Hiring Foreign Students

Summer means that there are many international students, recently graduated, who are looking for employment in Canada.  I often get questions from employers who are interested in hiring international students about their eligibility to work, when they can start working, and how they can keep them working in the long term.

If an international student has graduated from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) and has completed a course of study of more than one year, they are eligible for a post graduate work permit (PGWP).  The PGWP is generally issued open pursuant to location, employer and occupation and they can undertake any employment in Canada with this work permit.  Generally (but not always) the remarks section of the work permit will clearly state that the work permit was issued pursuant to the PGWP program.

Students must apply for the post graduate work permit within 90 days or receiving notification that they have completed their studies.  In the period between when the individual has applied for their post graduate work permit and the date the work permit is actually issued, the individual remains in Canada based on their valid study permit (or implied status if their study permit expires while the work permit application is processing).  The study permit intrinsically holds an authorization to work off campus up to 20 hours per week during the school year and full time during school holidays.  The post graduate period while a PGWP is still pending is considered a school holiday and so a student may commence working prior to the issuance of the post graduate work permit provided they have applied for the PGWP.

Be aware, that if the work permit presented to you by the student has the educational institution listed as the employer or, has a remark that it is a co-op work permit, this document does not permit regular employment in Canada, but would only cover work-study programs where the work experience is considered an integral part of the program of study and it required to meet graduation requirements.

When hiring a graduated foreign student, you need to be aware that the PGWP is not extendable.  The duration of the work permit is limited to the same number of years as the course of study completed.  The full duration of the PGWP is generally issued on one work permit, however occasionally the work permit will only be issued to the expiry date of the foreign national’s passport.  In this case the student can extend the PGWP for the balance of time allowed under the program.

This time limitation means that if you want to invest in this recent graduate and have them work for your organization indefinitely you will need to have a plan to either extend their work permit or support them in applying for Canadian permanent residency.  This plan should be made at the time the person is hired or shortly there after so that appropriate planning can be put in place to optimize the foreign national’s eligibility for permanent residence.

If the work permit needs to be extended it will generally require the issuance of a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).  This assessment requires that the foreign national is being paid the median wage for the position, and that after advertising the position for a four-week period a locally based candidate who can successfully carry out the requirements of the position cannot be found.  Both of these requirements can often be difficult to meet for an entry level position.

The Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program under Express Entry can give foreign students a path to permanent residency once thy have completed one full year of Canadian work experience.  Alternatively, many Provinces have Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) categories that provide a path to permanent residence for recent graduates.  The PNP programs generally require support from the Canadian employer both in regards to filing fees and documentation, but don’t necessarily require minimum work experience

In order to continue working in Canada, the foreign national must have a valid work permit up until the individual has completed the permanent residence landing process.  Once the permanent residence application has been filed, the individual would however be eligible for a Bridging Open Work Permit until a decision has been made on the permanent residence application.

Transitioning a foreign national student into the permanent Canadian work force is a multi step process with participation required by both the employer and the applicant. When preparing for this process, it is always best to consult your licensed Immigration service provider to understand the nuances of your particular situation.  There can be many options for completing this process and determining the best course of action will depend on the circumstances and needs of both the foreign national and the employer.

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