What is a Post Graduation Work Permit?
A Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) allows international students who graduate from an eligible program of study to stay in Canada and work. It’s an open work permit that allows you to work anywhere in Canada for any employer and there is no limit on the number of hours you can work, whether full-time or part-time. You can also be self-employed.
The program of study that you graduate from must be at a Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI). A DLI is a school or university approved by a Canadian provincial or territorial government to host international students.
Through a program such as the Canadian Experience Class, a PGWP provides a way to transition from temporary resident status to permanent residency once you have gained valuable Canadian work experience. The Canadian Experience Class is managed in the Express Entry system.
The Post Graduation Work Permit is Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exempt. What this effectively means is that an employer can hire you faster than they can as a foreign worker, since they don’t have to go through the LMIA application process.
In a lifetime, a person is only allowed to have one PGWP. Therefore it is vital to plan carefully when the most appropriate time is for you to submit the PGWP application. For example, applying after the longest period of study means your PGWP will have longer validity. This is because in general, a PGWP will be valid for the same amount of time as the duration of your study program, it cannot be valid for longer than the duration of the study.
In terms of how long a PGWP is valid for, the longest duration is three years, whilst the shortest is eight months.
PGWP eligibility requirements
Here are the eligibility requirements for a U.S. citizen or other foreign national to apply for a Canadian Post Graduation Work Permit:
- You must be 18 years of age or older
- Your application must be submitted within 180 days of completing your program of study
- You have (or had) a valid study permit or you have (or had) the authorization to study without a study permit
- Your study permit must have been valid at some point during the 180 days if applying from within Canada
- If applying from outside Canada you need to have been approved for a study permit
- The educational establishment you study at must be an eligible DLI. It is important to note that not all DLIs offer programs that meet PGWP requirements. You can check out a list of DLIs that offer PGWP-eligible programs on the Canadian government’s website here
- The duration of your program of study must be at least eight months
- Your program of study must be full-time (not counting your final semester)
- Your program of study must lead to a degree, diploma, or certificate
- Online or distance-learning courses are eligible if less than 50% of the course is by distance-learning or online
- Only a limited overseas component of the studies is permitted, the majority of learning must take place in Canada
- Transferring between eligible DLIs is acceptable if the combined study length is a minimum of 8 months and is continuous
- Provide confirmation by the DLI that you have completed all requirements of your program of study
- Graduation must be from one of the following:
- A public post-secondary school, such as a college, trade/technical school, university, or CEGEP (in Quebec)
- A private post-secondary school (in Quebec) that operates under the same rules as public schools in Quebec
- A private secondary or post-secondary school (in Quebec) that offers qualifying programs of 900 hours or longer, that leads to a Diplôme d’études professionnelles (DEP—vocational studies diploma) or an Attestation de spécialisation professionnelle (ASP—vocational Studies Accreditation);
An ASP can be less than 900 hours if combined with a DEP.
- A Canadian private school that can award degrees under provincial law (for example, Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD degree), but only if you’re enrolled in a study program that leads to a degree as authorized by the province
PGWP application process
You can apply for a PGWP online or by mail. Applying online is likely to be a faster process and you can be sure your application is complete before you submit it. In addition, any further documents that may be requested can be submitted faster via your online account.
To start your PGWP application online you will need to create an IRCC secure account. If you want to apply by mail, the application package for a PGWP can be requested through the IRCC website.
You will have to apply within 180 days of receiving confirmation from the DLI that your program of study is complete. After submitting the application, most applicants will need to provide their biometrics (fingerprints and photo).
Here are a few scenarios which may apply to you, in terms of where you should apply from and the steps to take to apply for a PGWP.
Your status is valid
If any of these are true you can apply from within Canada:
- Your study permit is still valid
- You have a valid visitor record, or:
- You are on implied status – i.e. you are waiting for a decision on changing or extending your status to student or visitor
Your study permit is invalid or has expired
If your study permit becomes invalid or expires you have two options:
- Leave Canada and apply for the PGWP from overseas, or
- Apply to restore your student status and then apply for the PGWP
You must apply to restore your student status within 90 days from when your study permit expires. Note that if you miss this deadline then you must leave Canada.
