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Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit:
Validity and Application 101

One of the many advantages of studying in Canada is the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP). A student may be eligible for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP) if they have completed a program of study at a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada.

Graduates holding a PGWP can do the following in Canada:

  • Work full-time
  • Work part-time
  • Be self-employed

Validity

A PGWP is valid for a minimum of eight months to a maximum of three years.

Officers will look at the length of the applicant’s program of study in Canada – using supporting documents for confirmation – to determine how long a PGWP will be valid. Regularly scheduled breaks, such as winter and summer breaks, should also be included in the length of a PGWP.

Determining the Length of a PGWP

Illustration of documentsA PGWP cannot be valid longer than the student’s passport: “If the applicant’s passport expires before the validity period of the post-graduation work permit, the officer should note this reason in the ‘Notes’ box, in the Global Case Management System.” Once the PGWP holder renews their passport, they must apply for a PGWP extension to take advantage of the entire validity of their permit.

A PGWP can only be extended “when the length of the permit could not be provided at the time of the application, due to the expiry date of the applicant’s passport.”

Permit Length

Length of Study: At least eight months and less than two years
Length of Permit: Coincides with the length of the program

  • Must be confirmed in writing, such as an official letter or transcript, by the eligible DLI.
  • Regularly scheduled breaks, such as winter and summer breaks, should also be included in the length of a PGWP.
  • According to the Government of Canada, “Officers may issue three-year post-graduation work permits to individuals who complete a master’s or doctoral degree in Canada when the eligible DLI has confirmed in the written confirmation of program completion that the degree is 16 to 23 months in length, and does not include regularly scheduled breaks.”

Length of Study: Two years or more
Length of Permit: Three years

  • Must be confirmed in writing, such as an official letter or transcript, by the eligible DLI.
  • Regularly scheduled breaks, such as winter and summer breaks, should also be included in the length of a PGWP.

Length of Study: More than one program within two years
Length of Permit: Should combine the length of each program

  • Each program of study must adhere to all eligibility requirements and be at least eight months in length.
  • If the combined length of the programs is two years or longer, the work permit may be valid for up to three years.

For information on determining the length of a permit when taking a Quebec vocational program, please click here.

Accelerated Studies

If an applicant finishes their studies in less time than the usual length of the program, this is known as accelerated studies. The length of the PGWP validity should be based on the usual length of the program of study. For example, if a student completes a one-year program in eight months, they should receive a PGWP valid for one year.

Students Impacted by a DLI Strike

If a strike impacts the completion of a program at a DLI, the student will still be considered to have studied full-time during the length of the strike. While time not attending class due to a strike does not impact eligibility, students must meet all other post-graduation work permit requirements.

While a post-graduate work permit applicant must study full-time in Canada, if the student “meets all the eligibility requirements, with the exception of full-time status during their final academic session, they are still considered eligible.”

For more information on labour disruptions and strikes, please click here.

Illustration of woman studying online

Online Learning

Applicants who complete a program entirely online (also known as distance learning), either inside or outside of Canada, are not eligible for a PGWP.

When a student has taken online courses at a DLI, officers use these guidelines to assess PGWP eligibility:

  • If the student completes more than 50% of their program online, the program may reasonably be considered a distance learning program. In this case, the applicant is ineligible for a PGWP.
  • If the student completes less than 50% of their program online, a PGWP may be issued. Validity is based on the program’s length, including credits earned from both in-person and online courses.

Studying Online During COVID-19

For time spent studying online during COVID-19 to count towards a PGWP, students must:

  • Complete at least 50% of their program in Canada (this includes online classes completed abroad)
  • Apply for a study permit by September 15, 2020
  • Start a program in spring, summer or fall 2020

Students won’t have time deducted from the length of a PGWP for studies completed outside Canada until December 31, 2020.

For more information, please click here.

Transfers Between Schools

If the applicant has transferred between eligible Canadian DLIs, the time spent studying must be at least eight months.

If an applicant graduates from an eligible DLI after transferring from an ineligible institution, an officer will only consider the time spent studying at the eligible DLI when issuing a PGWP. This time must be at least eight months.

Programs with an Overseas Component

A student is eligible for a PGWP if they complete a program of study in Canada with an overseas component, as long as they earn a Canadian educational credential from an eligible DLI. However, the length of the PGWP is based on the duration of their studies in Canada. Officers may contact the DLI to confirm that the studies have taken place in Canada.

Applying

Illustration of person completing documentA student should submit an application for a PGWP within 180 days of receiving an official letter or transcript from a DLI confirming that they have completed their program of study.

The 180 days begins when final marks are released or formal written notification of program completion is received (whichever is first). The applicant must provide proof of when they received the transcript, which an officer may corroborate with the DLI.

An application for a PGWP can be made within Canada if the applicant has:

  • A valid study permit
  • A valid visitor record because they switched their status to visitor status before the expiration of their study permit
  • Implied status, e.g., no decision has been made on their application to extend or change their status to visitor or student prior to the expiration of their study permit

If a study permit is invalid or expires, the applicant must:

  • Depart Canada and apply for a PGWP, or
  • Make an application to restore their status as a student. 

A PGWP application package can be found on the IRCC website:

All applications must be submitted online.

Work Authorization After Submitting a PGWP Application

For applications made before the expiration of a study permit, students can work full-time while waiting for a decision (even after departing and returning to Canada) if they: 

  • Had a valid study permit at the time of the PGWP application 
  • Finished their program of study 
  • Met the requirements for working off-campus without a work permit
  • Did not exceed the allowable hours of work

If an application for a PGWP is denied, applicants must stop work immediately.

Spouses and Common-Law Partners

Spouses and common-law partners of individuals with a PGWP may be eligible for an open work permit under the C41 exemption. 

Please click here for more information.

Learn about changes to Canada’s PGWP eligibility amid COVID-19.