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The post-graduation work permit (PGWP) is a pillar of Canada's immigration system, allowing international students who graduate from universities and colleges in Canada to work in Canada for up to three years upon graduation. The post-graduation work permit also helps graduates transition to permanent resident status in Canada.

What is the PGWP?

The PGWP is an open work permit for international graduates of Canadian education institutions. It allows graduates to work for any employer in any location in Canada, and to change employers freely.

This program is designed to help Canada attract and retain skilled and educated foreigners. It is a pathway to permanent residence for those students who wish to stay in Canada after graduating.

2024 measures for international students and Post-Graduation Permits applicants

On January 22, Canada’s immigration minister announced significant changes impacting international students. Starting May 15, 2024 (and not September 1, as originally announced) Post Graduation Work Permits will be restricted and no longer available to students in public/private partnership programs, also known as curriculum licensing agreements. These specific programs are managed by private colleges, which are authorized to issue diplomas comparable to those awarded by public colleges, that have stricter admission criteria. The Government of Canada website says some exceptions will be made:

  • Exception 1: Curriculum licensing agreements between provinces/territories (cross-jurisdictional). Students who began a program of study at a private college being delivered on behalf of a public college in another province/territory on or before January 31, 2023, may be eligible for a PGWP. They must also meet all other PGWP eligibility criteria. Students beginning these cross-jurisdictional programs on or after February 1, 2023 are not eligible for a PGWP.
  • Exception 2: Curriculum licensing agreements within the same province. Students who began a program of study at a private college being delivered on behalf of a public college in the same province before May 15, 2024, may be eligible for a PGWP. They must also meet all other program eligibility criteria.

However, no exceptions will be made for students beginning curriculum licensing agreement programs on or after May 15, 2024.

For Master’s graduates and graduates of other short graduate-level programs, work permits will now be of 3 years max for eligible candidates. This change aims to close loopholes and tighten oversight, particularly in private colleges operating under curriculum licensing agreements.

Also, the COVID-era measure to allow distance learning to be eligible toward PGWP eligibility is being extended to August 31, 2024.

Applying for a PGWP

Eligible graduates of Canadian educational institutions may apply for a PGWP within 180 days of graduating. It does not matter whether you are inside or outside of Canada when you apply, so long as you’re eligible and it’s within the 180 day time limit.

You will need to show proof that you attended and completed your program, and provide information about the name of your program and how long the program ran for. There are specific documents required.

PGWP Requirements: Who is eligible for a PGWP?

To obtain a post-graduation work permit, you must currently hold valid temporary status or have left Canada. You must have graduated from an eligible designated learning institution (DLI). You must also submit clear evidence that you meet all of the following criteria:

  • You have completed an academic, vocational or professional training program at an eligible institution in Canada that is at least 8 months in duration leading to a degree, diploma or certificate.

Note: Starting May 15, Post Graduation Work Permits will be restricted and no longer available to students in public/private partnership programs, also known as curriculum licensing agreements.

  • You have maintained full-time student status in Canada during each academic session of the program or programs of study they have completed and submitted as part of their post-graduation work permit application. Exceptions can be made only for the following: leave from studies, final academic session, or COVID-19 related reasons (explained below).
  • You have received a transcript and an official letter from the eligible DLI confirming that you have met the requirements to complete your program of study. The transcript and official letter must be included in a post-graduation work permit application.

Special policy for online study during the COVID-19 pandemic

During the pandemic, you can complete 100% of your study online from abroad and still be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). Any studies completed outside Canada between spring 2020 and August 31, 2024, counts toward the length of a PGWP. This applies even if you’re completing 2 study programs. These loosened requirements apply to “all international students who are enrolled in a PGWP-eligible program, and meet all other PGWP criteria.”

When To Submit a PGWP Application

Within 180 days of the date of applying for the post-graduation work permit, you must also meet one of the following criteria:

  • You hold a valid study permit, OR
  • You held a study permit, OR
  • You were authorized to study in Canada without the requirement to obtain a study permit under paragraphs 188(1)(a) and (b) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. This list is limited to private staff of diplomats, members of the armed forces of certain countries, and indigenous people, but it also includes people who enroll in a course or program of studies that is six months or less and will be completed within the period for their stay authorized upon entry into Canada.

Canada’s PGWP: The Rationale

Canada wants international students and graduates to plan for a long-term career in the country. To facilitate this goal, the post-graduation work permit program allows students who have graduated from a participating Canadian post-secondary institution to gain valuable Canadian work experience.

With this experience, graduates not only earn professionally — they can also benefit from permanent residence immigration programs that reward Canadian work experience, such as the Canadian Experience Class.

PGWP Validity

A post-graduation work permit may be valid for up to three years, depending on the duration of the study program in Canada completed by the applicant. Moreover, the post-graduation work permit is an open work permit, allowing its bearer to work in any location in Canada, not restricted to any employer. Neither the applicant nor an employer needs to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) before the worker may begin working in Canada.

