Posted on - Mar 26, 2018

By Catherine Sas Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

International students are a key part of Canada’s strategy to attract economic immigrants. Under the Express Entry selection program, which is the cornerstone of Canada’s economic immigration stream, applicants who have studied or worked in Canada garner more points than those who haven’t. Obtaining work in Canada is not so easy to arrange when you are in a different country and on another continent. However, for International students in Canada, there is the option of the Post – Graduate Work permit (PGWP). After completing a certificate, diploma or degree program, students may be eligible for a work permit of one to three years in duration. Even one year of work experience can make a huge difference in the number of points a student can obtain in the Express Entry application process. But many of Canada’s international students will not be eligible for a PGWP because of the school that they are attending. If Canadian permanent residence is your ultimate goal, you will want to be sure to attend a school that qualifies for the issuance of a PGWP.

The starting point for any international student to be able to study in Canada is to obtain a study permit. As of June 01, 2014, Canadian schools were required to obtain certification as a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). Almost ALL schools in Canada have been able to be registered as a DLI for immigration purposes. Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) provides a system for determining whether your chosen school is a DLI such that you will be eligible for a study permit. Many students assume that if they are studying at a DLI that has been recognized by IRCC, that they will also qualify for a PGWP. They are mistaken.

To be eligible for a PGWP you must be taking a program of study at a public college or university or at a private school that is able to grant certificates, diplomas or degrees in accordance with provincial legislation. There are many, many private schools that do not fit this description. Private language schools, vocational schools and private colleges generally are not able to issue provincially recognized educational credentials and completing their programs will not allow a student to obtain a PGWP. This has generated considerable confusion which has recently lead the Minister of Immigration to release an announcement cautioning students about their choice of school given their ultimate immigration goals. On February 19, 2018,
Minister Hussen posted an online announcement “Determine your eligibility – Work after graduation” which notes:

If you graduated from a DESIGNATED LEARNING INSTITUTION, and want to stay in Canada temporarily while working, you may be eligible to apply for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP).
NOTE: Not all Designated learning institutions make you eligible for a post – graduation work permit.

Check the designated learning institution list, to find out which schools offer programs that make you eligible.

So, while the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship acknowledges that there is a problem, he only refers students back to the list of DLIs and NOT to the list of PGWP eligible schools. Surprisingly, IRCC does not publish such a list of PGWP eligible schools. Which leaves everyone – including immigration officers who regularly issue work permits to students who are not eligible for them – completely confused. Some provinces, as part of their PNP programs for International students, provide reference to a provincial list. In British Columbia, students can find a list of PWGP qualifying schools at Welcome BC. If immigration officers can’t get it straight, how is a prospective international student supposed to figure this out?

On January 16, 2018 my colleague, who is a Vancouver immigration lawyer, posted an open letter to Minister Hussen calling upon him to provide clarity to international students seeking a PGWP. While the Minister seems to have heard the message, his recent announcement does little to accomplish the desired result. For a prospective international student to Canada, keen to be able to obtain work experience that will lead to permanent residence, the message is clear: not all schools in Canada are created equal when it comes to obtaining a PGWP. Be sure to do your homework before you apply!


Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 6 consecutive years.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

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