NEXT STEPS AFTER GRADUATION: INTERNATIONAL GRADUATE STUDENTS

i This website contains general information and resources related to policies, procedures, and application processes for international students.

For the latest updates and specific information on COVID-19 including impacts on immigration applications (e.g. study permits, work permits, visas), travel restrictions, work eligibility, and medical insurance, please refer to our FAQ page:

COVID-19 FAQ for International Students

Last updated: January 21, 2022

As an international graduate student who has applied for graduation during Fall 2021, please carefully review the detailed information below regarding the post-graduation work permit and other relevant information in preparation for your next steps after graduation. 

Should you have any questions, please connect with an International Student Advisor for assistance. We wish you all the best with your future endeavours.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS PAGE WILL BE UPDATED AS INFORMATION CHANGES. THE INFORMATION BELOW IS ONLY APPLICABLE TO SFU STUDENTS AND IS CURRENT AS OF THE LAST UPDATED DATE. WHILE WE DO OUR BEST TO ENSURE THAT THE ADVICE GIVEN IS ACCURATE AND UP TO DATE, PLEASE NOTE THE INFORMATION BELOW DOES NOT REPLACE THE SPECIFIC INFORMATION PROVIDED BY THE GOVERNMENT AND OTHER RELEVANT AUTHORITIES. PLEASE BE AWARE THAT ALL INFORMATION PROVIDED IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE.

1. APPLYING FOR A POST-GRADUATION WORK PERMIT(PGWP)

What is a post-graduation work permit (PGWP)?

Full-time international students may be eligible to apply for a PGWP upon completion of their studies in Canada. The PGWP is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is an open work permit of up to three years in length, and you don't need a job offer to apply.

·  Click here to review the eligibility requirements to apply for a PGWP

In February 2021, IRCC implemented a temporary public policy for certain Hong Kong residents to be eligible for an open work permit of up to three years in length, if meeting certain eligibility requirements. Note that the open work permit for Hong Kong recent graduates is different from a PGWP. For more information about this work permit, including full eligibility requirements and how to apply, visit the IRCC website.

When should I apply for my post-graduation work permit(PGWP)?

As instructed in Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)’s official website, you must apply for a PGWP within 180 days of receiving a written notification of your program completion from SFU. For graduate students completing in the Fall 2021 term, we recommend you begin counting the 180-day period from: 

(A) the day your thesis grade is made available in goSFU (if your program includes a thesis), or

(B) December 24, 2021, the final grade deadline for the Fall 2021 term (for non-thesis programs)

Note: the date of your convocation ceremony has no relation to the 180-day application period for your PGWP.

To apply for a PGWP within Canada, you must have valid temporary resident status in Canada (e.g. a valid study permit, valid visitor status, or maintained status (formerly known as implied status) at the time of your application. 

You may apply for a PGWP within Canada while holding maintained status, provided that you have applied to extend your study permit or change your status to visitor before your study permit expires or becomes invalid. 

** Keep in mind that your study permit will automatically become invalid 90 days after you have completed your program, or on the expiry date printed on your study permit, whichever comes first.** 

Applying for your PGWP from outside Canada?

You may have the option to apply for the work permit from outside Canada within 180 days of receiving a written notification of your program completion from SFU.

Visit here for more information on how to apply for a post-graduation work permit from outside Canada.

Click here to download the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Timeline in a PDF format and customize your own application timeline.

How can I apply for my post-graduation work permit (PGWP) within Canada?

In most cases, you must apply online. You must include the following supporting documents from SFU with your application:

  • A final transcript (an unofficial transcript from goSFU showing your final marks is sufficient), and
  • An official letter confirming the successful completion of your academic requirements. You may use one of the following for this purpose:
    • Credential Completion Letter(CCL)
      • Must be manually downloaded via goSFU (You will not receive an automatic notification when the CCL becomes available on goSFU)
      • Available to you once the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) office receives and processes the Degree Recommendation from your program
      • Download and save a copy of your CCL as it will no longer be available after the Senate letter is sent to you
    • Senate Letter/Formal Notification of Graduation
      • Emailed to your SFU email address on February 8, 2022 after your degree is awarded by the Senate

Review the links below on how to request the above documents and apply for your work permit online: 

 Click here for instructions on how to access your credential completion letter.

