Canada post-graduate work permit: 4 important tips

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Why do international students choose to study in Canada? For starters, there’s the post-graduate work permit (PGWP). If you have graduated from a designated learning institution (DLI) in the country and successfully apply for your PGWP, you can stay and work in Canada for up to three years.

First, however, you’ll have to apply and secure your PGWP — a complex process. Enter Rachel Dancel, a Vancouver-based video creator has some pointers when applying for the PGWP.

She shared a case study telling the story of Irena Tcerkovnaia — and how the Federal Court of Canada agreed that the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship made a mistake in reviewing Tcerkovnaia’s PGWP application.

post graduate work permit

Irena Tcerkovnaia — a Russian citizen — arrived in Canada on a study permit like many international students. However, she struggled to apply for a PGWP due to the circumstances surrounding her status as a full-time student. Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America/Getty Images/AFP

The story of Irena Tcerkovnaia

In 2012, Irena Tcerkovnaia — a Russian citizen — arrived in Canada on a study permit. She graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from Ryerson University (currently known as Toronto Metropolitan University).

During winter 2017, Tcerkovnaia enrolled in four courses and excelled in her studies — until a family member fell ill. While enrolled full-time, she dropped two of the four courses. 

Upon graduation, she submitted her first PGWP application. It was refused in Dec 2020. A month later, she made a new PGWP application with the help of an immigration consultant. 

In Tcerkovnaia’s second application, she explained the circumstances during that winter semester and why she could not maintain full-time status. She also included a letter from a Ryerson International Student Support Advisor. 

Despite this, the second PGWP application was refused for the following reasons:

  • Ryerson University defines full-time student status as students enrolled in four classes per semester
  • The student must maintain a full-time student status throughout each academic semester to qualify for a PGWP 
  • Tcerkovnaia only completed two out of the four courses during that winter semester

Challenging this decision at the Federal Court of Canada

Tcerkovnaia challenged this decision at the Federal Court of Canada by arguing that the visa officer’s decision was unreasonable.

The court agreed that Tcerkovnaia was a full-time student at Ryerson University, following their definition of a full-time student. The visa officer also failed to consider the university’s letter. The court ordered Tcerkovnaia PGWP’s application to be reviewed by a different visa officer.

post-graduate work permit

Failure to comply with PGWP application guidelines might result in you losing your status as a student. You may also be prevented from applying for a PGWP in the future. Source: Geoff Robins/AFP

4 things for international students to consider when submitting a new PGWP application

1. Stay updated with the latest immigration rules

Check the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) website for the latest information about study permit guidelines that may impact your goals of permanent residency in Canada.

2. Keep receipts 

Leaving a paper trail is a handy way to prove something in your location. In Tcerkovnaia’s case, the letter of support from Ryerson University influenced the judge to rule in her favour. 

3. Determine how a “full-time student” is defined

That definition can vary from school to school. “Some schools may require three courses per term or semester while others may require four,” Dancel shares. 

You can talk to a student advisor about the full-time student course load. Where possible, request an official written statement from your school.

International students can take a leave of absence for up to 150 days and still be considered full-time students. 

IRCC’s website also states that you cannot work on or off campus during an authorised leave from your study programme, even if your study permit says you are allowed to work in Canada. 

4. Don’t wait until the last minute

Always give yourself time when applying for the PGWP. While you have 180 days after you graduate to apply for a PGWP, remember to submit your degree or diploma certificate, transcripts and an official letter from your school when you make a new PGWP application. 

Click here to find out how to apply for a PGWP if your study permit is going to expire before you get your marks. 



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