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Work in Canada - FAQs

Immigration Essentials for International Students in Graduate Programs at McGill

On and Off Campus Work

1. How many hours can I work as an international student during an academic term?

Full-time students* are authorized to work in Canada full-time on-campus and part-time off-campus (up to a maximum of 20hrs per week) during an academic term. Exceptionally, students who are part-time in their final term but have been full-time in every previous term are authorized to work full-time on-campus and part-time off-campus in their final academic term before graduating.

*For undergraduate and non-thesis graduate students, full-time means you are enrolled for a minimum of 12 credits per academic term. PhD and Masters thesis students are considered full-time in every semester of their program, including the Summer term, regardless of the number of credits they are taking.

NOTE: If you are outside of Canada, you are not restricted to the limits defined by Canadian immigration regulations regarding on-campus and off-campus work. You must, however, respect the allowable hours of work in the country where you are currently residing.

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Temporary Changes to Off-Campus Work Regulations

On October 7th, 2022, IRCC announced that they would be lifting the limit on off-campus work hours. As such, students who meet the requirements to do so may work full-time off-campus during an academic term if they wish. This temporary measure will be in force from November 15th, 2022 until December 31st, 2023. 

It is important to note that this new temporary measure does not apply to all students. According to the information provided at this time by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the following students are eligible to benefit from this new temporary measure:

  • Students who are in Canada with a valid study permit;
  • Students who applied to extend their study permit from within Canada before or on October 7th, 2022 and their application is approved;
  • Students who applied for their study permits from outside of Canada before or on October 7th, 2022 and their study permit has already been approved or is eventually approved.

This means that:

  • Students who apply for their study permit from abroad or from within Canada (extension or initial) after October 7, 2022, would not benefit from the temporary measure and must respect the 20 hours per week limit.
  • Students who currently hold a valid study permit and apply for an extension at any time after October 7th, 2022, would not benefit from the temporary measure once their current study permit has expired and must then respect the 20-hour per week maximum.

IMPORTANT: In order for students to benefit from this temporary measure they must also meet all the requirements to work off-campus, including maintaining full-time student status. You can be part-time in your final semester and work off-campus if you were full-time in every other academic term.

Please visit Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for more details.

2. How many hours can I work off-campus under Immigration Canada's new temporary policy measure?

On October 7th, 2022, IRCC announced that they would be lifting the limit on off-campus work hours. As such, students who meet the requirements to do so may work full-time off-campus during an academic term if they wish. This temporary measure will be in force from November 15th, 2022 until December 31st, 2023.

It is important to note that this new temporary measure does not apply to all students. According to the information provided at this time by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the following students are eligible to benefit from this new temporary measure:

  • Students who are in Canada with a valid study permit;
  • Students who applied to extend their study permit from within Canada before or on October 7th, 2022 and their application is approved;
  • Students who applied for their study permits from outside of Canada before or on October 7th, 2022 and their study permit has already been approved or is eventually approved.


This means that:

  • Students who apply for their study permit from abroad or from within Canada (extension or initial) at any time after October 7, 2022, would not benefit from the temporary measure and must respect the 20 hours per week limit.
  • Students who currently hold a valid study permit and apply for an extension at any time after October 7th, 2022 can benefit from the temporary measure and work full-time off-campus until their study permit expires; once their current study permit expires, they must then respect the 20-hour per week maximum.
     

IMPORTANT: In order for students to benefit from this temporary measure they must also meet all the requirements to work off-campus, including maintaining full-time student status. You can be part-time in your final semester and work off-campus if you were full-time in every other academic term.

Please visit Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for more details.

3. I have completed my program in the Winter term, but my study permit expires at the end of summer. Can I work in the summer?

No. If you were always enrolled full-time (except for your final term), you may work an unlimited amount of hours on-campus and/or a maximum of 20h/week off-campus until you receive proof of program completion (i.e., the proof of graduation letter available on Minerva after Senate meets to grant your degree OR the special letter of program completion from Service Point before Senate meets). Once you receive proof of program completion, you are no longer authorized to work on the basis of your study permit*.

*Students who meet all the PGWP eligibility requirements may be eligible to begin to work after submitting an application for the PGWP and for the entire time their PGWP application is pending.

4. I'm about to complete my program. Can I work after the end of my final semester of studies?

It depends.

If you were enrolled full-time in every term except your last term, and have always respected the allowable hours of work during your studies, you can continue to work full-time on campus and/or part-time off-campus (maximum of 20 hours per week) after the end of your final semester until the first date you receive written confirmation from McGill that you have complete your program. Once you receive written proof of program completion, you must then stop all work activity – whether or not this work is paid or unpaid.

