Students in essential positions can work extended hours for current Coronavirus period
Posted on - Apr 28, 2020

By Victor Ing

Victor Ing

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced on April 22, 2020 that, effectively immediately, international post-secondary students who are providing essential services will be authorized to work full-time while attending school. This rule change will be in effect until August 31, 2020 and will allow international students to help contribute to the nation’s COVID-19 response in areas of critical need such as health care and ensure that Canadians will continue to have access to critical goods and services during this difficult time.

International post-secondary students in Canada are normally restricted to working part-time hours of up to 20 hours per week during the academic school year, and they are only allowed to work more than 20 hours per week during regularly scheduled school breaks. These restrictions are in place to ensure that international students are primarily focused on their studies when they are in Canada, while still allowing them the opportunity to gain work experience in the Canadian labour market.

As COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic on March 11, international students began to face school closures and many of them started to transition to online distance learning. Since then, not many formal announcements have been made by IRCC on how COVID-19 will affect the immigration status of students already in Canada. The first concrete information that IRCC made available was an announcement on March 13 to reassure international students that their eligibility to obtain a post-graduation work permit (PGWP) would not be affected if they were required to start taking online courses due to COVID-19. Normally, a student would be disqualified from applying for a PGWP if most of their course credits were earned through online distance learning.

IRCC’s latest announcement now clarifies that international post-secondary students who are providing an essential service will be able to work more than 20 hours per week during the regular academic semester. A list of essential services has been prepared by the federal government, which may differ from the services deemed essential by the provinces and territories. For the detailed list of essential services applicable to the new COVID-19 rules for students working in Canada, please refer to the following resource: https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/crtcl-nfrstrctr/esf-sfe-en.aspx

It is important to note that school disruptions caused by COVID-19 are not considered by IRCC to be regularly scheduled school breaks that would authorize a student to start working more than 20 hours per week. Therefore, any students who are not providing an essential service will not benefit from the new rules.

IRCC’s latest announcement is a positive step designed to ensure that we are making the most of the capable workforce that international students represent, including thousands of students enrolled in health-care programs across the country who may be willing and able to help. Many of these international students, especially those studying in post-graduate programs, are mature students who have a diverse set of skills and experience that Canada could benefit from. During these unprecedented times, we need to have all hands on deck to ensure that Canadians get the critical goods and services they need to weather the crisis.


Victor Ing is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada, and provides a full range of immigration services.


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

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