Skip to content
Rate article
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
Be the first to rate
Share article

This article was updated more than 6 months ago. Some information may be outdated.

In response to the impacts of the pandemic, Canada has launched a new program allowing certain recent international students to apply for an extra open work permit. The program is only available from January 27 to July 27, 2021.

Jump To

What you'll find on this page

Many international students choose to stay in Canada permanently after they complete their Canadian studies. To immigrate permanently, many international graduates apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), enabling them to gain the Canadian work experience needed to qualify for a permanent residence program. The pandemic has disrupted the employment of many of these international students, jeopardizing their ability to apply for permanent residence.

The new temporary immigration policy allows certain recent international students to apply for an extra open work permit to supplement their expired, or soon-to-expire, PGWP. These extra open work permits will be valid for up to 18 months, enabling these students to remain in Canada and work towards gaining the Canadian work experience necessary to qualify for permanent resident status.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) estimates that as many as 52,000 graduates with expired or expiring PGWPs could benefit from this public policy. The government announced this opportunity on January 8, 2021, as a “new policy to help former international students live in, work in and continue contributing to Canada.” The program officially opened to applicants on January 27, 2021.

Who is eligible for the extra open work permit for international students impacted by COVID-19?

In order to be eligible for the extra open work available under this new temporary policy, an applicant must:

  • have a PGWP that expired on or after January 30, 2020, or a PGWP that expires in 4 months or less from the date they apply;
  • have been in Canada when the policy took effect on January 27, 2021, and have remained in Canada since that date;
  • have a valid temporary status, or be applying to restore their status;
  • apply between January 27 and July 27, 2021; and
  • have a valid passport. Note that the open work permit will not be issued for a duration past the expiration of the applicant’s passport. In order to be granted a work permit for the full 18 months, applicants must ensure their passport is valid for at least 18 months from the date of approval.

As an example, an international student who graduated from a Canadian bachelor’s degree program in May, 2017, and was issued a three-year PGWP (expiring in May, 2020) could be eligible, as long as they are still in Canada and have temporary status (or are applying to restore their status).

As well, a person who graduated from a one-year diploma program in December, 2020, and was issued an eight-month PGWP (expiring in August, 2021) could be eligible, as long as they apply within four months of the expiry date of their PGWP. They would also need to be in Canada and have temporary status (or be applying to restore their status).

In both cases, the applicant would be eligible for an 18 month open work permit as long as their passports had at least 18 months of validity left on their date of approval.

How do you apply for the extra open work permit for international students impacted by COVID-19?

Applicants for this program must apply online between January 27 and July 27, 2021. The online process and portal for applicants can be found online here.

All applicants must submit required documents proving that they meet the program requirements and pay the associated fees. As well, applicants must include a letter that says they are applying for an open work permit under the ‘Public Policy Facilitating the Issuance of an Open Work Permit to Former or Current Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Holders.’

Why is this new PGWP policy necessary?

International students make huge contributions to Canada. Not only do they contribute over $21 billion annually to the Canadian economy, but they also participate in and enrich campuses and communities across the country.

Additionally, many international students choose to immigrate to Canada permanently. Transitioning to Canada permanently provides a vital contribution to the longevity of Canada’s economy, as new immigrants are necessary to help support the needs of the aging Canadian population. By the year 2035, it is estimated that there will only be two Canadian workers for each retiree — immigrants are needed to offset this demographic shift.

“Their status may be temporary, but the contributions of international students are lasting,” stated Marco Mendicino, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, in a release announcing the launch of the policy, “This new policy means that young students from abroad who have studied here can stay and find work, while ensuring that Canada meets the urgent needs of our economy for today and tomorrow. Our message to international students and graduates is simple: we don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here.”

If you are unsure of your potential eligibility for this new open work permit, or otherwise want to explore your options for moving to or remaining in Canada, you can book a consultation with one of our recommended Canadian immigration consultants.

About the author

Dane Stewart

Dane Stewart

Canadian Immigration Writer
Dane is an award-winning digital storyteller with experience in writing, audio, and video. He has more than 7 years’ experience covering Canadian immigration news.
Read more about Dane Stewart
Citation "New work permit program to help international students impacted by COVID-19." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation


  • Canada Abroad team

    Canada Abroad

    Canada Abroad is a transparent Canadian immigration consultancy with advice you can trust. Led by Deanne Acres-Lans (RCIC #508363), the team delivers professional, regulated, and efficient service.

  • The Doherty Fultz Immigration team staff members

    Doherty Fultz Immigration

    Led by Anthony Doherty (RCIC #510956) and Cassandra Fultz (#514356), the Doherty Fultz team uses their 40+ years of experience to empower you towards settling in Canada.

  • Perez McKenzie Immigration

    Led by Jenny Perez (RCIC #423103), Perez McKenzie Immigration is a Canadian immigration consultancy based in British Columbia, with offices in Vancouver and Whistler.

Our Partners

Get your immigration questions answered by an expert

Speak with a regulated Canadian immigration consultant to help plan your immigration. Moving2Canada is happy to recommend a handful of exceptional consultants.
  • Smiling young woman at a laptop

    Find the best immigration program for you

    Take our free immigration quiz and we'll tell you the best immigration programs for you!

  • Chef at restaurant spooning vegetables

    Get matched to job opportunities

    Get matched to job opportunities from Canadian employers who are seeking to hire people with your skills.

  • Access our immigration roadmaps

    Our immigration roadmaps will teach you the basics of Express Entry, study permits, and more! Take control of your own immigration process.


Unlock exclusive resources with a free account.

Create a Moving2Canada account to get the resources you need, tailored to your profile. Get matched with the best immigration programs & job offers, and access exclusive events & resources.