You can start working full-time on campus and/or off-campus:

  • After you have obtained your PGWP; or
  • As soon as you have submitted an online PGWP application as long as you meet certain conditions. These conditions include holding a valid study permit at the time of application, applying from inside Canada, having been full-time throughout your studies (with the exception of your final term of studies), and having respected the allowable hours of work during your studies.

5. I don't have a Social Insurance Number and Service Canada Offices are closed. How can I get one?

Service Canada is now processing SINs online. Please visit the Service Canada website to apply online.

6. Can I take less than 12 credits per term and study part-time?

Under the current conditions for CAQ holders, international students must make their studies their principal activity. This means that in order to respect your CAQ conditions, you must maintain full-time student status every term for the duration of your program, with the exception of your last term.

Under the current eligibility requirements to work on-campus and off-campus, international students must maintain full-time student status every term for the duration of their program, with the exception of their last term.

Under the current eligibility requirements for the post-graduation work permit (PGWP), international students must maintain full-time student status every term for the duration of their program, with the exception of their last term.

We, therefore, recommend that all international students maintain full-time student status for the duration of their program with the exception of their last term, so as not to compromise their ability to extend their CAQ, maintain authorization to work on and off-campus or their eligibility for the PGWP.

If you must be part-time due to extenuating circumstances such as health issues or a family emergency, please contact us so that we may best advise you. You may also wish to review our part-time studies information sheet.

Post-Graduation Work Permit

1. May I travel and return to Canada while PGWP is processing?

You can leave Canada and return, as long as your visa or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is still valid. Your study permit is not a visa and doesn't allow you to travel back to Canada.

If your visa or eTA is expired, you have to get a new one before you return to Canada.

When you return to Canada:

  • You may be authorized to enter as a student if your study permit is still valid; OR
  • If your PGWP application has been approved while you were away, you may be authorized to enter as a worker and can begin working in Canada; OR
  • If your PGWP application is still processing, you may be authorized to enter as a visitor, and you can work without a work permit until a decision has been made on your application if you meet the conditions to work while your PGWP application is processing.

    NOTE: The officer may ask you for proof that you applied for a post-graduation work permit, such as a copy of your application or the fee payment receipt.


If the officer believes there is reason to refuse your re-entry, you won’t be authorized to enter Canada.

2. I am a grad student submitting my final thesis by Dec 15. I may not have proof of graduation before my study permit expires. What to do for PGWP?

If you have submitted your final thesis by December 15th, 2022 and your department has approved you for graduation, you can request a special letter of program completion from Service Point before Senate meets for October graduation. You can then use that Special Letter to apply for the PGWP before your study permit expires on December 31st, 2022 and remain in Canada under maintained status while waiting for your PGWP to be issued.

If you are concerned that you may not obtain proof of completion of your studies before your study permit expires on December 31st, 2022, you have three options:

  • OPTION 1: Apply to extend your CAQ and then apply to extend your study permit before your study permit expires on December 31, 2022; OR
     
  • OPTION 2: Apply to extend your stay as a visitor before your study permit expires. NOTE: You may apply for your PGWP as a visitor in Canada but you will not be authorized to work while you PGWP application is processing; OR
     
  • OPTION 3: Leave Canada before your study permit expires and apply for the PGWP from outside of Canada


INSTRUCTIONS FOR OPTION 1:
Apply to extend your CAQ and apply to extend your study permit before it expires.

  • In your CAQ application, you should include a cover letter where you explain that the Fall 2022 term is your final term and that you are requesting a new CAQ for an additional 90 days to be able to apply for the PGWP. You will need to submit proof of enrolment for the Summer 2022 and Fall 2022 terms, and if possible, a letter from your Department that confirms that Fall 2022 is your final term, among other required documents.
  • You must then apply to extend your study permit before your current study permit expires on December 31st, 2022. In your study permit extension application you should include a cover letter where you explain that the Fall 2022 term is your final term and that you are requesting an additional 90 days to be able to apply for the PGWP.
  • See our CAQ renewal guide and study permit renewal guide for more information on how to submit a CAQ renewal and study permit extension application and which documents to include.

NOTE: If you apply to extend your study permit by December 31st, 2022, you will be on maintained status and can remain in Canada as a student after that date.