Click here for instructions on how to request a transcript.

Click here for instructions on how to apply for a PGWP within Canada and the required supporting documents.

Click here for details on how to generate an online in-Canada application checklist and complete the application form.

My study permit will expire before I can submit the post-graduation work permit(PGWP) application. How should I proceed with my PGWP?

If your study permit will expire or become invalid before you can submit your post-graduation work permit application, you have several options for how to proceed. If you are unsure what your best option would be, consult with an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist for advice.

Option 1: Apply to extend your study permit within Canada, if eligible

If you are still in your final term of studies, you may submit an application to extend your study permit within Canada for an additional 90 days (e.g. you may request your study permit to be extended to the end of March 2022) which is also known as a “bridge extension”. If you apply to renew your study permit prior to its expiry date, you can remain in Canada and apply for your PGWP under maintained status while waiting for a decision to be made on your application.

If you submit your PGWP while holding maintained status, you will not be eligible to work during the transition period to the post-graduation work permit. You must wait to receive your work permit first before you can start working.

Option 2: Apply to change your status to visitor

To remain in Canada longer, you may also apply to change your status to visitor. To do so, you must apply for a visitor record before your study permit expires or becomes invalid.

You may remain in Canada and submit your PGWP application while holding maintained status while your visitor record application is in process.  However, you will not be eligible to work and must wait to receive your work permit first before you can start working.

Option 3: Apply for a post-graduation work permit outside Canada

If you will apply for your PGWP from outside Canada, you should either leave Canada before your current status expires, or apply to extend your stay in Canada (if you plan to leave later) using Option 1 or 2 above. 

Please refer to the next question on how to apply for a post-graduation work permit from outside Canada.

I am currently outside Canada. Can I apply for a post-graduation work permit(PGWP) from outside Canada?

You may have the option to apply for a PGWP from outside Canada within 180 days of receiving written notification of your program completion from SFU.

To be eligible to apply for a PGWP from outside Canada, you must either have a study permit, or have received a study permit approval (i.e. port of entry letter of introduction confirming that your study permit has been approved).

  • Visit here for more information on the application deadlines.
  • Visit here for the eligibility criteria to apply for a PGWP from outside Canada
  • In assessing and weighing your options between an in-Canada and outside Canada PGWP application, various factors should be taken into consideration such as:
    • your eligibility to apply for a work permit outside Canada; 
    • IRCC’s current processing times;
    • availability of biometrics enrollment appointments at biometrics collection sites abroad;
    • access to third-party service providers such as panel physicians for immigration medical examinations (if applicable);
    • your vaccination status (i.e. if you qualify as fully vaccinated); and
    • your ability to meet the travel exemptions and entry requirements to enter Canada.

Upon approval of your PGWP application from outside Canada, please ensure that you are exempt from the travel restrictions (if the travel restrictions are still in place at the time of your travel) and meet the entry requirements to travel back to Canada. Visit here for more information on how your travel may be impacted by the current travel restrictions.

If you would like to discuss your options for how you should proceed, please contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist for assistance.

My study permit has already expired and I am holding maintained/implied status now. Can I apply for a post-graduation work permit(PGWP)?

If you are holding maintained status (i.e. you have applied to extend your study permit prior to its expiry date), you can submit a PGWP application and may remain in Canada while waiting for a decision on your applications.

If you were eligible to work in your final term, you may continue to work under maintained/implied status up to 20 hours per week until you receive your credential completion letter. Once you have received your credential completion letter, you must stop working immediately and can't resume working until you receive your PGWP. 

Can I work before applying for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP)?

If you were eligible to work in your final term, you may continue to work up to a maximum of 20 hours per week until the first date you receive your credential completion letter. Your study permit must also remain valid during this period. 

You must stop working when your credential completion letter is issued via goSFU. Keep in mind that you will not receive an automatic notification when the credential completion letter becomes available. You must request the letter online via goSFU.

Can I start working once I have applied for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP)?

