International Students Can Now Complete Entire Studies Online While Abroad and Still Get Work Permits

Canada Loosens PGWP Requirements in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

International students who are unable to travel to Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic will now be able to complete 100% of their studies online and have these be counted towards their Post-Graduation Work Permit (‘PGWP’) application. If successful, they will be able to come to Canada once the COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted and work on a three-year open work permit after graduation.

“This new policy means that students hoping to work in Canada after graduation won’t miss out on opportunities, while ensuring that our economy and society continue to benefit from all that international students bring,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino. “Our message to international students and graduates is simple: we don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here.”

The new policy was implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken a significant financial toll on many Canadian colleges and universities due to reduced enrollment rates among international students.

To help these institutions and support the Canadian economy, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will extend and expand the interim measures regarding online studies for international students put in place last year. The goal is to ensure that a Canadian education remains appealing to international students without in-person learning.

A PGWP is an open work permit available to international students who have graduated from post-secondary institutions in Canada.

Before the new policy was announced, Canada had allowed international students to complete half of their programs online and still be eligible for a PGWP.  A few weeks prior to the latest announcement, Canada also announced that a PGWP could now be renewed for up to 18 months.

Prior to the pandemic, however, students that completed online studies were not eligible for a PGWP. Any coursework that was completed outside Canada was not counted towards their PGWP application. A PGWP also had a fixed duration and could not be renewed or extended.

According to the Toronto Star, international education has long been considered one of Canada’s biggest export sectors. For instance, in 2019, Canada had over 572,000 international students studying at Canadian post-secondary institutions. These students contributed approximately $21 billion to the Canadian economy and helped support more than 170,000 jobs.

In fact, Statistics Canada data shows that a quarter of all new university enrollments are international students. At Canadian colleges, international students make up more than 16 percent of all new enrollments.

This number dropped dramatically in 2020, however, as travel restrictions were put in place and in-class education was replaced by online learning.