One thing I have noticed recently in my practice is the number of individuals who are having challenges with Post-Graduate Work Permits, more specifically the period of time between which they complete their final academic session and the time in which they receive their post-graduate work permit (PGWP).
The period in which an international student holds a PGWP is the most crucial period in their ambition to become a economic permanent resident. As I have discussed in several prior posts, the PGWP provides the student the opportunity (albeit often challenging to obtain) to get the one-year of skilled work experience that can set them up for the Express Entry process.
Problems 1: Late/Mistimed Application
An increasing problem I am seeing is that individuals are applying too late for their post-graduate work permit. A post-graduate work permit must be submitted with 90 days from meeting the requirements of completing the program of study. This DOES NOT always mean (and usually does not mean) the actual date of your graduation. Most programs (and inquiries should be made with your institution if this is not the case) issue letters or notices indicating that you have completed your requirements and are now eligible for graduation. This is the date the clock starts ticking.
For many individuals their study permits may extend beyond the period of their full-time studies. This can also be very deceiving for an individual preparing to apply for a PGWP. Since June 2014, the new study permit requirements have created an oft-confusing provision that allows you to work full-time during regularly scheduled breaks (i.e. summer/winter/spring vacations) as long as you maintain full-time status as a student. Importantly, this DOES NOT cover the summer after you graduate UNLESS you have a pending application for a PGWP.
Right now PGWP Applications (submitted online) are also taking several months. CIC does not specifically post processing times for PGWP but from several individuals, I have heard this has taken up to 4-5 months. If the PGWP Application is made before the study permit expires, this will give the Applicant the ability to work (accordingly to the terms of their study permit, until a decision is made on their PGWP. While this is all good, the waiting period can be particularly challenging on students who had accompanying spouses who had their open work permits tied to the PGWP applicant’s expiring study permits. There is no implied status for the accompanying spouse and their own ability to receive a further open work permit will be tied to the PGWP Applicant receiving their PGWP and demonstrating their employment in a NOC 0, A, B position.
Resultantly, Individuals who have the ability to apply for a work permit at the port of entry and/or flagpole are strongly advised to look into the option and seek advise from competent counsel prior to attempting to make the application. The process, if done properly, could save several months of worry. I recommend reading my colleague Steven Meurren’s excellent piece on flagpoling and its potential risks here.
Problem 2: Poorly-Prepared Application
The challenge with PGWP is that they are a “one shot deal.” Whereas a refusal for a temporary-resident visa or initial study permit can often be addressed through a new application, which may cost an Applicant a few months or a semester of wait time, a failed PGWP Application can possibly alter by several years, a potential foreign students plans in Canada.
For example, let us assume an Applicant is informed in May 2016 that their program is completed. That Applicant duly submits an online Application for a PGWP right away. Their study permit expires in July. Should they receive a refusal in September 2016, they will now be out of the range to apply for a PGWP (more than 90 days). Furthermore, they will be ineligible as they no longer hold a valid study permit. The Applicant’s restoration of temporary resident status would only be possible on the basis of a study permit extension (which will require a new acceptance) or switching to visitor status.
Again, I think this is a major gap/flaw in the way the PGWP program currently operates but it gives way to possible strategies (that I have not yet myself explored) that may be employed to try and mitigate the situation. The way the rules currently operate, I am advising most of my clients to have a “back up plan” ready (i.e. further studies or other work permit options) in the event something goes array with the PGWP Application.
Please note the recent decision in Nookala v. Canada (MCI) 2016 FC 1019 where Madam Justice Mactavish explicitly rejects the strategy of restoring to a study permit for the purposes of obtaining a new post-graduate work permit where no program of study has been entered into at the time of restoration.
Generally speaking the PGWP Application is quite straight forward, and CIC does give further information requests to facilitate this process. However, I can certainly foresee with the new study permit regulation’s greater scrutiny of work and study during the validity of study permits, more PGWP refusals down the road. PGWP Applicants would be wise do double and triple check that all fees, documents, and especially dates before submitting their Application.