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Immigration Corner | Changes that could affect international students in Canada

Published:Tuesday | July 23, 2019 | 12:18 AM
Deidre S. Powell
Deidre S. Powell

Dear Ms Powell,

I recently completed studies at a Canadian university and my study permit expires in August. I’m missing my family, so I plan to go back to Jamaica and chill out for a while then return to apply for the post-graduate work permit after Christmas. My friends say I can’t leave before I get the work permit and that January will be do late to apply. Is this so? I really miss being home and my brain is tired. Can you please let me know if I can go home and then come back in January without messing up everything?


Dear TY,

International students who come to Canada for a minimum of one-year programmes and attend a designated learning institution (DLI) may be granted a Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) to gain Canadian work experience and can live permanently in Canada. The time granted for work permit has always been tied to the duration of the studies. Before July 2019, students were required to apply for the PGWP within 90 days of completion of studies and the receipt of their final marks. Additionally, it was a requirement that the study permit be valid/not expired, at the time of the application.

Who is eligible for a PGWP?

The international students that would be eligible are those who have completed a programme of study at a designated learning institution or if studies have been at a Canadian private school, then the degree must be awarded in accordance with provincial rules.

The programme must be eight months or more resulting in a diploma, certificate or degree. The student must have maintained a full-time status during the term; except that the final semester may be on a part-time basis.

There are some exceptions to the general rule above. Some students may be eligible to PGWP in special cases where the student was in an accelerated programme, in some distance learning programmes; where there was an authorised transfer between schools; flight studies graduates and graduates from certain Quebec schools. For special programmes like these, I recommend that you consult directly with an immigration lawyer to advise you of your options.

Some international students may not qualify for a post graduate work permit if they have previously been granted a PGWP, studied English or French as a second language, took self-improvement courses, even if that was done at a DLI, had funding from organisations such as Global Affairs Canada, the Organisation of American States; or participated in certain exchange programmes. Where your programme consisted of distance learning or majority of the programme was via e-learning or correspondence course, albeit with a Canadian DLI, you would not qualify for a PGWP.

You may not be eligible for a PGWP if you took unauthorised leave from your studies. In some cases, individuals can get up to 150 days authorised leave from the study programme and not jeopardise the opportunity to be granted a PGWP.

New Rules

This year, the government of Canada changed the rules under the PGWP, thereby making the programme more flexible and increasing the time limit to submit the application. Under the new rules, there has been an extension of the deadline to submit application from 90 days to six months. The government has also removed the requirement that the study permit must be valid at the time when the application is submitted.

An additional benefit is that the applications can now be submitted inside Canada or outside Canada, provided that the application in done within 180 days after your school issues your final marks. It is therefore imperative that you pay attention to the exact date on your official results.

Based on the information provided, you may be able to return to your home country after the completion of your studies, for a break, depending on the factors noted above. You just need to pay attention to 180 days limiting factor.

You should also bear in mind that even if you have a valid temporary resident/visitor’s visa that authorises you to return to Canada after the expiry of the study permit and before the granting of the PGWP, you will not be authorised to work once the study permit has expired and before the PGWP has been granted.

Deidre S. Powell is an immigration lawyer, mediator and notary public with office in Ottawa, Ontario Canada. Submit your questions and comments to or call 613.695.8777/ 876.922.4092. Website: Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest news and special offers.