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kerry-Molitor_finalBy: Kerry Molitor

Common Work Permit Mistakes Made by International Students

Studying in Canada has always been an attractive option for people seeking a respected and affordable post-secondary education.  We have been welcoming international students for years.  According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s Quarterly Administrative Data Release, at the end of 2015 there were 223,291 international students in Canada.


The introduction of the Express Entry application management system made it more difficult for skilled professionals to immigrate to Canada.  In the Express Entry system, points are awarded for personal characteristics like language ability, education level, work experience, and age.  Someone with Canadian work experience will score significantly more points than someone with only foreign work experience.  About twice a month, Immigration invites the highest scoring candidates to apply for permanent residence.


The importance of Canadian work experience to a candidate’s success under Express Entry is confirmed by Immigration’s Express Entry Mid-Year Report from July 2015.  The report shows that 85.5% of people invited to apply were already living in Canada.  Many of these applicants had graduated from a Canadian post-secondary program and then gained valuable Canadian work experience using a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP).


The vast majority of international students are studying in order to get a PGWP, which will allow them to earn the high points under Express Entry.  Having that high score will give them a realistic chance of being invited to apply for permanent residence.


A PGWP is issued to international students who have successfully completed a qualifying post-secondary program lasting at least eight months.  The validity of a PGWP matches the length of the program of study, though a program of two years or more generally leads to a three-year PGWP.


While the PGWP is a great benefit for international graduates, there are rules and procedures that must be followed to ensure a successful application.  One of the most important rules is that graduates must apply for a PGWP within 90 days of receiving a transcript or official letter saying their program is complete (not their date of graduation).


Immigration often takes longer than 90 days to process a PGWP application.  That means that if the application is returned unprocessed, the student may not have time to reapply within the 90 day window.  The student has lost their chance for the PGWP.  This is devastating for people who have invested great expense and effort to get an education leading to a PGWP, only to find themselves ineligible because of a simple error.


The most common mistake I see is people paying an incorrect processing fee for their work permit.  The Immigration web site says that the PGWP processing fee is $155.  This is correct, except there is an additional $100 “open work permit” fee that applies.  Therefore, the total correct application fee is $255.  If someone omits the open work permit fee, their application will be returned.


Another common mistake is when students apply for a PGWP even though some of their courses were taken online or through distance learning.  Eligible courses must be attended in person.  For example, a one year program consisting of two months of online courses would only qualify for a ten month PGWP.


Other mistakes are: not including mandatory documents, completing the forms incorrectly, not responding to emails from Immigration quickly enough, and attending a school that does not qualify for the PGWP program.


With so much at stake, I encourage international students to follow the PGWP instructions carefully or to seek professional assistance with their application.  Otherwise it is back to school in September for another try at the PGWP.

Kerry Molitor
Is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) based in Toronto, Canada. For more information please click here