The post-graduation work permit is sometimes referred to as a post-graduate work permit.

Eligible universities and colleges

The educational institution must be one of the following: The applicant must provide evidence that the program or programs of study were taken in Canada at one of the following eligible Canadian designated learning institutions (DLIs):

  • a public post-secondary institution, such as a college, a trade or technical school, a university, or a CEGEP (in Quebec); or
  • a private post-secondary institution that operates under the same rules and regulations as public institutions in Quebec; or
  • a private secondary or post-secondary institution in Quebec offering qualifying programs of 900 hours or longer leading to a diploma of vocational studies (DVS) or an attestation of vocational specialization (AVS); or
  • a Canadian, private institution authorized by provincial statute to confer degrees, such as an associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree, but only if the student is enrolled in a program of study leading to a degree, as authorized by the province, which may not include all programs of study offered by the private institution

Note: Starting May 15, Post Graduation Work Permits will be restricted and no longer available to students in public/private partnership programs, also known as curriculum licensing agreements.

See the DLI list to verify schools’ eligibility.

Applications can be submitted either online or on paper.

Work permit duration

How long the post-graduation work permit is valid for depends on the length of the study program.

Duration of study programDuration of work permit
Less than 8 monthsIneligible
Between 8 and 24 monthsValid for up to the same length as the study program
24 months or longerShould be 3 years
More than 1 programMay be valid for up to 3 years if more than 1 eligible study program is completed
Master's or PhD program3 years

PGWP Processing Time

This depends on where the applicant is at the time they apply for their PGWP. PGWP submitted within Canada are currently taking 4 months to process. The processing times for applications submitted outside of Canada will depend on the processing delays of the processing office.

Can applicants work while waiting for their PGWP?

Yes, applicants can work full-time during the processing of their PGWP so long as they had a valid study permit when their PGWP application was submitted, have completed the program of study and have respected the terms of their study permit.

Unlike other applicants on maintained status, applicants who are waiting for the processing of their PGWP may leave and re-enter Canada and continue working while they wait for their permit.

Reasons applicants may get a shorter PGWP than expected.

Imagine finally getting your PGWP and it is shorter than you expected! There are a few reasons why this could happen, the  main being your passport validity. If your passport expires in 6 months, so will your PGWP.

Can a PGWP be extended?

Prior to the pandemic, there was only one way a a PGWP can be extended. That is if the original PGWP duration was limited to the applicants passport validity. If you are looking for ways to stay in Canada once your PGWP expires, consult our list of options you may have.

Special Initiative: Post-Graduation Work Permits Extension 2023

International graduates whose PGWP is expiring in 2023 will quality for an additional or extended work permit to keep their status for up to 18 months.

Starting April 6, 2023, these measures will allow PGWP holders to opt in to a facilitative process to extend their work permit.

Foreign nationals whose PGWP has already expired in 2023 and those who were eligible for the 2022 PGWP facilitative measure will also have the opportunity to apply for an additional 18-month work permit. Those with expired work permits will be able to restore their status, even if they are beyond the 90-day restoration period, and will receive an interim work authorization while awaiting processing of their new work permit application.

In August 2022, Canada introduced a new open work permit program for Post-Graduation Work Permit holders whose work permits expire between September 20, 2021, to December 31, 2022. These workers are also eligible to work in Canada for an additional 18 months by either extending their work permit or applying for a new one. Those currently in Canada will also have the ability to work in the interim period while their permit is being extended or a new one is being issued.

IRCC confirmed on December 7th 2023 that they will not be extending PGWP further. Those who have a PGWP expiring will need to look at other options to extend their stay in Canada.

How many PGWP can a student get?

A student can only ever get 1 PGWP, even if they go on to complete additional studies after their initial PGWP. This means that applicants should be mindful of PGWP durations when they apply for study programs if their goal is to remain in Canada and study.

How do accelerated studies impact the length of the PGWP?

In cases of accelerated studies, the PGWP will be assessed against the length of the program of study not the time taken to complete the  studied. For instance, if a 2 year program was completed in 18 months the length of the PGWP will be that of a 2 year program.

Does work experience acquired on a PGWP count towards permanent residence?

In most cases an applicant can use work experience acquired on a PGWP towards eligibility towards permanent residence. In fact, some PNP’s target international student currently studying in Canada.

PGWP Fees: How much does a PGWP cost?

A PGWP costs $155 CAD. In addition to the PGWP fee, the applicant must also pay a $100 CAD open work permit fee.

Can spouses of PGWP holders get a work permit?

Yes, spouses are eligible for an open work permit if the PGWP applicant is working in Canada.

Moving2Canada now has a complete study section, dedicated to helping you come to Canada as a student and stay long-term. Visit the study section to learn more!

About the author

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Rebecca Major

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Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Rebecca Major is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (R511564) with nearly 15 years of licenced Canadian Immigration experience, gained after graduating with a Bachelor of Laws in the UK. She specializes in Canadian immigration at Moving2Canada.
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