After submitting your PGWP application, you may start working on a full-time basis only if you meet certain eligibility requirements set by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). If you don’t meet those requirements, you must wait to receive your work permit first before starting or resuming work.

  • Click here to check if you are eligible to work off campus in your final term.
  • Click here to check if you meet the eligibility requirements to work after applying for your work permit.
  • Click here for a timeline of work eligibility after program completion.

Will my eligibility for the post-graduation work permit (PGWP) be impacted if I studied part time or took time off at some point in my SFU Program?

With the exception of part-time studies in your final term or an authorized leave up to 150 days, continuous full-time enrollment in each academic session throughout your studies is a requirement that you must meet to be eligible for a post-graduation work permit. For graduate students at SFU, the Spring, Summer, and Fall terms are all considered as academic sessions.

If you were not able to maintain continuous full-time enrollment in  each academic session throught your program at SFU, it is strongly recommended that you include a letter of explanation with your application detailing your unique circumstance(s). Depending on the circumstances, supporting documents may also be submitted as evidence of reason/s for any gaps in your full-time enrollment. For example, if you took a term off during your studies, you should include supporting documents to demonstrate that your leave was authorized by SFU (e.g. confirmation that your leave of absence application was approved by SFU, confirmation of enrollment letter showing "on-leave" status, etc).

  • Check here for tips on how to write your Letter of Explanation

Enrolled part time or took a term off in the Spring and or Summer 2020 term?

If you were unable to maintain full-time enrollment (e.g. you dropped to part-time studies or took the term off) in Spring and/or Summer 2020 due to COVID-19, it should not negatively impact your eligibility for the post-graduation work permit. To demonstrate how your studies in Spring and or Summer 2020 were impacted by COVID-19, you should include the following documents in your application:

  • letter of explanation to the immigration officer explaining why you were not able to maintain full-time enrollment.
  • SFU’s announcement on updates and changes to academic policies and procedures for the Spring and Summer term (e.g. in-person instruction cancelled for the Spring 2020 term), and any other relevant correspondence you have received from SFU
  • If applicable, confirmation that your leave of absence for the Spring or Summer 2020 term was approved by SFU (e.g. confirmation of enrollment letter showing “on-leave” status for the Spring or Summer 2020 term)
  • IRCC’s Program Delivery Instructions referencing the flexibility on full-time enrollment requirements for Spring and Summer 2020 due to COVID-19

When processing your application, IRCC may contact you to request additional documents to assess your eligibility.

Although IRCC has announced an intent to be flexible on the full-time enrollment requirement in cases where students’ studies were impacted by COVID-19 in Spring and Summer 2020, PGWP approval is never guaranteed, and the final decision will be made at the discretion of the immigration officer who processes your application. Therefore, you should provide a clear explanation, along with any applicable supporting documentation as evidence of the reason/s you could not study full time.

Do I need to provide biometrics for my post-graduation work permit (PGWP)?

Under normal circumstances, valid biometrics (fingerprints and photo) are required for IRCC to complete processing of your application. If you have not already provided your biometrics in the past 10 years and are not exempt from the requirement, you will need to give your biometrics for your post-graduation work permit application. Click here to find out how to give your biometrics.

If you gave biometrics in the past as part of an application to come to Canada (e.g. applying for a temporary resident visa or a study permit outside of Canada), they may still be valid. To check whether your biometrics are still valid and when they will expire, visit the Check Status Tool on the IRCC website.

Temporary biometrics exemptions for in-Canada temporary residence applicants:

Due to COVID-19, IRCC announced a temporary public policy exempting applicants in Canada from the requirement to give biometrics. Under this measure, you will be temporarily exempt from the biometrics requirement if you are applying for the post-graduation work permit from within Canada. In addition, you don’t need to pay the biometrics fee even if it is included in your online document checklist. 

  • Visit the IRCC website on the temporary in-Canada biometrics exemption.

Please note that the above exemption will only apply if you are applying from within Canada

If you will be applying for your PGWP outside Canada, biometrics enrollment will still be required unless you are exempt, or you already have valid biometrics with IRCC. You will have 30 days from the date of your biometrics instruction letter (BIL) to give your biometrics. If the biometrics collection sites still remain closed in your country and or you are unable to complete your biometrics enrolment within the given deadline, you should contact IRCC directly via its web form requesting an extension on your biometrics enrollment. You should submit a letter of explanation addressing why you are unable to give your biometrics in time.

