International students contribute over $21 billion annually to Canada’s economy and support the vitality of Canadian communities, according to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino. (iStock)

Ottawa relaxes work permit rules for international students

In an effort to attract more highly skilled immigrants, the federal government is further relaxing rules for thousands of international students who had post-graduation work permits (PGWP) but because of the pandemic could not work and get the necessary work experience to apply for permanent residency in Canada.

Immigration Minister Marco Medicino announced Friday that former international students who hold or held a PGWP will have the opportunity to apply for an open work permit.

These permits will be valid for 18 months and allow former international students to remain in Canada, continue to seek employment and build their future in the country, Mendicino said.

“Whether as nurses on the pandemic’s front lines, or as founders of some of the most promising start-ups, international students are giving back to communities across Canada as we continue the fight against the pandemic,” Mendecino said in a statement. “Their status may be temporary, but the contributions of international students are lasting.”

The federal government estimates that as many as 52,000 graduates with expired or expiring PGWPs could benefit from the new policy. Of nearly 61,000 PGWP holders whose work permit had an expiry date between January and December 2020, about half either have already become permanent residents or have a permanent residence application in processing, according to government statistics.

To apply for an open work permit, an applicant must:

  • have a PGWP that expired on or after Jan. 30, 2020, or a PGWP that expires in four months or less from the date they apply
  • still be in Canada
  • have a valid temporary status, or be applying to restore their status

Applications will be open until July 27, 2021. Details on how to apply are on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website.

Canada’s efforts to attract young skilled workers are dictated by the country’s rapidly aging population and falling birth rates.

According to government statistics, in 1971, there were 6.6 people of working age for each senior. There are currently the Canadian workers for every retired Canadian, but by 2035, there will be only two workers for every retiree. Without immigrants to help support the needs of an aging population, younger Canadians will end up paying more per person to provide the same benefits, federal officials say.

International students also contribute over $21 billion annually to Canada’s economy. They also bring strong employment and language skills, bolstered by their Canadian education and work experience, making them ideal candidates for permanent resident status.

Out of 642,480 international students in Canada in 2019, more than 58,000 graduates successfully applied to immigrate permanently that year.

Categories: Immigration & Refugees, Society
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