NEXT STEPS AFTER GRADUATION: INTERNATIONAL GRADUATE STUDENTS
Last updated: April 21, 2021
As an international graduate student who has applied or will apply for graduation during Spring 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.
Due to COVID-19, our office is closed for in-person advising services, but our advisors remain available to support you remotely via LiveChat, virtual appointment, virtual drop-in, phone or email. 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 BE AWARE THAT ALL INFORMATION PROVIDED IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE.
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 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
Recently, 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)?
The post-graduation work permit is once in a lifetime opportunity. You must apply within 180 days after completing your degree requirements. The calculation of this 180-day period begins from:
(A) the day your thesis grade is updated to 'CO' in goSFU (if your program includes a thesis), or
(B) April 29, 2021, the final grade deadline for the Spring 2021 term (for non-thesis programs)
To apply for a PGWP within Canada, you should 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 the PGWP within Canada while holding maintained status (formerly known as implied 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.**
If you would like to start working while you await processing of your PGWP application, your study permit must be valid at the time of your application (i.e. you must apply for the work permit before your study permit expires or becomes invalid) and meet certain eligibility requirements specified in the application timeline linked below.
You also have the option to apply for the work permit from outside Canada. Your study permit must have been valid at some point in the 180 days prior to submitting your application.
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 fine), 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
- Must be manually downloaded via goSFU
- Available to you once the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) office receives and processes the Degree Recommendation from your program
- You cannot access this letter after the Senate letter is sent to you
- Senate Letter/Formal Notification of Graduation
- Emailed to your SFU email address on May 26, 2021 after your degree is awarded by the Senate
- Credential Completion Letter
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.
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 PGWP application, you have several options on how to proceed.
Option 1: Apply to extend your study permit within Canada, if eligible
If you are still within your final term, 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 July 2021) which is also known as “bridge extension”. If you apply to renew your study permit prior to its expiry date, you can continue to remain in Canada under maintained status (formerly known as implied status) while waiting for a decision to be made on your application.
While holding maintained/implied status, you can submit your PGWP within Canada even if no decision has been made on your study permit extension application. However, you can't work while your PGWP is in process. You may start working once you receive your work permit.
If your study permit extension application is approved before you submit your PGWP application and you meet all other eligibility requirements, you may begin full-time work immediately after submitting your PGWP application (provided that you submit the application in the first 90 days after completing your program).
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 while holding maintained/implied status while your visitor record application is in process. However, 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 3: Apply for the post-graduation work permit outside Canada
You may also apply for your PGWP from outside Canada. You are not required to have a valid study permit at the time you submit your work permit application overseas. However, your study permit must have been valid at some point in the 180 days prior to submitting your application.
If you plan to apply for the work permit 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.
For more information on how to submit a PGWP outside Canada, please follow the instructions here.
My study permit has already expired and I am on maintained/implied status now. Can I apply for the post-graduation work permit(PGWP)?
If you are on maintained (formerly known as implied) 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 the 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 the 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.
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 the 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 throughout 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.
Enrolled part time or took a term off in Spring and or Summer 2020 term?
If you were unable to maintain full-time enrollment status (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 was impacted by COVID-19, you should include the following documents in your application:
- A 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 flexibilities on full-time enrollment status 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.
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 this 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.
A few reminders about applying for a post-graduation work permit:
Submit your graduation application via goSFU by April 23.
Closely monitor any changes or possible extensions to the current travel restrictions and exemptions.
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.
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?
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) released a resource online outlining how COVID-19 is impacting their operations including information about travel restrictions and immigration-related impacts. Please carefully review the information and closely monitor the site for future updates.
- Check 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 Summer 2020 term:
If you had to put your studies on hold or were forced to drop to part time because of COVID-19 in the Spring 2020 term, IRCC has confirmed that part-time enrollment status will not negatively impact your eligibility for the PGWP. Visit IRCC’s website for more information.
Please note that this 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 authorized 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.
o Distance learning in Canada:
IRCC has confirmed that online studies completed within Canada in 2020(Spring,Summer, and Fall 2020) and 2021 due to COVID-19 will not adversely impact your eligibility for the PGWP. Visit here for more information.
o Distance learning outside Canada:
Time spent studying outside Canada in 2020 and 2021 will also not be deducted from the overall length of the PGWP, provided that you fall into one of the categories noted here and you meet all the other eligibility requirements for a PGWP.
- Click here for more information on how distance learning may impact eligibility for a PGWP.
- Click here to review IRCC’s Program Delivery Instructions on the temporary policy changes.
Due to service disruptions caused by COVID-19, IRCC’s current processing times may no longer be accurate and IRCC may be unable to process applications normally.
Note that you may remain in Canada with an expired study permit while waiting for your PGWP to be processed, 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 post-graduation work permit application.
Travel restrictions and exemptions
To manage the outbreak of COVID-19, travel restrictions have been implemented to stop non-essential travel to Canada by foreign nationals with only a few exemptions.
If you plan to travel abroad while your PGWP application is being processed within Canada, please review the travel restrictions and exemptions to make an informed decision about your travel plan.
If you will apply for your PGWP outside Canada, upon approval of your PGWP, please ensure that you are exempt from the travel restrictions as a temporary foreign worker and can travel back to Canada (if the travel restrictions are still in place when you plan to return to Canada).
Note that there are different entry requirements 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. If you are not exempt from the travel restrictions, you will not be allowed to enter Canada.
- Check here for travel restrictions and exemptions for temporary workers
Quarantine, testing and other entry requirements
Under the current procedure, international travellers to Canada must also meet certain health requirements for all international travellers to Canada. 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 travelling, testing, quarantine and other entry requirements
- Check here for information on mandatory hotel stopover for air travellers
- Check here for quarantine and mandatory testing information for temporary foreign workers
Depending on how the COVID-19 situation evolves, the current travel restrictions and entry requirements may be changed or extended further. Therefore, it will be important to closely monitor these in preparation for your return to Canada.
If you have questions or would like to discuss your travel plans and options, please connect with an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist.
Virtual convocation ceremonies will be held on June 24, 25, 28 and 29 for students who complete their program in the Spring 2021 term. Please check SFU’s Convocation webpage for more information about the June 2021 Virtual Convocation.
- Visit the Convocation COVID-19 FAQs page for convocation-related inquiries.
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. Depending on how COVID-19 pandemic evolves, these restrictions may be lifted, changed, or extended further. It is strongly recommended that your family or friends closely monitor the travel restrictions and exemptions if they intend to travel to Canada.
In the event that the travel restrictions are still in place, your family members must meet the travel exemptions and be travelling for essential purposes. Non-essential travel to Canada such as travel for the purpose of tourism or a short-term visit is not permitted under the current travel restrictions (even if they have valid Temporary Resident Visas or Electronic Travel Authorizations).
Should the travel restrictions be loosened or lifted, 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 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
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.
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 form. Note 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 July 2021 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 July 2021, 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 October 31, 2021.
- 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 Spring 2021 term, you may continue to use your GSS secondary insurance until August 31, 2021. You must have valid primary health coverage (e.g. BC MSP or guard.me) in order to use the secondary benefit plan.
On the other hand, if you are currently outside Canada and don’t need secondary medical coverage in Canada, you may apply to opt-out your GSS Health and Dental plan during a special Change-of-Coverage Period that will be available from July 5 to July 19, 20201, provided that you meet all the eligibility requirements as outlined here.
- Click here for more information on the opt-out criteria and process