Canada plans to modify PGWP for international students

Published on May 29, 2024

Canada plans to modify PGWP for international students

Exploring the expected changes to Canada's PGWP policy for 2024-2025: Who will benefit and who will be affected? What do experts recommend to make the PGWP policy better aligned with Canada's economic needs?

Current PGWP benefits for international students in Canada

For over a decade, international students in Canada have been eligible to apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) simply by enrolling in any qualifying post-secondary program. Specifically:

  • College, university, and postgraduate students in Canada are granted PGWPs based on the duration of their program, with a maximum of up to 3 years.
  • Master's students can stay and work for 3 years regardless of the length of their program (as per the policy update on January 22, 2024).

Studying a Master's degree in Canada has many outstanding advantages

With this permit, graduates can remain in Canada and work for up to 3 years in any field, regardless of their studies or the relevance of their job to Canada’s needs, as long as they have studied legally.

Upcoming changes to Canada’s PGWP policy

The need to change PGWP policy in Canada

Overview of Canada’s economic and labor situation

At the beginning of 2024, Canada’s Immigration Department introduced a new policy to limit the number of international students coming to Canada in 2024 and 2025 due to housing shortages and inflation issues. Following this, on May 21, Immigration Minister Marc Miller suggested changes to the PGWP policy to better align with Canada’s economic needs.

In a recent meeting between Immigration Minister Marc Miller and provincial immigration ministers, there were many suggestions to extend the PGWP duration for fields facing labor shortages, such as healthcare and skilled trades. Many experts believe the PGWP should address Canada’s current economic demands.

Current status of international students in Canada

According to recent CBC statistics:

  • 27% of all Study Permits issued from 2018-2023 were for Business fields, the highest among all academic fields.
  • Only 6% of Study Permits were issued for students in health sciences, medical, biological, and biomedical programs.
  • Only 1.25% of Study Permits were for trades and vocational training.

Since the PGWP does not limit the field of study or differentiate between fields, immigration experts note that many international students choose short and low-cost programs, which do not match market needs. As a result, graduates often end up in low-paying jobs unrelated to their fields of study.

Experts' views on the expected changes to the PGWP policy

Immigration expert Kareem El-Assal suggests that the government could adjust the length of the PGWP based on the field of study to encourage international students to pursue high-demand areas, increasing the number of immigrants with the skills Canada needs.

  • Extend the PGWP duration for high-demand fields: Such as healthcare and skilled trades.
  • Shorten the PGWP duration for oversaturated fields: Like the Business fields, which currently have a surplus of international students.

Barbara Jo Caruso, co-chair of the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association, emphasizes the need to identify fields that meet market needs. However, it is also crucial to be transparent with international students about which fields will be eligible for PGWP so they can make informed decisions about studying in Canada.

Who will be affected by these changes?

Beneficiaries: Students in health and skilled trades fields will greatly benefit from extended PGWP durations, providing more opportunities to work and gain experience in Canada.

Disadvantaged: Students in Business and some other fields may face challenges due to reduced PGWP durations, limiting their chances of finding suitable employment post-graduation and affecting their pathway to Canadian residency.


While there is no official information from the Immigration Department regarding specific PGWP changes yet, these anticipated adjustments indicate a new direction for Canada to optimize economic benefits and labor market needs. Consequently, health and skilled trades fields may become advantageous choices for international students aiming for a career and residency in Canada.


PGWP policy