Over the past few weeks I have written about the options available for students who choose to study in Canada as international students. What happens when you complete your studies? Do you have any options for working or becoming a permanent resident in Canada? The good news is that in many cases, depending on your circumstances, the answer to these questions is yes and you may be able to work and go on to become a permanent resident of Canada.
Canada’s immigration policy has shifted from attracting and processing skilled worker applicants from outside of Canada to encouraging international students and foreign workers already in Canada to apply for permanent residence. These candidates have already spent time in Canada, having studied or gained Canadian work experience, which so often is a barrier for the successful establishment of new immigrants to Canada. Therefore, after you complete your studies in Canada there are a number of different programs that may put you on a pathway to Canadian permanent residence.
Post-graduate work permit:
After you graduate, you may be able to work temporarily, depending on where, what program and how long you studied. To work in Canada after you graduate, you need a work permit. The work experience you gain while working may help you qualify for permanent residence.
If you graduated from a designated learning institution, you may be eligible to apply for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP). Not all designated learning institutions make you eligible for a post-graduation work permit and therefore you must be careful in choosing where you study and the program you will enrol in.
To get a post-graduation work permit, you must:
- be 18 or older when you apply;
- have continuously studied full-time in Canada in a study program that is at least eight months long;
- have a document from your school (transcript, official letter, certificate, etc.) that confirms you completed and passed all your program requirements;
- have graduated from a:
- a- public post-secondary school, such as a college, trade/technical school or university, or CEGEP in Quebec, or
- b- private post-secondary school that operates under the same rules as public schools (currently applies only to certain private post-secondary institutions in Quebec), or
- c- private secondary or post-secondary school (in Quebec) that offers qualifying programs of 900 hours or longer, leading to a diplôme d’études professionnelles (DEP) or an attestation de spécialisation professionnelle (ASP), or
- d- Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law (for example, Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate degree) but only if you are enrolled in a study programs leading to a degree as authorized by the province;
- apply for a work permit within 90 days of when it was confirmed that you completed your program; and
- have a valid study permit when you apply for the work permit.
If your program of study was less than eight months long or you studied for more than eight months but not continuously (for example, you took a semester off), or if you completed a study program by distance learning either from abroad or from within Canada you will not be eligible to obtain a PGWP. Also, recipients of certain scholarships, such as the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship Program, are not eligible for the PGWP.
Finally, the PGWP is a one-time opportunity: if you have already had a post-graduation work permit following any other program of study you will not be eligible to receive a second PGWP.
With a PGWP you will be able to work legally in Canada for the duration of your work permit. Any employer that wants to hire you will not need to go through the bureaucratic process of demonstrating why they need to hire a non-Canadian employee. And most importantly you will build up your work experience to help you in qualifying for one of Canada’s immigration programs such as the Canada Experience Class, Federal Skilled Worker Program or one of the Provincial Nominee Programs.
Therefore, it is extremely important you ensure that your program of study qualifies you to receive a PGWP and that you apply in time and meet all the conditions in order to successfully obtain a PGWP if you wish to embark on a possible path to Canadian permanent residence.
What happens after you complete your studies and gain Canadian work experience? Next week I will be writing about the latest eligibility requirements of these pathways to permanent residence.
Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court.