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How to Sustain Immigration Status for CEC Candidates in Canada With an Expiring PGWP?

Austin Campbell



CEC Candidates

Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates in the Express Entry pool are growing increasingly anxious as they await the next draw, which has been on hold since January 18, 2023. The CEC candidates, specifically those with Post-Graduate Work Permits (PGWPs) that are approaching their expiration date, are worried about their immigration status as the draws continue to exclude them.

Express Entry draws have been program-specific for candidates in the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) and the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) since the last all-program draw nearly two months ago. The irregularity in the draw patterns is a cause for concern for CEC candidates as they have been left out of the pool, even though their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores meet the minimum eligibility requirements.

The situation is not new to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), as they have dealt with a similar situation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic when the Express Entry draws were paused for both the FSWP (in January 2021) and the CEC (in September of 2021). In response to the pause, last April, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced a one-time extension for those who had a PGWP expire between September 2021 and December 2022. However, a similar measure has not been announced for those with PGWPs that expire in 2023.

PGWPs are issued to graduating students who wish to stay in Canada after completing an eligible program of study in Canada at a Designated Learning Institution. The permits are valid for up to three years (depending on the length of the study program) and cannot be extended or renewed. Therefore, maintaining status as a PGWP holder waiting for a CEC draw is crucial.

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Maintaining Status as a PGWP Holder Waiting for a CEC Draw

One way to maintain temporary residency status in Canada is to apply for another work or study permit before the PGWP expires. This will allow the holder to continue working and living in Canada while IRCC processes the new application, and wait for the next CEC draw. If the temporary resident status is not maintained, the individual will have to stop working on the day the PGWP expires and leave Canada.


LMIA-Required Work Permits

If the individual is employed, they may be able to change from a PGWP (an open work permit) to one that requires a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The employer would need to submit an application to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to assess if “hiring” the individual will have a positive, neutral, or negative impact on Canada’s labor force. If the outcome is positive or neutral, the individual will likely still be able to work for their current employer, but they will not be able to work anywhere else until the permit expires or they get permanent resident status.

LMIA-Exempt Work Permits

Alternatively, most often, LMIA-exempt permits, or those under the International Mobility Program, fall under the significant benefit and reciprocal employment categories. To be considered under significant benefit, the applicant must be deemed to be doing work that has a social, cultural, or economic benefit to Canada. Reciprocal employment occurs when Canada has an existing agreement with another country, such as the agreement under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

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Study Permit

Another option is to apply for a study permit as a full-time student at a post-secondary Designated Learning Institution. Full-time students are eligible to work 20 hours a week off-campus during the academic year and full-time during scheduled academic breaks.

Visitor Visa

The individual can leave Canada when their PGWP expires and return under a visitor’s visa (TRV). Under a TRV, they may stay in Canada but are not legally allowed to work or study. However, they must be able to prove that they have sufficient funds to support themselves for the length of their stay.

Visitor Record

An alternative option to maintain your status in Canada is by requesting a visitor record. Unlike a visitor visa, you don’t have to exit Canada to obtain it. To qualify, you must apply at least 30 days before your PGWP or any other work or study permit expires. However, while staying in Canada on a visitor record, you cannot work or study. Moreover, if you intend to depart Canada, you will not be allowed to do so unless you plan to return with a visitor visa instead.


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