Work permit extension bodes well for former international students

(Courtesy of Mahdis Habibinia)

With the pandemic still ongoing, former international students who have graduated and hold a postgraduate work permit (PGWP) have been struggling to find a job. This has adversely impacted the points they need to be eligible to apply for permanent residency in Canada. 

On January 8, 2021, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Marco E.L. Mendicino announced a new policy to help struggling former international students to extend their PGWP, given they meet certain requirements. 

“As we confront the pandemic’s second wave and chart a course for our recovery, attracting skilled immigrants is a central part of our plan. This new policy will help more graduates fill pressing needs in areas like health care, technology, and more,’’ stated Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in a January 8 press release.  

The extension will apply for 18 months, with the aim of helping foreign nationals find jobs that will ultimately boost Canada’s economic growth, as the pandemic has led to layoffs and reduced work hours.

Samiul Bari, a former international student who graduated from York in 2018 and is currently a permanent resident (PR) card holder, speaks to the current challenges international student alumni are facing in Canada’s job market.

“It is extremely difficult to find a NOC-list (National Occupational Classification) accepted, or rather a ‘PR applicable’ position, regardless of a global crisis. The fact that we are in the middle of a pandemic will make it that much harder,” Bari says. 

“Many may have also lost their jobs before they reach the one-year mark required to apply for PR. Therefore, these international students who have invested immensely not only from a financial perspective, but also through their work ethic surviving in a country thousands of miles away from the comfort of their own home, need all the support they can get from the Canadian government,’ says Bari. 

To be eligible to apply for an open work permit, applicants need to be present in Canada and have a PGWP that expired on or after January 30, 2020, or a PGWP that expires in four months or less from the date they apply. They also need to have a temporary valid status or are applying to restore their status. 

‘’As a recent graduate, I feel good about the steps taken, as it will help many people to keep seeking employment and support them through challenging times. There might be more competition in the job market, but there are more pros to the situation,’’ says Adeel Ahmed, an international student who recently graduated York from the bachelor of commerce in management program. 

This is not the first policy announced to help international students in Canada for the pandemic. International students who have started their classes before getting a study permit can also be eligible to apply for the PGWP, as long as their classes started in 2020. 

Pre-pandemic, only in-person studies were part of the criteria to apply for PGWP after the students received their study permit. 

 A Statistics Canada study shows almost one-third of international students who have completed their undergrad from a Canadian university and half of international graduate students in Canada have successfully become permanent residents 10 years after they got their first study permit. 

IRCC estimates that this policy could benefit approximately 52,000 former students holding an expiring or expired PGWP. Information on applying for the open work permit will be added to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website on January 27, 2021. 

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