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Canada set to tighten rules for PGWP linking access to labour market needs

  • Government is asking stakeholders, should we “grandfather” (protect) students already studying in Canada at time of implementation?
  • Purpose of PGWP calibration is to ensure labour market outcomes linked to education and training
  • Programs of study will be coded to reflect links to occupations in long-term shortage and Express Entry eligibility

The Canadian government has sent letters to all provinces consulting them on anticipated changes to the post-graduate work permit (PGWP) program that currently, all international graduates are able to benefit from.

With a clear intent, as outlined in the letter, to “align PGWP eligibility with labour market needs while reducing the overall volume of PGWP holders”, the government is making it clear that restrictions will be put in place once its consultation concludes.

The question that is likely to get current international students worried is this: “What is your view of applying these labour market-based changes to PGWP eligibility to all graduates upon announcement this year, rather than grandfathering students who are already studying in Canada at the time of implementation?”

If policy adjustments were immediate, it would be another shock move after the announcement in January of an immediate cap on enrolment numbers this year.

It would mean students might face the prospect of being restricted from PGWP because their area of study does not prepare them to work in relevant industries where there are labour force needs and shortages.

Other questions asked of provinces (schools were also consulted): “Which cohorts of students, if any, should be exempt from these changes?”

“How often should the occupational shortage list be revised, and at what point thereafter should it be applied to students whose study is underway?”

Failing to provide reasonable notice would cause irreparable harm

Earl Blaney

List of questions sent to provinces

According to one source, last year, 949,270 work permits were issued, representing a 266% rise in eight years. 

Many international graduates are working in Canada and hoping to qualify with enough years’ relevant experience to apply for PR. But Policy hawks, such as Earl Blaney, have been flagging a real risk that students trapped in low-level jobs not linked to their degrees will not be eligible and create a backlog of potential overstayers.

He told The PIE in 2023 that he believed there could be up to a million students over the next three years whose PGWP access expires and they may be at risk of being deported.

According to CBIE, there were over 1 million international students in Canada at the end of 2023 at all study levels, and citing a 2021 survey of students, 72.5% were intending to apply for PGWP and 60% were intending to apply for permanent residency subsequently.

An immediate policy change impacting students already invested in Canada would be a shock but similar quick decisions have happened previously in the UK and Australia.

In the UK, the post-study work route was curtailed in April 2012 before being reintroduced in 2019, with the APPG inquiry into its impact making interesting reading.

In Australia, 20,000 skilled immgration applications were cancelled in 2010 and visa fees were refunded, with the immigration minister at the time noting that the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL)was outdated and so revoked with immediate effect.

Annual growth rates in the VET sector had been 50% during 2007 and 2008.

Back in Canada, Blaney warned against any drastic moves not to “grandfather” current international students if PGWP rules change around finding a job and staying in Canada.

“Change is needed, but it would be highly irresponsible to implement changes of this magnitude without due notice,” he told The PIE, highlighting a need for system stability.

“Failing to provide reasonable notice would cause irreparable harm to the prospect of attracting new students to specific programs with labour market outcomes deemed favourable now.

“How could prospective students hold any degree of confidence that future changes would not similarly impact them mid-stream?”

The post Canada set to tighten rules for PGWP linking access to labour market needs appeared first on The PIE News.