Last Updated on May 15, 2020
Canada has announced new Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) rules for international students forced to study via distance learning because of restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The change announced on May 14, 2020, allows students unable to study in Canada to count time spent distance learning towards their PGWP eligibility.
Under the change, a foreign student’s eligibility for the PGWP will not be affected if their fall 2020 courses are conducted online due to COVID-19.
Furthermore, international students are to be allowed to complete up to 50 percent of their program online if they are unable to travel to Canada.
Finally, the online portion of their studies, up until December 31, 2020, will not be deducted from their future PGWP.
Previously, the PGWP feature criteria to discourage distance learning programs. Time spent outside Canada was deducted from the length of work permit available.
Under exemptions to Canada’s travel restrictions, international students can still travel to Canada if they held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, before March 18, 2020.
Why This Change?
Restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic have forced colleges and universities in Canada to conduct classes online.
Many international students were forced to return to their home countries when the pandemic broke out.
Under previous PGWP rule, time spent outside Canada counted against candidates, as well as time spent distance learning.
But, given they currently have no choice but to attend online classes, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has moved to ensure they are not penalized.
IRCC first moved to make the change for students already studying in Canada or whose program had a spring or summer start date.
Now the federal immigration department has extended the changes to those starting in the fall.
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Who Will the Change Affect?
The change will, first and foremost, come as a relief to international students planning to start or continue classes in fall, with the intention of qualifying for the PGWP.
These candidates have had their situations thrown into doubt by the coronavirus pandemic. The latest change seeks to reassure foreign students that Canada still wants them, although their arrival may be delayed by travel restrictions.
The move is also important to Canada’s Designated Learning Institutions – the schools, colleges and universities whose classes qualify students for a PGWP.
In the wake of the restrictions in place due to the pandemic, DLIs will be watching the impact upon their foreign student cohorts for the 2020-2021 academic year.
A decision that reassures foreign students will make them more likely to view the pandemic as a blip in their plans, instead of a reason to abandon the idea of coming to Canada.
International students are essential to the bottom line of colleges and universities.
International Students In Quebec
In a separate decision, Quebec’s immigration ministry moved to extend the stay of international students whose Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) expired as of April 30, allowing them to apply to stay in the province until the end of 2020.
Quebec foreign students can now apply to the federal government to have their study permit extended without requiring a new CAQ. This means they can continue as a temporary resident of Canada and complete their program once courses are allowed to resume.
Exemption to 20-Hour-Per-Week Work Limit
International students considered coronavirus essential workers in Canada have been exempted from the 20 hours of work per week limit usually applied to study permit holders when classes are in session.
The exemption, in place until August 31, 2020, covers those working in ‘health care, critical infrastructure, or the supply of food or other critical goods’ according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
It means they are free to help in Canada’s effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Benefits of International Students
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.
Additionally, nearly 54,000 former students becoming permanent residents in Canada in 2018.
Canada Covets International Students
Canada views international students as blue chip new permanent residents, illustrated by this latest decision.
It launched the Student Direct Stream in 2018, providing expedited processing for international students from key markets: China, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Pakistan, Senegal and Morocco.
Canada also views international students as key new permanent residents, given their age, Canadian education, Canadian life experience and language ability.
IRCC tweaked the Express Entry System in November 2016 to introduce more points for international graduates from Canadian universities.
What are the Extra CRS Points For Canadian Education?
|Education Level||Number of Points|
|One or two-year post secondary||15|
|Three-year post-secondary, master’s, professional degree or doctorate||30|