BlogCOVIDHow do I get a work visa for Canada?Working in CanadaOnline Learning and the Post-Graduation Work Permit in the World of COVID-19

8 December 2021

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As a global community, the last 2 years have been marked by uncertainty, delays, and restrictions due to the pandemic. What many of us took for granted in the past – such as visiting family or seeing friends at school – suddenly became out of reach as a result of the travel restrictions, lockdowns, and government mandates that arose worldwide. The hopes of many students to attend school abroad and pursue a pathway to permanent residence in Canada merely became a dream due to COVID-19 after completing their studies. In the past, the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) was a highly effective program that an individual could take to transition into Canadian society after graduation. Through Canadian work experience, the PGWP provided the permit holder an opportunity to earn a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score sufficient to obtain the opportunity to be invited for permanent residence through a pathway such those found in Express Entry. These include the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP); the Canadian Experience Class (CEC); the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) and the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP).

The PGWP offers recent graduates that undertook full-time study at a PGWP-eligible program the ability to work and gain Canadian experience for a period of up to 3 years. This program arose from the understanding that offering international graduates an opportunity to join the Canadian workforce led to a positive benefit for Canadian society as a whole. However, in March of 2020 COVID-19 swept across Canada and severely disrupted the flow and function of society in general and Canada’s immigration program was similarly affected. As governments imposed social distancing, lockdowns forced businesses to turn to online solutions and the Canadian education system was similarly not immune from the impact of the global pandemic. In a world plagued by lockdowns and travel restrictions, it would be expected that programs such as the PGWP would be suspended due to the lack of international students attending PGWP-eligible programs in Canada. Yet this is not the case, the world adapted and so did Canada’s PGWP program.

Up until the spring of 2020, the time earned studying at a PGWP-eligible program required physical presence within the classroom. However, when the pandemic arose in the spring of 2020, Canada’s policy temporarily changed to allow international students unable to enter Canada, due to COVID-19 measures, to study from abroad through a PGWP-eligible program of at least 8 months in length and still have up to 100% of their online studies count towards a PGWP. Similar rules also apply to international students studying from within Canada who had their courses moved online, with no in-class option, as a direct result of COVID-19 pandemic measures implemented by their PGWP-eligible program.

Canada’s temporary COVID-19 policy for distance education was developed to promote the steady flow of international students to both pursue a Canadian education and to ultimately enter Canada’s workforce and contribute to Canadian society. This provides an opportunity for these individuals to be proactive with their Canadian education goals and mitigates the effects of COVID-19 on their ability to gain work experience within Canada after graduation. Most importantly, this policy assists holders of a PGWP to reduce any delay that they would otherwise experience in their pursuit of obtaining permanent residence or work experience in Canada.

This policy has been effective in its ability to assist international students. However, as accommodating as these measures have been to assist international students to both pursue an education in Canada and obtain valuable Canadian work experience, Canada’s Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has made it clear that the window of opportunity to accumulate time that counts towards a PGWP from abroad will close as of August 31, 2022. For many who are unable to study within Canada as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is an opportunity to get a head start on, or continue with, their Canadian education – regardless of where they are in the world – in pursuit of a pathway that could lead to permanent residence in Canada.

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Sas and Ing Immigration Law Centre LLP

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About the Author