International graduates demand Ottawa relax work permit time frames

Apr 8, 2022 | News

Sanjiv Rupala graduated with an advanced diploma in energy systems engineering technology from Centennial college. He applied for a postgraduate work permit to extend his stay and work in Canada.

He received a three-year work permit and plans to apply for permanent residence later. But to eligible for permanent residence in Canada, he has to work full-time for the required hours.

Sanjiv has completed those required hours by working as a security guard. However, he is unhappy as the job does not make him eligible for the express entry Canadian Experience class program, which can lead him to permanent residency.

The postgraduate work permit program (PGWPP) allows students who graduated from a designated learning institute to apply for an open work permit to stay and work full-time in the country and gain Canadian experience.

To be eligible for permanent residence through this program, students must complete more than 1500 hours working full-time in high waged work.

Permits vary from eight months to three years depending on the duration of the program, and an applicant must complete the required work hours within that time span as it is non-renewable.

There are currently more than 700,000 students and postgraduate work permit holders as of 2020, the largest group of temporary residents in Canada.

Many may not be eligible for permanent residence because spots are limited and reserved for those whose jobs are classified under the high-skilled and high-wage workers.

Sanjiv feels frustrated that despite having a bachelor’s degree, three years of work experience from his home country, and even having a Canadian degree, he is still not preferred for his job field because most employers ask for Canadian experience.

“The principles of my field’s working are the same everywhere, so I don’t understand why employers put these conditions,” he said. “They should consider foreign work experience and degree as relevant too.”

He said he has only two years left on his visa here, and he has still not secured the desired job. The situation has become even more difficult for him during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If I cannot find full-time employment and complete minimum of 1,560 hours by that time frame, I may have to return to my homeland,” Rupala said.

Sarom Rho of Migrant Students United said her organization demanded the federal government do something regarding this situation. Because of the pandemic, many international graduates were unable to meet the requirements for the permanent-residence requirement within their allotted times.

Immigration Refugees Citizenship Canada (IRCC) acknowledged there is a concern and temporarily extended the expiring postgraduate work permits up to 18 months in 2021, a move that prevented the deportation of 52,000 people.

But the temporary change has since ended and has again put thousands of applicants back in the same position.

Rho said she doesn’t understand why the federal government made this change now, even though they made the postgraduate work permits renewable. Furthermore, Ottawa has cut the number of spots for federal high-skilled workers in the express entry to 55,900 from 110,500.

In response to Ottawa’s measures, the Migrant Workers Alliance, a coalition of migrant worker organizations and allies, petitioned to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister Sean Fraser to fix various issues regarding visas, including extension of work permits and the expansion of job categories for permanent residency eligibility.

Rupala said IRCC should help people who cannot secure a job in the three-year time frame by giving them the option of a renewable work permit.

He said the government should add more categories of jobs for permanent residence eligibility aside from the managerial or professional level jobs classified under the National Occupational Category (NOC). Rupala understands the challenges one faces to find those kinds of jobs, especially during COVID-19.

“If people are working a decent job and doing nothing wrong, then IRCC should help them by extending their work permit,” he said.