In January 2021, Canada offered the open work permit to international students holding an expired or expiring post-graduation work permit (PGWP) to allow them to continue seeking job opportunities in the country.

Canada’s economy is strongly rebounding from the impacts of the pandemic reflected by the demand for skilled workers outnumbering the supply. In a bid to address the labour shortage and offset the missed job opportunities for international students due to COVID-19, Canada has announced a new temporary policy that allows post-graduate work permit holders to qualify for an open work permit.

“With the economy growing faster than employers can hire new workers, Canada needs to look at every option so that we have the skills and labour needed to fuel our growth. Immigration will be crucial to easing our labour shortage, and these measures aim to address pressing needs in all sectors across the country while providing more opportunities for recent graduates and other applicants to build their lives in Canada and continue contributing to our short-term recovery and long-term prosperity, “ stated the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship.

Former international students in Canada holding a post-graduation work permit that will expire between January and December 2022 can apply for an additional open work permit of up to 18 months. This new policy allows graduates to continue to seek job opportunities and experiences as well as have a higher chance to qualify for an Express Entry profile and earn a permanent residency status after more than two years of having limited employment chances due to the pandemic. The government said that they are currently exploring ways to streamline and expedite the process for the policy.

A Growing Source of Labour Market

International students have been significantly contributing to Canada’s labour market, raking in over $21 billion annually for the economy and, more importantly, contributing to the communities. International students holding a post-graduation work permit are already highly-integrated into the country’s key industries and would substantially mitigate labour shortage. Last year, of the more than 157,000 former students who became permanent residents, over 88,000 of them transitioned directly from a PGWP to permanent status.

A recently published study in collaboration with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada revealed the significant contribution of international students to the labour market through the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP). The study highlighted that PGWP is one of the main avenues for international students to stay and work in Canada after graduation. PGWP, a temporary worker program that offers international student graduates of public postsecondary and private degree-granting educational institutions labour market opportunities in Canada, benefits both the graduates and the country– the skilled graduates gain job experiences to apply for some permanent residence streams and the country becomes an even more attractive study destination.

The study reported that almost three-quarters of all PGWP holders became permanent residents within five years of having obtained their PGWP, with those who held a study permit for college- and master’s-level programs transitioning faster than others. The research concluded that the increasing number of international students is directly related to the increasing numbers of PGWP holders that have engaged in the Canadian labour market over the past decade (2008-2018). Indeed, international students remain to be a growing source for Canada’s labour market.