  • If you obtain proof of program completion, have received your new study permit in the meantime, and then apply for the PGWP from inside Canada while holding a valid study permit, you may start to work full-time while waiting for your PGWP to be issued if you meet all of the conditions to do so
  • If you obtain proof of program completion and wish to apply for the PGWP from inside Canada while still waiting for your study permit to be issued (i.e., while under maintained status as a student), you can do so but you will not be authorized to work while your PGWP is being processed.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR OPTION 2:
Apply to extend your stay as a visitor before your study permit expires

  • See the Immigration Canada website for instructions on how to submit an application to extend your stay in Canada as a visitor (visitor record) while you wait to receive official notification of program completion.
  • If you change your status to a visitor before applying for the PGWP, you cannot work while your application is processing. You may only begin working once you have obtained your PGWP.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR OPTION 3:
Leave Canada before your study permit expires and apply for your PGWP from outside of Canada

  • If you choose this option, you do not have to apply to extend your study permit or to change your status to a visitor
  • Your 180-day eligibility period to apply for your PGWP would begin on December 31st, 2022 (or the day your study permit expired).

NOTE: If you leave before your study permit expires and apply for your PGWP from outside Canada, once your application is approved, you will receive a TRV (visitor visa, if required) or eTA and a work permit approval letter, which you would present to the CBSA officer when returning to Canada in order to be issued your actual Post Graduate Work Permit certificate (much the same process as when you received your initial study permit).

3. Some of my studies at McGill were or will have been completed online from outside Canada due to COVID-19. Am I still be eligible for the PGWP?

YES. You can complete up to 100% of your studies online from outside Canada and remain eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).

Normally, time spent studying outside of Canada is deducted from the length of the PGWP and only online courses completed from within Canada (less than 50% of your program) can count towards the total length of the program when determining the length of the PGWP.

However, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions, IRCC announced a series of new facilitative measures that allow students who were forced to begin their program, continue their studies, or complete their program remotely from outside Canada to maintain their post-graduation work permit eligibility.

As per IRCC’s most recent update to their PGWP facilitative measures:

All of the time you spent studying online from outside Canada between spring 2020 and August 31, 2022, counts toward the length of a PGWP. This applies even if you’re completing 2 study programs.

If you’re completing 2 study programs, you can finish 100% of your studies online if the programs were ongoing or started between March 2020 and summer 2022, and


The following time won’t count toward the length of a PGWP:

  • time spent studying outside Canada after August 31, 2022
  • time spent studying before you applied for a study permit


NOTE: Only the time you spent studying outside of Canada after IRCC received your study permit application counts towards the length of your PGWP and your study permit application must be also be approved.

4. I applied for PGWP and wasn't always full-time (excluding final semester) but got an IRCC letter stating I can work while my PGWP is pending.

No. In order to work while your PGWP application is pending, you must meet certain conditions. If you do not meet all of these conditions, then you cannot work while your application is pending even if you receive the IRCC Acknowledgement of Receipt letter stating that you can work.

5. The letter from IRCC states I can work until X date while my PGWP application is pending. After X, should I stop working and wait for my PGWP?

In order to work while your PGWP application is pending, you must meet certain conditions. If you meet all these conditions, you can work while your PGWP application is pending. Concerning the date included in the Acknowledgement of Receipt letter, IRCC has confirmed that:

Officers should understand that the validity date of the letter in no way overrides the authority of paragraph R186(w), which allows foreign nationals who meet the requirements to continue working until a final decision is made on their work permit application

In other words, if you meet all the PGWP eligibility requirements, you may continue to work for the entire time your PGWP application is pending, regardless of the date indicated on your Acknowledgement of Receipt letter. For more information, please see IRCC’s website.

6. I began/completed a program at McGill, online, from inside Canada in Summer/Fall 2020, Winter/Fall 2021, or Winter 2022. Am I still eligible for PGWP?

Yes. Normally, if more than 50% of a student’s program of study’s total courses are completed by distance learning (online) from inside Canada, the program may be considered a distance-learning or online program, and the applicant would be ineligible for a post-graduation work permit.

However, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing public health restrictions, IRCC has announced a series of new facilitative measures that allow students who were forced to begin their program, continue their studies, or complete their program online from inside Canada to maintain their post-graduation work permit eligibility even if they complete more than 50% of their program online.

As stated on IRCC’s website, these facilitative measures for students studying online from Canadainclude the following:

If you’re inside Canada

You’re still eligible for the PGWP if either of the following situations apply to you:

  • Your in-person classes in Canada have been moved to an online-only format and you are taking your classes online because of COVID-19.
    • It’s highly recommended that you attend in-class options when offered.
  • You had to put your studies on hold, or study part-time, during the winter, spring or summer 2020 semesters because of COVID-19.

NOTE: As of the Fall 2020 semester, you must be studying full-time to be eligible.

7. I will be applying for my Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) while on maintained status. Can I work in Canada while my application is processing?

No. If you apply for your PGWP while on a maintained status (i.e., while you are awaiting the decision on your study permit extension application), you are not currently authorized to work while the PGWP application is processing – even if you otherwise meet the conditions to work after you submit a PGWP application.

8. I am applying for my PGWP and am required to submit my official transcript. How can I ensure my transcript will be considered "official"?

