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A survey conducted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) could offer us a glimpse into the future of the Post- Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). This is an evolving story based on a report in The Star. At this point, IRCC have not committed to any changes to the PGWP program, but here is what we know so far.

Key Takeaways- What Could Changes Mean for International Students?

  • PGWP may be reserved for international students who graduate from programs tied to a labour shortage.
  • International students could need to demonstrate Language proficiency to get a PGWP.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller department issued a one-page survey to Colleges and Universities across the country, Based on the questions asked, and an , we can conclude that IRCC is planning big changes to the PGWP eligibility. 

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What Questions Were Asked in the Survey?

The survey contained questions aimed at securing stakeholder opinions on possible changes to the PGWP eligibility requirements. Questions included:

  • If PGWP eligibility were restricted based solely on occupations in shortage, and corresponding programs of study, which occupations should be included based on the needs in your area?
  • What, if any, cohorts should be exempted from these changes, such as francophone students or graduate degree programs or others? Please indicate the rationale.
  • Should international students be required to demonstrate proof of a job offer aligned with the occupational shortage list in order to hold a PGWP beyond one year?
  • Should any other eligibility criteria (language, provincial support, etc.), apart from a job offer, be applied to PGWP holders seeking to extend their permit past one year.
  • What is your view of applying these labour market-based changes to PGWP eligibility to all graduates upon announcement this year, rather than grandfathering students who are already studying in Canada at the time of implementation?
  • How often should the occupational shortage list be revised, and at what point thereafter should it be applied to students whose study is underway?
  • Do changes to the PGWP being explored align with the profile of candidates you’d like to remain working in your jurisdictions in the long term?
  • Is your [Provincial Nominee Programme] positioned to offer a viable pathway to permanent residence for international graduates with job offers in these key sectors?

What Can We Learn From These Questions? 

The biggest takeaway from the questions asked is that IRCC plans on limiting the PGWP to only those who graduate from programs tied to a labour market shortage. They are willing to make some exceptions to this, likely targeting French speakers or those attending a graduate course, as indicated in the questions.

A significant potential change would be making the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) dependent on having a job offer or demonstrating sufficient language proficiency. This option is being considered based on questions presented in the survey. The PGWP has historically been an open work permit, meaning the holder does not need to have a job offer to apply. Making the PGWP contingent on a job offer would make securing a job offer and subsequent PGWP much more challenging.

And finally, those already studying in Canada hoping to be exempt from these changes shouldn’t count on this. IRCC specifically asked Colleges and Universities whether they think any limitation on PGWP eligibility should be applicable to all international students, both current and prospective, or whether current students should be grandfathered, meaning current PGWP rules will be applied to current students. 

When Would Future Changes to the PGWP Come into Effect?

In an  the goal of re-aligning the PGWP program to better meet targeted labour market needs and immigration objectives should be implemented in January 2025.

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Why Would IRCC Change the PGWP Eligibilty Requirements?

Should this change come into force, it would be one of many changes international students have faced this year. Earlier in the year, IRCC placed a cap on the number of international study permits to be issued, excluded graduates from curriculum licensing arrangement programs from the PGWP and limited Spousal Open Work Permits (SOWPs) to partners of Masters, Professional degrees of Doctorial candidates. All these changes were passed in an attempt to maintain the integrity of the International Student Program. 

The premise of these new changes is “re-aligning labour market needs to facilitate access to work permits for students entering occupations in shortage, while reducing access for graduates from other programs. This could have a significant impact on the volume of international students and PGWP holders, if stringent tapering is applied to programs with lower labour market relevance”, according to the May 24, 2024 internal briefing document.

Which Programs Could Be Included If They Must Be Tied to Labour Shortages?

There is no way to know which programs could be included if IRCC decide to restrict the PGWP to certain programs. We can however look at which occupations are targeted by Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) to get an idea of recognized shortages on a provincial level. For instance, the province of Ontario just invited 244 Early Childhood Educators and Assistants in a targeted draw. Likewise, the province of BC has also conducted targeted draws in June 2024, inviting childcare, tech and construction workers. 

There are also the occupations targeted through the Express Entry system category-based draws which may give us an indication of which programs will be targeted. Category-based draws focus on 82 occupations plus applicants with French language proficiency. 

This could imply that programs in these industries could be safe.

Will Current International Students Be Affected by the Proposed Changes?

It is not clear whether current international students will be affected by this change. In case the changes do affect current students, and they find themselves unable to secure a PGWP, international students should explore other ways to stay in Canada upon graduation. Examples include:

  1. Examine current permanent residence pathways available, this could include PNPs or applying to the Express Entry system if eligible;
  2. Focus on securing employment in Canada ASAP. International students can currently work up to 20 hours a week off campus during term time. Gaining work experience as a student could position you well to continue working for that company, especially if you are relying on a Labour Market Impact Assessment to secure a work permit. 

We recognize that these new updates will be of great concern for both current and prospective international students, this is an evolving story and no official changes to the PGWP have been announced. We will strive to keep our community informed as more updates are released. 

If you’re interested in studying in Canada, we recommend you create a free 鶹ӳý account to access the tailored student checklist and other helpful resources. You can also subscribe to the newsletter to receive updates like this in your inbox. 

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 鶹ӳý.
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Citation "Drastic Changes in Pipeline for Post-Graduation Work Permit Eligibility." 鶹ӳý. . Copy for Citation

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