International graduates granted reprieve after denied work permit applications

The group of international students who had their applications for Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWPs) refused have now been given permission to re-submit their applications. John McCullum, Canada’s Minister of Immigration has established a public policy program to review applications for three-year open work permits for certain graduates.  

A PGWP is an open work permit that aims to help international graduates from eligible programs at recognized institutions in Canada. A holder of the work permit is able to work for any employer anywhere in the country and is valid for three years. 

The new public policy program enables the international graduates who meet certain conditions to reapply for a three-year open work permit and to have their Temporary Resident Status restored, they will also have their related fees returned. Foreign nationals can be eligible if they meet the following criteria:

  • They had their PGWP refused between September 1, 2014, and March 221, 2015.
  • They were refused the application because the applicant completed much of the course work by distance learning.
  • The full length of the period for the applicant's program of study, transfer credits, were previously not considered before the application was refused due to the fact that the applicant's majority of the course work was by distance learning. 

The foreign nationals who are eligible can apply from Canada or outside the country. All fees associated with retaining of permanent residency, work permit application, and open work permit holder applications are revoked, These fees usually amount to $455.The applications under this public policy must be submitted by 17, March 2017, and the Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have made a commitment to process all complete and eligible applications within 40 days.  


In 2015, some students from Niagara College, Ontario, had their applications for PGWP refused because the immigration officers processing the applications noticed that the study programs were mainly long-distance learning courses. However, there is no clear explanation as the immigration regulations only state that a graduate is not eligible for a PGWP if he/she is registered for a study program that is by long-distance learning either in Canada or abroad.

In December 2015, a judge ruled that there should be a judicial review of one of the affected candidates, who had been refused because five out of six courses he took at Niagara College were by distance learning. In addition to that, the applicant had also taken courses at another college and these were not taken into consideration by the immigration officer. The court subsequently made a ruling that all courses, including transferred credits, should be considered in the assessment of an applicant’s eligibility for PGWP.

Many of the affected students filed a class-action lawsuit against Niagara College in the summer of 2015, citing that the college misrepresented its general arts and science transfer program. They claimed that the college had given them assurances that students that graduate from this program would be eligible for PGWP, and more importantly, that the college does not offer long-distance learning. However, there has been no more news on the lawsuit since the summer of 2015.