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Canada’s post-graduation work permit: requirements and how to apply

Canada needs immigrants to grow its population. And there’s good news for students: foreign learners and people with a post-graduation work permit (PGWP) are some of the most important propellers of the country’s population growth.  

So how does a PGWP work? In this guide, we cover what you need to know. You’ll learn about who’s eligible, how much it costs, and most importantly, how long you can stay in the country after graduation to gain Canadian work experience.  

Canada’s post-graduation work permit: how does it work? 

The PGWP lets international students who have graduated from an eligible designated learning institution to stay in Canada and work for up to three years. Not surprisingly, the program is a big draw to work and study in Canada for international students – and it’s grown in popularity over the last several years.  

Just take a look at the numbers: between 2005 and 2016, the amount of permits issued to new graduates increased by 15 times – from 7,400 to 117,700 per year. By 2018, 143,000 permits were issued. And in the first quarter of 2021, PGWPs increased 160% year-over-year.  

The PGWP is an open work permit, which means you can work for any employer in Canada. You also don’t need a job offer to apply. The length of your PGWP depends on how long you’ve studied in Canada. For example, if your program was: 

  • Under 8 months, you won’t be eligible for a PGWP. 

  • Less than 2 years, you may get a permit for the same amount of time as you studied (for example if your program was one year, you might get a permit for one year).

  • More than 2 years, you could be eligible for a 3-year permit. 

If you studied more than 1 program, you may also get a PGWP that combines the length of each program.  

Who is eligible?  

To be eligible for a PGWP, you need to meet a number of criteria. For example, you need to have graduated from a program that was at least 8 months long at a designated learning institution – and have earned a degree, diploma, or certificate from that. 

International students who were approved for a study permit and are studying online outside Canada due to the pandemic are also eligible for a PGWP.  

However, people who’ve only studied English or French as a second language in Canada are not.  

For a full list of criteria, make sure to check out the Government of Canada website.  

How can you apply? 

Before you begin the application process, you need to have proof that you’ve completed your studies. You need to show either: 

  • An official letter from your institution 

  • An official transcript  

  • A degree or diploma  

After you’ve got one of these, you need to apply for a PGWP within 180 days.  

Instructions for exactly how to apply depending on whether you’re applying from inside or outside Canada. You can find the step-by-step instructions on the Government of Canada website – including an official guide and a document checklist.  

How much does it cost? 

It costs $255 CAD to apply for a PGWP. Processing times differ, but it can take up to 73 days to be approved on average. However, the good news is that many graduates can work while they’re waiting on a decision.  

Other visa options  

Being able to work and study in Canada for international students around the world is often a dream come true. However if you’re not eligible for a PGWP, you do have some other visa options.  

An employer-specific work permit 

This type of work permit allows you to work for a certain amount of time for a specific employer. You might be eligible for this if you’ve gotten a job to be a researcher at a university, or a charitable worker at an NGO, for example.  

Canada has a tool to help you learn more about what type of work permit you could be eligible for. You can check it out here.  

Permanent residence  

If you’ve worked full-time for 12 months after graduation in a skilled trade, a professional job that requires a degree, or a management-level job, you could be eligible for permanent residence.