Canada: Online Courses Will Not Affect Work Permit Eligibility

International students taking their courses online, away from the country, will still be eligible to apply for a post graduate work permit.


The global COVID 19 pandemic has brought many a sector to a standstill. With worldwide restrictions on air travel, international students—especially new students—are unable to travel to their universities. For many, this has raised concerns regarding eligibility for post study work permits.

In Canada, a temporary reform put in place by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), guarantees that students taking their courses online during this period will not face any problems with regard to eligibility when applying for a Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP).

According to a survey by the Canadian Bureau for International Education, 60% of Canada’s international students desire to transition to permanent residence. The PGWP is an important stepping stone in that direction as it allows students to work in Canada for up to 3 years after the completion of their courses.

The Canadian government put in place travel restrictions on 18th of March 2020 to combat the spread of coronavirus. International students with a valid study permit or whose permit was already approved when the rules came into effect are exempt from these restrictions, though 14-day self-isolation is mandatory. However, educational institutions have suspended on-campus classes and most courses have shifted online, so that students continue their classes from their homes, whether within or outside the country. These changes affect both current and new international students, since the travel restrictions are in place until 30th of June for now. In fact, most new students scheduled to start their semester in the coming months will now be starting their courses online.

The IRCC website lists the interim measures and regulations taken in light of pandemic. If in-class courses are being moved to an online-only format because of COVID-19, eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program won’t be affected. This is applicable to students with a valid study permit as well as those who have been approved for a study permit for courses starting in May or June but are unable to travel to Canada at this time due to travel restrictions. International students in this situation may begin their classes and complete up to 50% of their programme while outside Canada if they cannot travel to Canada sooner. While the processing of all non-essential visitor visas has been suspended, study permit applications are being processed to the extent possible. Applicants are being given 90 days instead of the standard 30 days to give biometrics, with the clause that their applications will not be refused or closed if they cannot give their biometrics in this time frame.

To be eligible for the PGWP, students must have completed a course whose duration was longer than 8 months in a Designated Learning Institution. They also must have “maintained full-time status as a student in Canada during each semester of [the] study program,” excluding the final semester, which is part-time. In other words, they must have continuously studied full time in Canada, and studying online could render an applicant ineligible for a PGWP. However, with restrictions enforced due to the spread of coronavirus, students will not be able to fulfil the eligibility for the PGWP. This is why the provisional move has been very welcome.

Government research shows that those with Canadian experience prior to becoming permanent residents integrate into the labour market quicker and more efficiently. Many of Canada’s point-based economic class immigration programmes reward extra points to candidates with Canadian work experience, and thus are well suited for international students with a PGWP.

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Posted in Canada, News on Apr 15, 2020