  • Click here for more information about biometrics collection outside Canada
  • Click here to learn more about applications with missing biometrics outside Canada

A few reminders about applying for a post-graduation work permit: 

  Make sure that you have applied for graduation for the Fall 2021 term

  Review how COVID-19 is affecting Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

  Closely monitor the Government of Canada’s website for the most up to date information on border restrictions and measures. 

  Review ISS COVID-19 FAQ page on study permits, visas, medical insurance and travel information.

  Speak with your Graduate Program Assistant if you have questions about your credential completion letter.

  Check your passport expiry date as the post-graduation work permit will not be issued beyond the validity of your passport.

  Review the online resources handouts and step-by-step instruction guide on how to apply for the PGWP within Canada.

  Review and customize your own post-graduation work permit timeline.

  Make sure that your study permit is valid throughout the entire duration of your program of studies in Canada.  Extend your study permit if needed, or apply for a visitor record if your study permit will expire after your studies have concluded and before you submit your post-graduation work permit application. 

  Review and check your work eligibility during the transition period to the post-graduation work permit.

  Check IRCC's estimated processing times for post-graduation work permit applications. (Due to COVID-19, the posted processing times may not be accurate, however, IRCC continues to process applications as quickly as possible)

  Connect with an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist should you have any questions.

2. IMPACTS OF COVID-19 AND TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

To help you navigate through this challenging time, visit our COVID-19 FAQ for additional information on what resources and supports are available at SFU and how the COVID-19 pandemic may impact immigration, travel, and medical insurance for international students. 

How will COVID-19 impact my post-graduation work permit (PGWP) application?

Visit here for information on how COVID-19 is affecting IRCC and its operations.  It is important to keep in mind how COVID-19 may impact the eligibility and processing of your PGWP:

-Enrollment status in the Spring and or Summer 2020 term: 

Please visit here for more information if you were unable to maintain full-time enrollment status in Spring and or Summer 2020 term due to COVID-19. 

Please note that this IRCC’s flexibility on full-time enrollment status has not been extended beyond the Summer 2020 term.  As of September 2020, students must meet the full-time enrollment requirement (with the only exception of part-time studies in the final term or an anthorized leave up to 150 days) to qualify for a PGWP.

-Remote learning in and outside Canada: 

Under normal circumstances, distance-learning courses completed outside Canada are excluded from the time accumulated toward the length of the PGWP. However, on an exceptional basis, IRCC has implemented temporary policy changes to accommodate eligible online studies that have been completed in and outside Canada. Recently, this flexibility was further extended, allowing students to continue studying from outside Canada through August 31, 2022. 

o   Remote learning in Canada:

IRCC has confirmed that online studies completed within Canada due to COVID-19 will not adversely impact your eligibility for the PGWP. Visit here for more information.

o   Remote learning outside Canada:

Time spent studying outside Canada between Spring 2020 and August 31, 2022 will also not be deducted from the overall length of the PGWP, provided that you fall into one of the eligible categories and meet all the other eligibility requirements for a PGWP.

-Processing times: 

Due to service disruptions caused by COVID-19, IRCC’s current processing times may no longer be accurate. Some visa offices abroad are experiencing prolonged processing times for work permit applications that are submitted outside Canada.

If you apply for your PGWP within Canada, you may remain in Canada with an expired study permit as long as you submit your PGWP application before your study permit expires or becomes invalid.

-Biometrics Collection in and outside Canada:

Please visit here for information on how COVID-19 may impact biometrics collection for your PGWP application.

Travel Restrictions and Border Measures

Effective December 15, 2021, the Government of Canada advises travellers to avid all non-essential travel outside Canada.

To manage the outbreak of COVID-19, border restrictions and measures have been implemented by the government of Canada. As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve rapidly, the current travel restrictions and entry requirements may be changed or extended further. We strongly recommend that you closely monitor the Government of Canada’s website for the most up to date information on travel, testing, and other entry requirements to enter Canada.

