Given the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on international students and the post-secondary sector, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has introduced temporary policy changes to post-graduation work permit (PGWP) eligibility requirements for the following groups of students:

  • students enrolled in PGWPP-eligible programs in progress in March 2020
  • students who began or will begin PGWP-eligible programs between spring 2020 and fall 2021

To be eligible for the temporary policy changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP), these students must either

  • have a study permit
  • have been approved for a study permit
  • submit a study permit application prior to beginning their program and eventually be approved
  • Time spent studying outside of Canada only begins to count towards PGWP length after the department receives the study permit application. As such, studies undertaken before the department received the study permit application can be deducted from the PGWP length. Note that the minimum length a PGWP can be issued for is 8 months. Therefore, if a student only completes 7 months of studies after their study permit application is received, they are not eligible for a PGWP. Students are encouraged to apply for their study permits prior to starting their studies.
  • International students studying online abroad may be authorized to enter Canada to attend in-person classes if the school is included on the list of designated learning institutions (DLIs) with an approved COVID-19 readiness plan in place on the IRCC website and they are travelling for a non-discretionary purpose.

Application deadline

Graduates in Canada

Students graduating in Canada or who apply at the port of entry are still required to apply for the PGWP within 180 days of holding a valid study permit, and within 180 days of receiving written notification of program completion from their DLI.

Graduates outside of Canada

Students who graduate from outside of Canada and meet the eligibility requirements of the temporary PGWP policy changes described above do not need to hold or have held a valid study permit within 180 days of applying for the PGWP. In order to be eligible to apply, these graduates must either have a study permit or have received a study permit approval, and they must still apply within 180 days of receiving written notification of program completion from their DLI.

Distance learning

Under normal circumstances, all distance learning courses completed outside Canada are excluded from the time accumulated towards the length of the post-graduation work permit, and 50% of a student’s courses must be completed in Canada and in person.

The following temporary policy changes have been made to better accommodate eligible international students who have completed distance learning in or outside Canada. All students who were enrolled in a PGWP-eligible program in progress in March 2020 or who started a program of study from spring 2020 up to and including the fall 2021 semester are not required to complete 50% of their program (or programs) of study in Canada. Up to 100% of their program can be completed online from outside Canada. Time spent studying outside of Canada can be counted towards the overall length of the post-graduation work permit until December 31, 2021. Any time spent studying outside of Canada after December 31, 2021 should be deducted from the length of the post-graduation work permit. The minimum length of time a PGWP should be issued for is 8 months. All other program criteria and requirements must be met. In cases where a study permit application is submitted before a program starts but is refused, if a subsequent study permit application is received before the end of the program and is eventually approved, the studies undertaken after the first study permit application was received by the department count towards the length of the PGWP.

Program stacking

Eligible students who graduate from more than one eligible program of study may be able to both

  • complete 100% of both programs from outside of Canada (if both programs were either in progress in March 2020 or began between spring 2020 and fall 2021)
  • combine the length of their programs of study when they apply for a post-graduation work permit in the future

Each program needs to be a minimum of 8 months in duration, and the programs need to be completed from an eligible designated learning institution (DLI) within 2 years as per current instructions on determining the length of the post-graduation work permit.

For vocational programs in Quebec, the diploma of vocational studies (DVS) must be at least 900 hours in length, but an attestation of vocational specialization (AVS) can be less than 900 hours in length when submitted in combination with the DVS.

Part-time status

Students in or outside of Canada may have been required to put their studies on hold or become part-time students due to course cancellations as a result of public health measures at DLIs. For the winter, spring and summer 2020 semesters only, when a student’s status changed from full time to part time due to changes in course delivery at a DLI, their eligibility for a post-graduation work permit will not be impacted.

Documents to submit

Due to school closures, many international students may be unable to obtain a letter of completion or final transcript from their DLI. As a temporary facilitation measure, applicants who apply for a PGWP will be allowed to submit an application without their letter of completion or final transcript. When IRCC processes the application, the documents will be requested by the processing officer as per the procedures for Requests for additional documents on open applications.

Applicants who need to restore their status will also be eligible to apply without their letter of completion or final transcript.

Applicants residing in Quebec

Foreign nationals who study in Quebec are not required to have a valid Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) when submitting a PGWP application. As the PGWP is an open work permit and Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exempt, a valid CAQ or study permit is not required at the time of PGWP issuance. If foreign nationals are applying for a PGWP and their study permit has expired, they are permitted to apply to restore their status as a student without a CAQ and apply for the PGWP at the same time, as the CAQ is not required for the PGWP.

Work authorization after submitting a post-graduation work permit application

Graduates who apply for a work permit, such as a post-graduation work permit, before the expiry of their study permit are eligible to work full time without a work permit while waiting for a decision on their application if all of the following apply:

  • They hold a valid study permit at the time of the post-graduation work permit application.
  • They have completed an eligible program of study.
  • They meet the requirements for working off campus without a work permit under paragraph R186(v) (that is, they were a full-time student enrolled at a DLI in a post-secondary academic, vocational or professional training program of at least 8 months in duration that led to a degree, diploma or certificate).
  • They did not exceed the allowable hours of work

Public policy objectives

The public policy aims to

  • allow eligible PGWP holders and former PGWP holders, including those who changed their status to visitor or fell out of status, to apply from inside Canada for an open work permit for a period of up to 18 months or until the expiry of the applicant’s passport, whichever is shorter
  • exempt eligible foreign nationals from the requirement that a work permit not be issued if they have not complied with certain temporary resident conditions or work permit criteria

Eligibility requirements

To be eligible for the open work permit, the foreign national must submit clear evidence that they meet all the following criteria:

  • hold a valid PGWP that expires within 4 months of the date they submitted their application or held a PGWP that expired on or after January 30, 2020
  • were in Canada on January 27, 2021 when the public policy took effect
  • remained in Canada
  • one of the following applies to them:
    • they have valid temporary resident status
    • they lost their temporary resident status, but they have submitted an application to restore their status
    • they lost their temporary resident status, but they are eligible to restore it and they submitted an application to restore their status at the same time as they applied for the open work permit
  • submitted their application from within Canada and requested consideration under this public policy

Applications must be submitted online. Applicants can only apply on paper if they can’t apply online because of a disability or because there is a problem with the online application.

The public policy waives the regulatory prohibition of work permit issuance where there has been unauthorized work or study, unless the applicant has engaged in unauthorized work for an employer in prohibited occupations. Foreign nationals eligible under this public policy are subject to all other legislative obligations and admissibility and selection requirements not exempted under this, or another, public policy.


Applicants who have submitted an application under this public policy may be issued an open work permit for a maximum length of 18 months from the date of approval or until the expiry of the applicant’s passport, whichever is sooner.

An open work permit under this public policy will only be issued to an eligible applicant once and cannot be extended.

Work permit application submission

All applicants must submit their work permit application by following the instructions to apply online under a public policy inside Canada.

Mandatory documents

  • Copy of passport
  • Corresponding fees
    • $155 work permit fee
    • $100 open work permit fee. Applicants must pay this fee upfront. See note below.
    • If the client needs to restore their status, must pay $200 restoration fee
  • Letter of explanation or client information indicating that they are applying for an open work permit under the Temporary Public Policy to Facilitate the Issuance of an Open Work Permit to Former or Current Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Holders during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

Under the public policy, applicants are exempt from the open work permit fee of $100.

Please contact our lawyers at [email protected] if you have any questions about this new policy.

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