Study permit expiring before you get your marks
If your study permit is going to expire before you get your marks, you have two options:
- Apply for a visitor record to stay longer in Canada, or
- Leave Canada and apply for the PGWP from overseas
If your passport expires before the PGWP’s validity period, you will have the option of applying for a work permit extension when you renew your passport. This will then give you the full validity of your PGWP.
PGWP required documents
To apply for a Post Graduation Work Permit, you need to gather together supporting documentation, as follows:
- Travel documents
- Current immigration document, if you have one
- Proof that you have completed your program of study (a degree or diploma, an official letter from your school, or a transcript)
- Documents to explain if any gaps in your studies were officially approved or not
- Documents to show if any part-time study (not including final term) was approved or not
- Documents to show if two programs were combined
- Documents supporting any accelerated learning
- Documentation explaining why you exceeded the allowable hours of work, if applicable
- Medical exam proof, if applicable
Additional documentation may be requested by the visa office that processes your application.
The validity period of a PGWP is directly related to the length of your study program:
- If your program of study is 8 months then your PGWP will be valid for 8 months
- If your program of study is between 8 months and 3 years the PGWP will in most cases be valid for the same length of time as your study program
- If you undertake more than one program of study the total time for each program can be combined (up to a maximum of 3 years)
- If you have accelerated your studies you can expect the PGWP to still be assessed on the length of the program of study
You have to pay the following fees when submitting your PGWP application:
- $255 CDN – IRCC PGWP fee which consists of:
- $100 CDN – Open work permit holder fee
- $155 CDN – Standard work permit fee
- $85 CDN – Biometrics fee, if applicable
PGWP processing time
Depending on whether you are applying from within Canada or overseas, the processing time for PGWP is approximately 2 to 3 months.
While waiting for the PGWP outcome, you are allowed to work in Canada so long as you submit the application before your student permit expires.
What you can do after PGWP refusal
After receiving a PGWP refusal, you will need to restore your immigration status and give detailed explanation to IRCC for the concerns raised in the refusal. The PGWP application will need to be re-submitted within 180 days from the date when the study permit expired.
Here are a few of the more common reasons why a PGWP could be refused:
- Some or all of your study was part-time (not including the last semester)
- You have a gap in your studies and did not provide sufficient reasons for this in your application
- You studied at a school that was not eligible for PGWP
- More than 50% of your program of study was online / distance-learning
- When you applied your study permit had expired and you did not include the $200 restoration fee
- Your application was submitted outside of the 90 day status restoration period
- You did not include proof that your degree is conferred
- You worked without authorization during your studies
- IRCC made an error in your application processing
If your application for a PGWP is refused, you must stop working as soon as you receive the rejection letter.
We advise speaking with an immigration expert to receive assistance with your re-application so that you can maximize your chances of being granted the permit. Contact us now to speak with an immigration lawyer.
Applying for a PGWP involves a number of factors and considerations, as well as a body of evidence for the various requirements. If you are not familiar with Canadian immigration processes this can be confusing, and lead to a poorly prepared application.
At Total Law, we understand that there is much at stake when thinking about your next steps after graduating from Canada. Our immigration law firm provides professional legal services for Canadian immigration applications and provides a level of care and legal know-how that will stand you in the best position to achieve your immigration goals.
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Yes, the PGWP is an open work permit which means you can work in any occupation anywhere in Canada. You can also undertake self-employment if you wish.
You can work while you wait for your PGWP outcome, so long as the below apply at the point of submitting your PGWP application:
- You have a valid study permit
- You have completed your program of study
- You had authorization to work off-campus without a permit, and
- You did not work off-campus during term sessions for more than 20 hours per week.
If your study permit has expired, you can apply to restore your status but you must do this within 90 days of it expiring.
Yes, you can apply for a PGWP if your study permit has expired but you must do this within 90 days of losing your status.
You will need to pay the open work permit fee as well as a standard work permit fee.
You do not need to make two separate applications in this case, so long as you submit your fee receipt for restoring your status when making the PGWP application.