Under the current travel restrictions, travelling to Canada for short-term visits such as your Convocation Ceremony or applying for a post-graduation work permit within Canada is generally not considered essential and will not be permitted, unless you are eligible for another exemption to the travel restrictions (such as the exemption allowing fully vaccinated travellers to enter for discretionary purposes).

  • Check here for detailed information and to find out if you qualify as a fully vaccinated traveller.

Adjustments to entry requirements for foreign nationals

Starting January 15, 2022, most foreign nationals including international students, as well as temporary workers and visitors, will only be allowed to enter Canada if they are fully vaccinated with one of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for the purpose of travelling to Canada.

If you do not qualify as fully vaccinated, you will not be allowed to enter Canada as a foreign worker on or after January 15, 2022.

  • Check here to review the Backgrounder on adjustments to Canada’s border and travel measures

If you plan to travel abroad while your PGWP application is being processed within Canada, your ability to enter/return to Canada may depend on a variety of factors including the validity of your immigration documents, the timing of your arrival/return to Canada, your vaccination status, your eligibility  for the fully vaccinated traveller exemption or another exemption category (if travel restrictions are still in place when you plan to enter Canada).

If you are not eligible for the fully vaccinated traveller exemption and seek to enter Canada as a work permit holder, you must demonstrate that you are coming to Canada for non-discretionary purpose. Note that the entry requirements for temporary workers can vary depending on whether you hold a valid work permit based on an application submitted in Canada, or a letter of introduction based on approval of an outside-Canada application. Note that a Border Services Officer will make the final decision on whether you are eligible to enter Canada. 

Please review the following to make an informed decision about your travel plans:

Quarantine, testing and other entry requirements

Under the current procedure, international travellers to Canada must also meet certain health requirements. Before travelling to Canada, please make sure that you know what you need to do before and after your arrival in Canada and take the proper steps to comply with all the requirements.

  • Check here for information on travel, testing, quarantine and other entry requirements
  • Check here for the checklists of requirements for entering Canada

-New testing and quarantine requirements for certain fully vaccinated travellers

A new testing requirement has been implemented and is now in effect for fully vaccinated travellers arriving by air from departure points other than the United States. Under this new testing requirement, fully vaccinated travellers are subject to arrival testing. Fully vaccinated travellers who are selected for arrival testing will be required to quarantine in a suitable place until they receive a negative test result. Please note that testing and quarantine requirements remain unchanged for partially and or unvaccinated travellers.

  • Check here for information on COVID-19 vaccinated travellers entering Canada

-Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements to board a flight or train

Currently, travellers departing from Canadian airports, travelling within Canada by air or on VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains, are required to be fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine in order to travel. Proof of full vaccination will be required for all travellers aged 12 and over to board domestic or international flights departing most airports in Canada.

  • Check here for detailed information about the vaccination requirements to board a flight or train in Canada.
  • Check here for information on proof of vaccination

As the rules around travel and entry to Canada continue to evolve and may change without notice, please refer to the Government of Canada website for the most up-to-date information on travel requirements and border measures. If you have questions or would like to discuss your travel plans and options, please connect with an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist.  

3. CONVOCATION CEREMONY

Convocation ceremonies will be held on June 7-June 10, 2022 for students who complete their program in the Fall 2021 term. Please visit SFU’s Convocation webpage for updates and information about June 2022 Convocation.

If your family or friends wish to visit you in Canada: Keep in mind that current travel restrictions prohibit non-essential travel to Canada by most foreign nationals (if travel restrictions are still in place). Travelling to attend the Convocation Ceremony or other short-term visits is considered as non-essential/discretionary and is not permitted under the current travel restrictions, unless they eligible for an exemption such as the fully vaccinated traveller exemption.

If travel restrictions are still in place and your family or friends meet the requirements of being fully vaccinated, they may enter Canada for discretionary travel (e.g. to visit you and or attend your convocation ceremony), provided that they meet the specific criteria, testing and entry requirements for fully vaccinated travellers, and also have the proper and valid immigration documents.

