The Toronto Star – International students studying online will still qualify for Canadian work permits

Originally Written By: Nicholas Keung, The Toronto Star

International students currently studying in Canada have been granted a reprieve from the Canadian government during the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, should an international student choose to apply to work within Canada under a “Post-Graduate Work Permit”, (“PGWP”)” the Canadian government requires students to have completed only 50% or less of their studies online. The reason being is so they may become involved within student life and the greater surrounding communities. The purposes of settlement and settlement related services are geared towards the continuation of Canadian ideals and enhancement of multiculturalism. Therefore, by having more physical interactions through the surrounding community, international students are able to create a sense of comfort, safety, and a home for themselves in a new environment. However, as the global pandemic has challenged us all – the rules and regulations in Canadian Immigration have also had to shift to take on a more flexible and wider stance on this. As all educational institutions moved forward with distance learning, teaching online or remotely, the Canadian government announced that international students who were attempting to apply for the PGWP but were impacted by COVID-19, the 50% or less requirement has been temporarily waived.

The Government of Canada has advised that the exemption applies if the in-class course was moved to an online-only format due to COVID-19. Students in this situation will still be eligible for a PGWP even if they have completed more than 50% of their studies online due to COVID-19.

If an international student is seeking to commence their studies in the fall of 2020, and cannot enter Canada, the time will not be deducted from the length of the PGWP for studies completed outside of Canada between fall 2020 and December 31, 2020.

While it may be difficult to predict when things will return to ‘normal’, or what the new ‘normal’ will be like, we may use this time to assess what this could mean in the long-term for Canadian immigration and settlement. It is important to recognize that there may be a significant gap in the lives of international students when it comes to their integration, especially as they are temporarily isolated from their community members during COVID-19.

The interconnected nature of society is changing and as such, it will be interesting to see how immigration programs change as a result of more work and studies being completed online. International students are valued members of Canadian society, their contributions continue to advance the success of Canadian economy, while enhancing Canada’s multicultural fabric. The focus and shift towards distance learning could negatively impact this vulnerable group, unless Immigration Canada creates a more modern and flexible immigration policy.

For additional details please contact Cathryn Sawicki at Serotte Law Canada at

Written by: Zoya Shaikh

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