The government of Canada recently announced that foreign graduates with work permits that have recently expired or are about to expire will be able to remain in the country for an additional 18 months.
This year alone, about 127,000 PGWPs will expire, which could cause a severe labour shortage. To mitigate against this, current holders of post-graduate work permits will have the option of extending their visas starting from April 6.
This includes foreign nationals whose PGWP expired in 2023, as well as those whose visas have already been extended or who were qualified to do so.
The announcement is the most recent in a line of policy changes designed to address Canada’s labour shortages.
What they are saying: Sean Fraser, minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship stated,
“We need to use every tool in our toolbox to support employers who continue to face challenges in hiring the workers they need to grow.
“At the same time, we’re providing international graduates whose work permit is expiring or has expired with some additional time to stay in Canada to gain valuable work experience and potentially qualify to become a permanent resident.”
Larissa Bezo, president and CEO of the Canadian Bureau for International Education, said the organisation ‘warmly welcomes’ the news.
“Today’s announcement serves to underscore Canada’s desire to retain high-skilled talent from coast to coast to coast”.
“The extension of post-graduate work permits for up to 18 months creates further opportunity for our international students to establish meaningful connections across our communities and to gain valuable Canadian work experience.”
“We need to use every tool in our toolbox to support employers” according to Philipp Reichert, director of global engagement at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, who indicated that it is a great update that will help any current holders continue to work and gain experience and potentially then qualify for the various PR stream options”.
The backstory: Previously, in a bid to tackle labour shortages, Canada lifted working hour restrictions for international students.
To further close the gap in labour shortages, 18 months have now been added to PGWP holders after the validity of the permit.
Before this announcement, PGWP holders needed to apply for a different type of work permit if they wished to remain in the country after their student visa expired.
The expiration of a PGWP varies according to the length of the study program of the applicant which is a minimum of 8 months up to a maximum of 3 years.
For example, if a program lasted less than 8 months, the applicant would be ineligible for a PGWP. Furthermore, if a program lasted for at least 8 months but less than 2 years, such as a 9-month program, the work permit could be valid for up to 9 months.
If the program lasted more than 2 years, the PGWP would be valid for 3years, and so on.
With the new changes, an additional 18 months will now be added to any previously applicable validity period, giving more room for international graduates to gain more experience and simultaneously address labour shortages.
What this means: Canada has appealed to Nigerians and other nationals for some years now due to the post-graduate work permit privilege. This has generally made the country to remain a top choice for students from Nigeria.
Extending permits will give international graduates the chance to gain additional Canadian work experience, which can provide a pathway to permanent residency in the country.
With this recent development, more international students from Nigeria are likely to apply to Canada, pushing other countries to second place. According to IRCC, immigrants could account for up to 100% of the growth in the country’s labour force and could account for half of Canada’s total population within the next decade.
However, as the country accepted a record 437,000 new permanent residents in 2022, some have warned that Canada cannot accommodate the number of international students who want to become Canadian residents.