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Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit Changes

Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit

Canada’s Immigration Minister, Marc Miller, has indicated that changes are on the horizon for the Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) program, which has been a crucial factor in attracting international students to Canada over the past 15 years. This article delves into what these changes might entail and how they could impact future international students.

Historical Context of the PGWP

For more than a decade, the PGWP policy has allowed international students to obtain an open work permit upon graduation from any post-secondary program in Canada. The current structure of the PGWP permits graduates to work for up to three years, depending on the length of their study program, without restrictions on location or job type.

Why Change is Imminent

An internal IRCC briefing document revealed that PGWP participation surged by 214% in 2023 compared to 2018. The significance of this growth has prompted the need for reevaluation and realignment of the program with Canada’s targeted labor market needs.

Potential Impact of New Policies

The intended reforms aim to better match labor market demands by limiting work permits for graduates from programs with lower market relevance while facilitating access for students entering occupations in shortage. These reforms could alter the volume of international students opting for certain programs if stringent measures are put into place.

Statements from Immigration Minister Marc Miller

Immigration Minister Marc Miller has made statements signaling his intent to reform the PGWP program. “The goal is to align educational outcomes with labor market needs,” said Minister Miller in a recent address. Speculation surrounds how these changes might be implemented, including caps or limits on PGWP participation and adjustments to work term durations based on industry demand.

What This Means for Prospective International Students

These potential changes may affect international students’ decisions on which programs and institutions to choose moving forward. Students may need to consider labor market trends more closely when planning their educational paths in order to maximize their post-study work opportunities.

Consulting on the PGWP Reforms

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recently circulated a survey to provincial and territorial governments to consult on the anticipated Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) reforms. The survey was subsequently distributed among peak bodies in Canada, and, in some cases, to their member institutions.

The survey document sets out that the purpose of the pending reforms is to, “Align PGWP eligibility with labor market needs while reducing the overall volume of PGWP holders, and increasing the likelihood that international students have labor market outcomes commensurate with their education and training.”

It asks respondents to provide input on eight key questions, each of which offers some insight into IRCC’s thinking around the future shape of the PGWP programme.

The questions include:

  1. If PGWP eligibility were restricted based solely on occupations in shortage, and corresponding programmes of study, which occupations should be included based on the needs in your area?
  2. What, if any, cohorts should be exempted from these changes, such as francophone students or graduate degree programmes? Please indicate the rationale.
  3. Should international students be required to demonstrate proof of a job offer aligned with the occupational shortage list in order to hold a PGWP beyond one year?
  4. Should any other eligibility criteria (language, provincial support, etc.), apart from a job offer, be applied to PGWP holders seeking to extend their permit past one year?
  5. What is your view of applying these labour market-based changes to PGWP eligibility to all graduates upon announcement this year, rather than grandfathering students who are already studying in Canada at the time of implementation?
  6. How often should the occupational shortage list be revised, and at what point thereafter should it be applied to students whose study is underway?
  7. Do changes to the PGWP being explored align with the profile of candidates you’d like to remain working in your jurisdictions in the long term

The survey has drawn considerable attention from international educators and stakeholders, both in Canada and abroad. Question #5 above has proven to be especially inflammatory in conversations among colleagues as the survey was circulating. It suggests that changes to PGWP could be brought into immediate effect, including for students already enrolled.

Needless to say, such a move would rise to a new level of recklessness for policymakers in Canada. In a year of challenging market signals, with considerable confusion and uncertainty already introduced for students and their families, any PGWP changes introduced with immediate effect would be extremely damaging to Canada’s brand as an international study destination.

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