport was expiring.

  2. Can I apply for a PGWP from outside Canada? Can I travel while waiting for the results?

    Yes, you can apply for your PGWP from outside of Canada as long as you are still within 180 days from the date you completed your studies. However please note a PGWP is a status document and not a travel document. If you are from a visa-required country, you still need a valid Temporary Resident Visa (i.e. visitor visa or TRV) in order to enter Canada. An ETA is required from a visa-exempt country.

  3. Are DLIs automatically PGWP eligible?

    No. Not all DLIs have PGWP-eligible programs. Being a DLI only means the school is authorized by the Government of Canada to host international students. Many schools are DLIs but their programs are not PGWP-eligible (like private career colleges for example).

  4. How long will I get my PGWP for?

    The length of the work permit you receive will range from a minimum of 8 months to a maximum of 3 years based on the length of your program. Keep in mind the calculation is based on the official length of the program and not the amount of time spent completing program. For example, if you complete a 2-year diploma program in 1 year, you are eligible for a 2-year PGWP. A program with a minimum of 8 months but less than 2 years will give you exactly the equivalent time on your PGWP. A 2-year program or more, you can obtain the maximum of 3 years.

    If you’ve received your PGWP and the date appears incorrect, check the expiry date of your passport. You will not be issued a work permit that exceeds the validity of your passport.

  5. My study permit expired on June 1. I applied for an extension on April 15 but have not yet received a decision. I applied for my PGWP on June 5. Am I allowed to work while waiting on a decision?

    No – a PGWP application must be submitted before the expiry of your study permit. You must have valid status in order to apply but also, to work. Sometimes the confusion lies in the notion that so long as you’ve applied for an extension before the expiry of your current study permit, it gives you the ability to start working however being on ‘maintained status’ is exactly that. You are ‘maintaining’ the status by which you’ve applied for the extension which is the study permit. In other words, maintained status in this scenario does not give you the authority to work and you must wait for the decision to come back on your PGWP application before you start working.

  6. I applied for my PGWP in February 2022. I received a PDF document from IRCC saying that "you are authorized to work for any employer, in any occupation with no restriction on hours until June 3, 2022 or until a decision is made on your application, whichever is first". It’s now nearing June 3 and I have not still not received a decision. Do I need to stop working?

    No. As per section 186(w)(ii) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, you can legally work until a decision is made on your PGWP application.

    The date on these letters often confuse people however under the section noted above, you are legally authorized to continue working until a decision is made on your application even if it exceeds the arbitrary date put on the PDF letter. You can also read HERE under ‘Letter Validity’ where it states:

    Officers should understand that the validity date of the letter in no way overrides the authority of paragraph R186(w), which allows foreign nationals who meet the requirements to continue working until a final decision is made on their work permit application.

  7. Can my spouse apply for a spousal open work permit while I’m on a PGWP?

    Yes. Your spouse or common law partner may apply for an open work permit if you have a valid PGWP and you are working in a NOC 0, A, or B job.

    Your spouse or CLP will be asked to upload a copy of your PGWP as well as a letter from your current employer that confirms you work in an eligible NOC and you will be asked to provide copies of your 3 most recent pay stubs.

  8. Can I study while on a PGWP?

    There’s nothing stopping you from holding two permits at the same time: study permit and open work permit. However, the work experience you gain as a student won’t count towards certain immigration streams.

  9. When should I apply for Permanent Residency?

    The what, when, and how of your future PR application entirely depends on the individual. Because economic immigration programs run on a points-based system, what you score in language, education, age, and work experience will dictate when you are able to apply for PR. For example, some provincial nominee programs award points for number of years work experience and further, how many years in the province. If you’re short on points, you may need to wait for a year until you’ve reached the minimum points needed for an Expression of Interest.

    Because program streams can change often and without notice, it’s important to stay up to date on immigration news. For example, in May 2022, the Government of New Brunswick paused all PNP Express Entry streams. They also paused all applications with NOC 6311, 6711, 6513. The options that exist today may not exist when it comes time to submit your application therefore the onus is on you to make sure you’re staying up to date with the latest immigration news.

    Generally, for the federal Express Entry program, you need one year of Canadian work experience to be eligible for Canadian Experience Class.

  10. My PGWP has expired but I’m entitled to a new open work permit due to Covid. They haven’t announced the details on this yet though. What should I do?

    In April of this year, IRCC announced they would be offering former international students with PGWPs expiring between January 2022 and December 2022 an opportunity to apply for an additional open work permit for up to 18 months. The details of such will be released this summer according to the news release.

    Unfortunately, there may be a significant waiting period from the time your current PGWP has expired to being able to apply for this open work period. If this applies to you, you may want to consider the following options:

    • Apply for a visitor record which will allow you to remain in Canada as a VISITOR
    • Return to your country of residence and wait for further instruction on how to apply for the new open work permit
    • Receive an LMIA-based job offer and apply for an employer specific work permit

    If you’re unsure of your next steps based on your specific scenario, it’s best to speak to a professional to understand your options and ensure you’re not violating any terms of your work or study permit.

Important dates and deadlines to keep in mind when thinking about your PGWP:

  • You have 180 days to apply for your PGWP IF you meet ONE of the following criteria:
    • You hold a valid study permit.
    • You held a study permit.
    • You were authorized to study in Canada without the requirement to obtain a study permit under paragraphs 188(1)(a) and (b) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
  • You have 90 days to restore your status as a temporary resident if you find yourself out of status
  • An authorized leave from your studies cannot exceed 150 days. Full-time students who take a leave from studies that is longer than 150 days are required to either change their status to visitor status or worker status, or leave Canada
  • Your study permit will expire on whichever date comes first: the date marked on the permit or 90 days after the day you complete your studies. Determining when the 90 days begins is either on the date you get the first notification from your school that you completed your program (this could be an email, letter, transcript, etc.) or when you get your degree, diploma or certificate.
The article above is intended to provide general and non-case specific information on immigration related matters. It should not be used or relied on as formal legal advice.