Canada’s new policy to help international students with PGWP affected by COVID-19

#InternationalStudentsInCanada; ​#JerinRaj; #SenecaCollege; #Petition; #IRCC; #Covid19Pandeimc; #ExpiredPGWP; #permanentResidence

Toronto/Canadian-Media: A petition started by Jerin Raj, who was an international student, and currently President of the Canadian International Youth Organization who also serves as a Professor at the School of Business and a member of the Board of Governors of Seneca College initiated a petition to prime minister Justin Trudeau and immigration minister Marco Mendicino seeking a reasonable accommodation to support millions of International students currently on post-graduation work permits from all over the world who have come to Canada to build a better future and are affected by the pandemic had been supported by Government of Canada.

Petition by Jerin Raj and two others. Image credit: change.org

​Jerin organized a team of students and virtually connected with student groups around the province and other parts of the country to encourage them to come forward to voice their concerns and file petitions to the authorities. They also worked with Social, cultural organizations, and community and political leaders including Dolly Begum MPP, and worked closely with them to press for the needs of those students affected. Dolly begum MPP and her NDP counterparts wrote a letter to Minister Mendoccino and stood firmly with the International student community from the very beginning.

​Jofin Lawrence came to Canada in 2017 on a Student Visa to study at Centennial College. When he completed his 2 years academic program, he was offered a 3 years Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) which was meant to acquire substantial work experience in the field of his studies. It was stipulated that the permit holder should complete the required minimum hours within the validity period making him qualify for applying for permanent residence (PR) in Canada. When Covid 19 hit hard, in March 2020, Jofin’s work was affected, and eventually, he lost his job, making it impossible for him to gain the stipulated Canadian work experience and apply for PR. Along with Jofin, Anu Shinto (Durham College graduate), Madonna Sebastian (Seneca College graduate), Jeril Jose (St Lawrence college graduate) are among the thousands of International youth across Canada who are affected but thankful to the Prime minister and immigration minister for the timely decision to support their future prospects in this country.​

Thanking Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for supporting the international student community, Jerin said that he wished to highlight some of the key concerns of International students from all over the world who have come to Canada to build a better future.

IRCC. Image credit: Facebook page

The petition which made change with 3,792 supporters is as follows:

“International students contribute $6 billion a year just in tuition at Canadian universities, but their economic impact extends beyond the campus. Government figures show that in 2018 they pumped $21.6 billion into schools, communities, and the broader Canadian economy. As of Dec. 31, 2019, there were 498,735 post-secondary international students in Canada, a 14.5 percent increase from 2018” (Toronto Star, Apr. 8, 2020)

International Students in Canada. Image credit: immgration.ca

“The post-graduate work permit (PGWP) program in Canada allows international students who graduate from eligible Canadian institutions to get an open-work permit to gain Canadian work experience. It helps graduates who meet the requirements of the permit to qualify for permanent residence in Canada through the Express Entry system. PGWP is issued for a very limited duration (for 1 to 3 years depending on the length of the course.), and is issued only once to a student, leaving them under strict time pressure to accumulate skilled work experience to apply for permanent residency.

The situation that International students are facing right now is even worse. Due to COVID-19 and the crunched job markets and the economic downturn, most of the students find themselves severely restrained to find NOC skill level jobs to accumulate the required hours to apply for Permanent residency. Many got laid off, many who traveled to their home countries got stuck due to travel restrictions and there are only fewer new hirings happening now, all contribute to the loss of precious hours of work from their already limited PGWP duration. This puts students under severe stress, leading to anxiety and other mental distress.

Therefore, I am earnestly requesting the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to offer reasonable accommodation for the time lost, by extending the work permit or by allocating concession points while processing their permanent residency application or by any other suitable means that would support the student community whose work experience accumulation is negatively affected by COVID-19.”

As part of the Government of Canada’s efforts to support international students who contribute over $21 billion annually to our economy to support the vitality of our communities through this challenging time, Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of IRCC, announced on Jan 8 that former international students with an expired Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) will have the opportunity to apply for an open work permit valid for 18 months allowing them to remain in Canada, and gain sufficient experience needed to apply for permanent residence.

Marco E. L. Mendicino. Image credit: Facebook page

Decisions of More than 58,000 graduates to stay in Canada, who had successfully applied to immigrate permanently in 2019 will help to address our demographic challenges.

As part of its central plan, Canada helps skilled immigrants to fill pressing needs in areas like health care, technology, and more during the second wave of the pandemic’s course of recovery.

“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…contributions of international students are lasting…ensuring that Canada meets the urgent needs of our economy for today and tomorrow. Our message to international students and graduates is simple: we don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here,” said Mendicino.

IRCC estimates that as many as 52,000 graduates with expired or expiring PGWPs could benefit from the public policy.

Applications for an open work permit under the public policy will be open from January 27 to July 27, 2021, details of which will be posted on IRCC’s website on January 27, 2021.

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