International students in Canada are promised an easy pathway to Permanent Residence. Is it an easy sailing, though?

by Legally Canadian

We have heard of cases where international students quite literally bet the family farm on the promise of a better future in Canada, which would presumably be enabled through the study + work + permanent residence pathway in Canada. What many do not realize as they leave to embark on this extremely costly journey, is that thought it can be an excellent pathway to citizenship and a good life in Canada, it is a pathway laden with obstacles, some of which are not obvious. Obtaining good comprehensive legal advice from an experienced immigration lawyer ahead of time can make a really big difference to your ability to achieve the goal.

To give some examples of this, consider the student who entered a four year program at a college or university and ran into material or health related difficulties during one of the semesters. They decided to take a semester off until things got sorted out. The school could tell the student that this is not a problem with respect to their ability to graduate. But, this could be a problem as far as immigration is concerned, because the student will not be able to get the Post Gradate Work Permit unless they were enrolled in full time studies, or have obtained an official authorization for temporary leave from the university. 

Another example are problems that often arise from the lack of understanding about authorized work hours. Most students can work up to 20h off campus during the regular school session, and unlimited hours in the regularly scheduled breaks between sessions (i.e. summer holidays). This is different in the case of students who are enrolled in a co-op program, which requires them to do a work placement in a company as part of their studies. They need a particular kind of authorization which is issued at the time of their study permit.

However, IRCC recently announced that they are lifting the 20h work restriction for off campus work done during the school semester, in order to address Canada’s acute labour shortage. This means that from November 15, 2022, until December 31, 2023, international students who are in Canada and who have off-campus work authorization on their study permit will not be restricted by the 20-hour-per-week rule. Foreign nationals who have already submitted a study permit application, as of October 7, 2022 will also be able to benefit from this temporary change, provided their application is approved.

Students may welcome this news as the new rules can certainly help them get extra cash to finance their studies, and give them an opportunity to to gain more work experience. However, what the announcement does not advertise, is that this work experience cannot be counted towards your eligibility to permanent residence via Express Entry. That one year of qualifying work experience still has to be gained while working in a qualifying job on a Post Graduate Work Permit. 

Finally, the “qualifying job” requirement is another pitfall to look out for. To get points for Express Entry candidacy, the job you are doing has to be in a qualifying NOC category, meaning that it must fit in the “A”, “B”, or “0” classification. This excludes many menial, service, or entry level jobs many students may have to accept initially after graduation. That could mean that the limited time on your PGWP is ticking, while you are not gaining qualifying work experience and will find yourself on an expired work permit before you can participate in the PR draw. Your employer may not know about this, so you should confirm you are on the right path before accepting the job offer.

These are just some of the issues we encounter on regular basis. Often it turns out that our clients either did not understand the rules and instructions, or sought advice from agents who either actively misled them or did not fully understand the instructions themselves. Getting proper legal advice from an immigration lawyer from the start may seem costly, but it can save you a great deal of time, money, and disappointment in the long run. 

For information on student permits, work permits, and permanent residence applications, contact Legally Canadian at info@legallycanadian.com