Now that Service Point has resumed the issuance of official printed transcripts, you have two options when applying for your PGWP online.

You can either submit a scanned copy of your official printed transcripts (you can request your official printed transcripts via Service Point's dedicated webformOR a copy of your official eTranscript (order an electronic official transcript).

If you choose to submit a copy of your official eTranscript instead of a scanned copy of your printed transcript, we recommend that you include cover letter explaining that you are providing a copy of the electronic version of the official transcript instead of a scanned copy of the printed official transcript. 

NOTE: it is possible that the "COPY" watermark will appear on the eTranscript when you combine the eTranscript with other documents into one PDF, when you save the eTranscript to your computer, and/or when the immigration agent opens the file. You should mention this possibility in your cover letter and also ensure that you view/save your eTranscript according to the instructions provided by the National Student Clearinghouse when you order your eTranscript.

You should create one pdf document (that includes your Cover Letter and eTranscript) and upload the document in the “Transcript” section of your Document Checklist.

IMPORTANT: If you will be applying for your PGWP at a Port of Entry (i.e., land border, or airport for those applicants who are visa-exempt), and are able to obtain your official printed transcript from Service Point, you should bring your printed transcript (not your eTranscript) to present to the border agent. You can request your official printed transcript via Service Point's dedicated webform. If printed transcripts are not available, you can bring your eTranscript instead.

9. I'm about to complete my program. Can I work after the end of my final semester of studies?

It depends.

If you were enrolled full-time in every term except your last term, and have always respected the allowable hours of work during your studies, you can continue to work full-time on campus and/or part-time off-campus (maximum of 20 hours per week) after the end of your final semester until the first date you receive written confirmation from McGill that you have complete your program (either the proof of program completion letter from Service Point or the proof of graduation letter after Senate meets). Once you receive written proof of program completion, you must then stop all work activity – whether or not this work is paid or unpaid.

You can start working full-time on campus and/or off-campus:

  • After you have obtained your PGWP; or
  • As soon as you have submitted an online PGWP application and as long as you meet certain conditions. These conditions include holding a valid study permit at the time of application, applying from inside Canada, having been full-time throughout your studies (with the exception of your final term of studies), and having respected the allowable hours of work during your studies.

10. My PGWP expired or will be expiring soon. Can I apply to extend my PGWP?

You can only obtain a PGWP once in your lifetime. However, under IRCC’s temporary public policy, some PGWP-holders whose work permit expired or will expire between September 20th, 2021 to December 31st, 2022 may be eligible for an extension of up to 18 months. Please see the IRCC website for more details.

NOTE: ISS will only be advising currently enrolled students, if applicable, on this temporary public policy.

11. If I am part-time in any given term(s) during my studies, do I remain eligible for the PGWP?

Under the current eligibility requirements for the post-graduation work permit (PGWP), international students must maintain full-time student status every term for the duration of their program, with the exception of their last term.

If you must be or were part-time due to extenuating circumstances such as health issues or a family emergency, please contact us so that we may best advise you on how to submit your application.

You may also wish to review our part-time studies information sheet.

12. If my current TRV (Entry Visa) says "Student" and is still valid, do I need a new TRV if I am changing my status to "Worker"?

Your TRV is valid until its expiry regardless of whether it was issued to you as a student or as a worker. You can leave and re-enter Canada with a TRV marked “S-1 Student” even if you have changed your status to a worker.

Co-Op Work Permit

1. Can I complete my program's mandatory co-op/internship from outside of Canada?

If you will be completing a mandatory internship outside of Canada, you do not need a Coop Work Permit to do so. However, please check with your program coordinator prior to accepting any offers to ensure your internship is approved for credit.

2. I am in Canada and have applied for my co-op work permit. I still have not received it and my co-op/internship starts soon. Can I start to work?

It depends. IRCC’s Students – Work: COVID-19 program delivery instructions state:

"Students who are already in Canada, and have applied for a co-op work permit, may begin their co-op placement using their on-campus and off-campus work authorization, provided they meet all the eligibility requirements.

Students may work full-time on the campus of the university or college at which they are a full-time student per [R186(f)]. For off-campus work authorization per [R186(v)], students can work a total of 20 hours per week during an academic term/semester, including both the hours for co-op and the hours for their regular paid job (if they have one). They can work full-time during scheduled breaks in the school year.

However, if the co-op application is refused, they must stop working immediately."

Therefore, if your co-op work permit application is pending and you are registered full-time, you may begin your mandatory co-op/internship, however, you must respect the on-campus and off-campus work regulations. This means, you are authorized to work unlimited hours on-campus and up to a maximum of 20 hours per week, in total, off-campus - including your internship and any other off-campus employment you may have.

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