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International students can now do 100% of studies online and still get PGWP

International students who complete their entire postsecondary program online will now be eligible for an open work permit after graduation.

Canada is making it easier for international student graduates to be eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) during the pandemic. Before, online learning could not count towards a PGWP application, but that has all changed.

“This new policy means that students hoping to work in Canada after graduation won’t miss out on opportunities while ensuring that our economy and society continue to benefit from all that international students bring,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said in a media release. “Our message to international students and graduates is simple: we don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here.”

This new measure to support international student graduates comes just weeks after Canada announced that PGWPs can be renewed for up to 18 months. Typically, PGWPs have a fixed duration and cannot be renewed or extended.

The new measures apply to international students who are enrolled in a PGWP-eligible program, and whose study program begins in any semester between spring 2020 and fall 2021. It also applies to those whose study program was already in progress in March 2020 when Canada first went into lockdown.

International students also need to meet all other PGWP eligibility criteria, including the requirement to have an approved study permit.

In 2019, more than 572,000 international students contributed $21 billion to the Canadian economy, supporting 170,000 jobs through tuition and spending. Also that year, more than 58,000 graduates became Canadian permanent residents.

Canadian immigration has taken a hit due to the pandemic. Service disruptions and travel restrictions make it difficult for international students to come to Canada. Currently, international students can travel to Canada if they are going to a DLI that has an approved COVID-19 readiness plan.

PGWP supports permanent immigration

The PGWP allows international student graduates who studied at a Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI)  to work for any employer anywhere in Canada for up to three years.

The work experience that international graduates can get from a PGWP can support a future application for permanent residence through several immigration pathways. Express Entry, Quebec Experience Program, and the Provincial Nominee Program, for example, all highly value Canadian work experience and some programs require it.