Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announces distance learning opportunity for international students affected by COVID-19 health and travel restrictions

For international students concerned about their Canadian Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) eligibility in light of COVID-19 travel restrictions, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) offered some relief on May 14, 2020, when they announced new flexibility in PGWP rules. 

Normally, international students need to complete their studies at designated learning institutions (DLI) in Canada in order to apply for a PGWP. Their ability to participate in distance learning opportunities is limited and they usually get time spent studying outside of Canada deducted from the length of their PGWP. 

Because of COVID-19 however, travel restrictions are preventing international students from coming to Canada to study, and health restrictions are causing post-secondary institutions to offer only online courses, a health measure that is expected to continue into the fall semester.

Recognizing the difficulty these new restrictions cause for international students who plan on applying for a PGWP after graduation, the IRCC announced changes to PGWP eligibility rules. Now, international students can begin their classes outside of Canada, complete up to 50% of their program online and they won’t get time deducted from their PGWP for studying outside of Canada up to December 31, 2020. 

Many international students plan on applying for permanent residence in Canada after they finish their studies. The PGWP is an important permit for these international students as it allows them to gain up to three years of Canadian work experience after graduation. This is beneficial for any student who plans to apply for permanent residence in Canada because applicants are rewarded for having a Canadian education and Canadian work experience. In 2018, nearly 54,000 former students became permanent residents. 

Without the changes to PGWP eligibility rules, international students who planned to begin their studies in Canada in 2020 would have had to postpone, change, or cancel their plans. The IRCC’s response to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will allow students with programs beginning in the spring, summer, and fall semesters of 2020 to begin their studies on time. This is good news for international students because they won’t have to change their plans, and it’s also good news for Canada because international students are a significant contributor to the Canadian economy. The over 640,000 international students in Canada supported nearly 170,000 jobs and contributed $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2018. 

Canada is a popular choice for international students because it offers quality education, is more affordable than other popular destinations, and has a good post-graduate work permit program that helps former students become permanent residents. For the time being, Canadian education will be even more affordable because students won’t have to worry about Canadian living expenses until they can finally travel to Canada. 

The government continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and will determine when it is safe to lift the travel and health restrictions. Despite the restrictions that are in place, international students can continue to apply for Canadian study permits and the IRCC will notify students when they are allowed to come to Canada. 

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