Canada Makes Big Changes on Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) for International Students

In an effort to streamline the immigration process and reduce wait times at the border, Canada has announced changes to its post-graduation work permit (PGWP) program for international students. Effective immediately, foreign nationals can no longer apply for a PGWP at a Canadian port of entry. This decision is intended to address the practice of “flagpoling,” which involves temporary residents leaving Canada and immediately re-entering to receive same-day immigration services.

What is Flagpoling?

Flagpoling is a loophole that some international students in Canada exploit to expedite their PGWP application process. Here’s how it works:

  • A temporary resident, typically an international student, nears the completion of their authorized stay in Canada.
  • To avoid the standard processing times associated with applying for a PGWP online, they depart Canada and then re-enter immediately, often within 24 hours.
  • Upon re-entry, they approach the border and apply for a PGWP at the port of entry, hoping to leverage faster processing times available there.

Why is Canada Cracking Down on Flagpoling?

The Canadian government views flagpoling as a misuse of immigration resources and a burden on the border system. Here’s a breakdown of the problems it creates:

  • Strained Resources: Processing flagpoling applications diverts the attention of border service officers (BSOs) from their core duties, such as security checks and enforcement activities. This can lead to delays for legitimate travelers and hinder the smooth flow of goods across the border.
  • Inefficiencies: The back-and-forth nature of flagpoling trips adds unnecessary complexity to the immigration process. It burdens both applicants and immigration officials.
  • System Integrity: The potential for misuse of the flagpoling loophole raises concerns about the integrity of Canada’s immigration system.

The Impact of the New Policy

The Canadian government maintains that eliminating PGWP applications at ports of entry will improve border efficiency and benefit everyone involved. Here’s a closer look at the expected outcomes:

  • Reduced Wait Times: By eliminating flagpoling applications, BSOs can dedicate more time to processing regular applications, potentially leading to faster processing times for all PGWP applicants.
  • Enhanced Security: With BSOs less occupied with flagpoling cases, they can focus on security checks and border enforcement activities, contributing to a safer and more secure border.
  • Streamlined Process: The new policy encourages international students to apply for PGWPs online through the standard process, which can be more efficient and straightforward in the long run.

Alternatives for International Students

While the option to apply for a PGWP at the border is no longer available, international students still have a clear path to obtain a PGWP:

  • Online Application: Students are encouraged to submit their PGWP applications online before their study permit expires. This allows them to work full-time while their application is being processed.
  • Bridge Open Work Permit: If a student’s PGWP application is delayed, they may be eligible for a bridge open work permit. This temporary permit allows them to continue working legally in Canada while they await a decision on their PGWP.

Additional Measures to Address Flagpoling

In addition to eliminating PGWP applications at ports of entry, the Canadian government is implementing other measures to discourage flagpoling:

  • Adjusted Study Permit Validity: In most cases, study permits will now expire 90 days after the expected completion of a student’s program. This reduces the window of opportunity for flagpoling after program completion.
  • Reduced Flagpoling Hours: Authorities have reduced the hours during which flagpoling applications are accepted at certain ports of entry.
  • Expedited Processing: The government is working to improve processing times for online PGWP applications.
  • Simplified Application Forms: Efforts are underway to streamline the online application process to make it more user-friendly for international students.

Conclusion

The Canadian government’s decision to eliminate PGWP applications at ports of entry aims to address the inefficiencies and security concerns associated with flagpoling. By encouraging international students to utilize the standard online application process, Canada hopes to achieve a more efficient and secure immigration system. International students are advised to plan ahead and submit their PGWP applications online well before their study permits expire to ensure a smooth transition after graduation.

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