Here are some options for visitors, international students, and temporary foreign workers to extend their stay in Canada.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) offers a number of options that allow temporary residents to stay in Canada, even when waiting on a decision for permanent residence, or temporary residence.
For example, maintained status means temporary residents who apply for a new temporary status do not necessarily have to leave Canada if their documents expire before IRCC makes a decision. Through maintained status, students, visitors, and temporary foreign workers can stay in Canada on the same conditions as their previous permit until they hear back about their new application.
Temporary residents applying for permanent residency who are facing the end of their documents’ validity may be able to benefit from a Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP).
While some temporary residency permits are eligible for extension, certain programs like the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) are not renewable nor extendable, but that does not necessarily mean these workers cannot be eligible for a different work permit.
Although it is an option for many, it is not usually desirable for workers and students in Canada to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), because it does not allow you to work or study. Those on a TRV may also be eligible to apply for a Visitor Record and be allowed to stay longer than six months, although again, this does not enable them to work or study. There may also be options to stay for people who are eligible to be exempt from work permits, in specific cases. In this article we cover options to stay for people who may benefit from the following:
- Work Permits
- Study Permits
- Post-Graduation Work Permits
- Bridging Open Work Permits
- Spousal Open Work Permits
Canadian work permits are split into two broad categories, those that require a positive or neutral Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), and those that are LMIA exempt.
An LMIA is meant to demonstrate to the Canadian government that there is a genuine need for a foreign worker to fill a vacant position. It is the employer, not the worker, who needs to do the LMIA process. Once Employment and Development Services Canada (EDSC) issues a positive or neutral LMIA to the employer, the employer gives the worker a copy of the confirmation letter. The worker then applies for a work permit to IRCC.
Some work permit programs offer facilitated LMIA processes in order to address established labour shortages. For example, the Global Talent Stream (GTS) allows employers of eligible tech occupations to skip the advertising requirement of an LMIA, which speeds up the processing time. GTS work permits have a processing standard of two weeks. Also, the province of Quebec has its own list of occupations which allows for facilitated LMIA processing.
Most temporary foreign workers have LMIA-exempt work permits. In 2021 more than 315,000 LMIA-exempt work permits were issued, about three times more than the number of work permits supported by an LMIA. Canadian employers whose job posting matches an LMIA exemption code have to pay a compliance fee, and submit an offer of employment through IRCC’s employer portal in order to hire through an LMIA-exempt work permit program.
The purpose of LMIA-exempt work permits, from the government’s perspective, is to support Canadian interests. The most common LMIA-exempt work permits fall under the significant benefit and reciprocal employment categories. Canada defines “significant benefit” as a foreign national whose work will benefit Canadians socially, culturally, or economically. Reciprocal employment is when Canada has an agreement with another country, which allows for the exchange of workers across borders. The labour market impact is considered neutral since foreign workers can have similar opportunities in Canada to what Canadian workers can have abroad.
The LMIA-exempt category includes open work permits, which allow holders to work anywhere for any employer in Canada. It also includes work permits that fall under CUSMA, CETA, or other free trade agreements with Canada. The same goes for work permits under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program. The IEC offers pathways for youth from certain countries who want to get Canadian experience.
If it makes sense for your career and your financial situation, getting a study permit can allow you to stay in Canada. You will also be able to work part-time during the academic session and full time during scheduled breaks.
To get a study permit, you first need to be accepted to a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). You can then use your letter of acceptance to apply for a Canadian study permit.
Once you finish your program, you may be eligible to stay in Canada through the PGWP (if you have never had one before). Also, you will become eligible for pathways to permanent residence that are tailored to international student graduates.
Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)
The Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) may be an option to stay in Canada for international student graduates who have completed a post-secondary program at an eligible Designated Learning Institution (DLI). It is an open work permit, meaning it does not tie the holder down to one employer or occupation.
Study programs that are longer than eight months but shorter than two years may be eligible for a PGWP that matches the length of their program. International students who completed programs of two years or more may be eligible for a three-year PGWP.
Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP)
Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP) allows certain permanent residency applicants to stay in Canada beyond the expiry date of their temporary status.
The following immigration programs are eligible for a BOWP:
- Federal Skilled Worker Program
- Canadian Experience Class
- Federal Skilled Trades Program
- Provincial Nominee Program
- Quebec Skilled Workers
- Agri-Food Pilot Program
Since September 2021, foreign workers who may be eligible for the CEC have so far not gotten the chance to apply for permanent residence. Without an Acknowledgement of Receipt (AOR) from IRCC, they cannot get a BOWP. However, they may be able to apply for other work permits depending on their circumstances.
Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP)
If your spouse or common-law partner is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, then spousal sponsorship may be an option. If you are applying for sponsorship from inside Canada, then you are considered in-land applicants and you may be able to benefit from a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) that is specifically for spouses and common-law partners of Canadians who are going through the immigration process.
Spouses of temporary residents may also be able to get an open work permit. Temporary foreign workers must meet certain eligibility criteria, such as having a work permit that will be valid for six months after the open spousal work permit is received, among others. The foreign worker also has to meet one of four conditions:
- working in a National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill level of 0, A, or B;
- working in any occupation when accepted to an Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP) stream;
- working in any occupation holding a provincial or territorial nomination from the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP); or
- working in any occupation and holding a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ).
There are also further program-specific criteria that must be met depending on the temporary foreign worker’s situation.
Spouses of international students may be able to get an open work permit if they can demonstrate to the government that they are in a genuine relationship, and that their spouse is an international student enrolled in an eligible program.
Source: CIC NEWS