Express Entry: What are your options if your PGWP is expiring?

On December 7, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) made several announcements regarding Canada’s international student program.

Among them, the department has confirmed that it will not be offering any additional extensions to Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) holders.

IRCC has offered PGWP work permit extensions three times over recent years. It introduced the measure following labour market disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and during post-pandemic recovery. It allowed PGWP holders to continue working in Canada while IRCC was experiencing processing delays and had paused Express Entry draws.

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The measure was extended three times, with the last one occurring on April 6 for PGWP holders whose permit is set to expire on or before December 31, 2023. The extension is an open work permit that is valid for 18 months.

IRCC notes that PGWP holders whose permit expires on or before December 31 are still eligible for the extension.

PGWPs allow international students to stay in Canada and work once they have graduated from their academic program.

The permit is valid for up to three years, depending on the length of the candidate’s academic program and, outside of the special extensions, is not renewable.

In 2022, 98,000 PGWP holders became permanent residents. This was almost 82% of all temporary residents who became permanent residents that year.

Additionally, when the 2022 data was released, IRCC estimated that in 2023 there would be 268,000 PGWP holders in Canada and that 127,000 permits would expire.

How does this impact Express Entry candidates?

Express Entry is one of the most popular options for PGWP holders who want to get permanent resident status in Canada. Many of them may have concerns about the end of extensions as their PGWP expiry approaches.

Candidates who have not yet received an Invitation to Apply (ITA) and have an expiring PGWP could soon lose their eligibility to work in Canada. The recent unexplained pause in Express Entry draws that lasted from October 26 until December 6 is causing additional pressure for some PGWP holders in the Express Entry pool because, without an ITA, they cannot apply for permanent resident status or maintained status while IRCC processes their application.

IRCC did hold three draws between December 6 and December 8. However, two of those draws were category-based selection draws for candidates with French-language proficiency (1,000 ITAs) and those with work experience in STEM occupations (5,900).

The all-program draw on December 6 invited 4,750 candidates with a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score of 561, which is higher than it has been in other recent all-program draws.

What to do if your PGWP is expiring

Express Entry candidates in this situation have a few options to stay in Canada while waiting for a final decision on their application from IRCC. However, they may still require that a candidate stop working while they wait to receive an ITA and while they wait for IRCC to process their application.

Visitor Record

You may stay in Canada if you apply for a visitor record at least 30 days before your PGWP expires. IRCC says a visitor record is typically valid for six months, but this may vary from case to case.

Apply for another work permit

Candidates can also apply for a new work permit while waiting for an Express Entry draw.

Although it takes time and is an additional cost, those who wish to keep working can explore their options for a different type of Open Work Permit.

It may also be possible for an employer to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to hire a candidate through a closed work permit. This can be time-consuming, includes a cost to the employer and the permit holder will not be eligible to work for another employer.

If you already submitted a PR application

If you have already submitted your application for permanent residence but have not received a final decision from IRCC, you may be eligible to apply for a Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP)

BOWPs allow a PR candidate to continue working in Canada while they wait for IRCC’s final decision. It applies to those who have applied through economic immigration programs such as those under Express Entry, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), Quebec Skilled Workers or the Agri-Food Pilot Program.

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