Check here for information on fully vaccinated travelers entering Canada during COVID-19.

Depending on how COVID-19 pandemic evolves, it is strongly recommended that your family or friends closely monitor the travel restrictions and exemptions if they intend to travel to Canada.

If your family/friends meet the travel exemptions, refer to the following resources that may help your family/friends prepare for their visit to Canada:

 Click here for IRCC’s website on visiting Canada

 Click here to review how COVID-19 is affecting TRV or eTA applications outside Canada 

 Click here to find out if your family or friends need to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

 Click here for documents you can prepare to assist your family members (includes a sample invitation letter)

 Click here for the processing times on TRV or eTA applications  

4. MEDICAL INSURANCE AFTER COMPLETION OF YOUR PROGRAM

Primary Medical Insurance: 

You must have adequate medical insurance coverage during your time in Canada. As a resident of British Columbia who is residing in BC for six months or longer, you are legally required to enroll yourself in the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP).  In most cases, your MSP coverage is issued to match the expiry date of your current immigration document (e.g. your study permit or work permit). Thus, if you are currently covered under MSP but have recently renewed your study permit, you must extend your coverage with MSP by submitting a copy of your renewed study permit via the online MSP Account Change Request form.

  • Click here for more information on how to apply for MSP
  • Click here to access the online application for BC MSP
  • Click here to access the MSP online Account Change Request Form to extend/update your MSP coverage

No longer a student? Update your MSP account as a work permit holder.

If you are currently enrolled with MSP as a study permit holder, you may apply to extend and update your MSP account as a work permit holder with your PGWP. To do so, you need to upload a copy of your work permit via the online MSP account online change formNote that Health Insurance BC’s standard practice is to continue to bill students for the International Student Health Fee ($75 per month) until the expiry date printed on the study permit. Thus, if your study permit will expire in March 2022 or earlier, you will continue to be billed for MSP until your study permit expires (even if you may have changed your MSP account as a work permit holder).

If your study permit was issued with an expiry date after March 2022, please submit your credential completion letter along with your PGWP when updating your MSP account online. In this case, you should only be charged the MSP fees for 90 days after the issue date of your credential completion letter.

If you have questions about the MSP fees and changing your account as a work permit holder, please contact Health Insurance BC for assistance.

If you are a member of Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) and are enrolled in SFU’s Group MSP plan, upon termination of your employment, your group MSP account will be automatically transferred to a personal account. You will then be responsible for paying the MSP fees on your personal MSP account.

Please note that your study permit or PGWP (upon approval) must be valid for at least six months in order to extend or enroll in MSP. If you have less than six months remaining on your study permit at the time of your MSP application, you may still be eligible to enroll with MSP, provided the overall duration of your study permit is six months or longer. 

In response to COVID-19, BC MSP provides temporary MSP coverage to individuals who are currently under maintained/implied status and COVID-19 treatments for non-MSP residents. If you are currently in B.C. under maintained/implied status and your MSP has expired, you may be provided temporary MSP coverage if meeting all the criteria. Note that your study or work permit must have expired on December 1, 2020 or later. You must contact Health Insurance BC directly to request this temporary coverage which will be valid until April 30, 2022.

  • Click here to review information about temporary MSP coverage during COVID-19.

If you are not eligible to extend or enroll with MSP (e.g. there is a gap in your MSP coverage), we strongly recommend that you obtain short-term private medical insurance to cover you in the interim. You may be eligible to purchase short-term medical insurance with guard. me International Insurance.

If you are currently outside of BC or you have recently returned to BC, please contact Health Insurance BC directly to inquire about your eligibility to enroll with MSP.

Secondary Medical Insurance:

If you are currently covered under the Graduate Student Society (GSS) Health and Dental Plan during the Fall 2021 term, you may continue to use your GSS secondary insurance until August 31, 2022. You must have valid primary health coverage (e.g. BC MSP or guard.me) in order to use the secondary benefit plan.

If you wish to opt out of your GSS secondary plan and receive a partial refund for your plan fee, you must complete an opt-out form online during the Spring 2022 Change-of-Coverage-Period.

•   Contact GSS StudentCare for more information about the opt-out process.