Immigration remains a priority and at the forefront of the agenda as Canada continues to recognize the importance of immigration amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Immigration is of vital importance to Canada and the contributions of international students are undeniable.
“International students contribute significant economic, social and cultural value to Canada”.Per The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship
According to Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), “international education represents a significant economic benefit to Canada with international students contributing $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP and supporting nearly 170,000 jobs in 2018. International students are also excellent candidates to apply to remain in Canada permanently, with nearly 54, 000 former students becoming permanent residents in Canada in 2018”.
Nevertheless, COVID-19 has impacted the lives of many international students who intended on traveling to Canada to begin their education programs and thereafter wanted to obtain a post-graduation work permit in order to gain Canadian work experience. Accordingly, Canada has recognized the current limitations surrounding travel and has advised of flexibility for students who are unable to be physically present in Canada in order to commence their studies.
Specifically, IRCC released a notice regarding the Flexibility in post-graduation work permit rules to help international students and Canadian post-secondary institutions. With this, IRCC announced a major update and reform to its PGWP rules for international students who intend on beginning their studies this fall.
What is PGWP?
The PGWP allows international students who have obtained a Canadian education at a designated learning institution (DLI) to gain Canadian work experience.
In order to be eligible for PWGP, the international student must have completed a full-time program at a DLI for at least eight months and this program must have granted them a diploma, degree or certificate.
A PGWP is a pathway for international students to work in Canada upon graduation from the DLI for up to three years. The length of a PGWP is dependent on the length of the program of study in Canada. It allows students to have exposure to great opportunities by working in Canada post-graduation. This further enables international students to have a great advantage in their future applications for permanent residency should they choose to make Canada their permanent home.
These candidates possess important and vital human capital characteristics which support the labour market in Canada. As such, these are ideal candidates for permanent residency as they assist the Canadian economy both in the present and will continue to in the future.
Overall, the most popular stream for former international students who obtained Canadian work experience by way of a PGWP is the Express Entry Canadian Experience Class stream, which awards additional points under the Comprehensive Ranking System for their previous Canadian education and work experience.
The most recent draws for Express Entry have been candidates who are eligible for the Canadian Experience Class stream. As such, an increasing number of former international students who obtained Canadian work experience have been invited to apply for permanent residency under this program.
What is the IRCC’s update on the PGWP?
Generally, online courses undertaken by international students during the course of their study are not eligible for a PGWP. As such, under normal circumstances, an international student’s ability to pursue distance learning is limited if they wish to be eligble for a PGWP after compelting their program of study at the DLI.
However, in response to the international travel restrictions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many DLIs are offering their courses online and are resorting to distance learning. As such, many international students will be beginning their programs through distance learning at a Canadian DLI and will not be physically present in Canada because of their current inability to travel.
IRCC has acknowledged that PGWP eligibility will not be affected for international students who will be commencing their studies in Canada in fall 2020 through online courses at a Canadian DLI. International students are now able to complete up to 50% of their program through online courses if they are unable to travel to Canada sooner. In order to further assist international students in this situation, no time will be deducted from the length of a PGWP for studies which were completed outside of Canada, up to December 31, 2020.
What Does This Mean for the Future of Canadian International Students?
IRCC’s announcement solidifies Canada as an extremely attractive destination for international students who wish to pursue their education endeavors and gain work. It is also appealing for those who eventually want to make Canada their permanent home.
Canada’s emphasis on encouraging international students to pursue their studies via distance learning will attract more as they still have the ability to obtain a PGWP, as if they were physically studying in Canada.
The eventual avenue and transition to permanent residency makes Canada the top choice for international students and has proven to be the most appealing destination accordingly.