April 8, 2020

Online Delivery and PGWP eligibility – New measures announced for international students starting in May or June

We are pleased to share that Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has extended online delivery exemptions with respect to Post-Graduate Work Permit eligibility for international students as we have been calling for. Those who have a study permit or who have been approved for a study permit for a program starting in May or June can begin and complete up to 50% of their program online from abroad in anticipation of a transition to Canada. These are exceptional circumstances and we appreciate this flexibility. Important decisions regarding the Spring/Summer intake can now be made with some clarity.

We know, however, that many questions remain and that, in some ways, the clarity that this guidance brings is incomplete for many institutions and students. We are all faced with a high degree of uncertainty as to the duration of this pandemic and as to what the impacts will be in different countries at different times. While our hope is that students can transition to Canada, or begin new programs in the fall, we will continue to ask for flexibility should the situation not improve and students remain unable to travel to Canada for reasons beyond their control.

We will continue to work with IRCC and other government departments and stakeholders to advocate on your behalf, and that of your students. Given continued service disruptions at Visa Applications Centers, IRCC Offices, and testing centers around the world, it is critical that we find solutions to emerging issues, including those related to the ongoing processing of study permits.

What follows is an update from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada:

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is actively involved in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, and working to clarify the uncertainty it places on all our lives and work. Thank you for your collaboration, and understanding, as we manage through these unprecedented times.

Students, Designated Learning Institutions, and other stakeholder groups have approached IRCC to determine what changes, if any, would be made to the eligibility requirements for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) in light of recently introduced travel and health restrictions that have prompted many Designated Learning Institutions to begin offering their courses online.

Under the standard processing guidelines for the PGWPP an international student graduating from an eligible Designated Learning Institution may be eligible for a work permit if the graduate has:

  • completed a program of study in Canada (minimum 8 month duration);
  • completed at least 50% of their studies in Canada; and,
  • completed at least 50% of their studies in-class.

Additionally, any time spent studying towards a Canadian credential outside of Canada is deducted from the assessment of the length of the work permit.

As previously indicated, students who were already studying in Canada, and whose classes were moved online due to the travel and health restrictions introduced due to COVID-19 won’t be penalized with regard to their PGWPP eligibility, including the length of work permit for which they will be eligible. However, these students continue to be required to spend at least 50% of their time studying in Canada to be eligible for the PGWPP.

To address ongoing developments with respect to COVID-19, on April 7, 2020, IRCC introduced temporary policy changes, effective immediately. These temporary policy changes impact students who currently have a study permit, or who have been approved for a study permit, for a program starting in May or June 2020, but who are unable to travel to Canada at this time due to travel restrictions. For these students, if their in-class courses are being moved to an online-only format because of COVID-19, their eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Program won’t be affected. International students in this situation may begin their classes while outside Canada and may complete up to 50% of their program while outside Canada if they cannot travel to Canada sooner.

Given the fluidity of the current context surrounding COVID-19, IRCC will continue to monitor and assess the situation.

We encourage you to communicate this temporary policy change with international students, Designated Learning Institutions and other interested stakeholders to ensure they are aware of the benefits that international students may or may not be eligible to receive at the completion of their program of study.