For university students, the arrival of spring signals the approaching end of the academic year. For students completing their studies, the end of their final semester is usually marked by graduation ceremonies, celebrations with friends and family, and the start of a post-university life and career.

The emergence of COVID-19 has brought with it tremendous uncertainty as the world reacts to slow the spread of the virus. Classes have moved online and the celebrations that typically mark the end of university are likely to be prohibited due to physical-distancing requirements. But for international students, one important end-of-studies milestone is unaffected – the eligibility to apply for a post-graduate work permit (PGWP).

The end of the academic year is always a busy time. That is especially true this year as everyone adapts to the reality and limitations of physical-distancing. But despite that, it is critically important that you submit your PGWP application within your period of eligibility. Just making the application will secure your legal status in Canada beyond the expiration of your current study permit (this is called “implied status”) and may impact your eligibility for provincial healthcare coverage (MSI in Nova Scotia).

To be eligible for a PGWP, you must have maintained full-time academic status in your program of study. Ordinarily, that means physically attending classes on campus. However, Immigration Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recognizes this is not possible with the current restrictions and they have confirmed that completing studies online or through remote learning will NOT affect your eligibility for a PGWP.

It is also important to understand that you do not need to wait until after your graduation ceremony in order to apply for a PGWP – you are eligible to apply for a PGWP as soon as you have your transcript and confirmation from your institution that you meet the eligibility requirements for graduation.

The uncertainty of the current situation is stressful for everyone, but that stress is magnified for international students, who are often far from home and family, with additional concerns around their status in Canada. At BOYNECLARKE LLP, we are here to help. Please feel free to contact Scott McGirr, Immigration Lawyer, if you have any questions about PGWP eligibility or the application process itself.

The world looks much different than it did even a few weeks ago and it is natural to be concerned and worried about what is going on. But completing your degree, diploma or certificate is still an occasion worth celebrating. And while the celebration may look different this year, we offer our heartfelt congratulations to the Class of 2020!