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IRCC expands authorization for foreign workers to study without a study permit: Four things you need to know

By Sara Espinal Henao

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) has announced a promising new temporary measure that allows foreign workers to study for a longer duration without a study permit, opening the door for career advancement through education.

Prior to the introduction of this policy, foreign workers were only able to study while working if their study program was six months or less in duration. Otherwise, a separate application for a study permit was required.

The new three-year policy now applies to foreign workers in Canada who hold a valid work permit issued on or before June 7, 2023 or who are on maintained status (i.e. those who have applied for a new work permit to extend their work authorization) and have a work authorization letter that was issued on or before June 7, 2023. Foreign workers in Quebec are also able to study without a study permit and are exempt from the requirement to obtain a Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) to complete educational programs in the province.

How it works

Foreign workers hoping to benefit from this policy do not need to make new applications. Instead, they can simply provide the learning institution they will be attending with a copy of their valid work permit or work authorization letter, depending on their specific case, as well as the government correspondence they would receive indicating they qualify for the policy.

To keep in mind

This measure is a welcome development for foreign workers seeking educational programs for professional advancement, but it must be applied with care. Importantly, workers must be mindful of several nuances:

  1. How long you can study: A foreign worker’s authorization to study full time while working would only apply throughout the validity of work permit, or until the public measure expires on June 27, 2026, whichever comes first. Foreign workers benefiting from the policy while on maintained status must have their work permit approved in order to continue studying; otherwise, they would lose the authorization to study from the date of refusal of their work permit application – and their ability to study will again be the earliest of the new work permit expiry date or June 27, 2026.
    Moreover, this measure is intended to temporarily benefit those whose primary purpose in Canada is to work; it is not designed to operate as a blanket study permit exemption for temporary residents with foreign worker history. Those who wish to register for a program or continue studying past the duration of their current permit or the public measure’s expiry would still need to apply for a study permit moving forward.
  2. Adhering to work permit terms and conditions: Additionally, foreign workers on employer and occupation-specific work permits must still abide by the terms of their work permits while benefiting from the policy. As such, if an educational program would require a reduction in the number of work hours or a change in location that conflicts with the worker’s specific work permit, the worker will be responsible for applying to change the conditions of their permit to authorize those new terms of employment. Failure to do this can lead to non-compliance and inadmissibility issues for both the worker and their employer.
  3. Post-Graduation Work Permit eligibility: International students are often able to apply for an open Post-Graduation Work Permit upon graduation from a Canadian study program. However, the individual must hold a study permit to be eligible (and meet all other eligibility requirements) to obtain this type of work permit. Individuals studying under this temporary public policy will not be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit, as they will not have obtained a study permit.
  4. Permanent residence prospects: Lastly, while this policy certainly goes a long way in expanding the range of authorized activities for workers in Canada, it can have a negative impact on their prospects for permanent residence. Foreign workers considering going back to school under the policy must be aware that any Canadian work experience gained during a period of full-time study will not count toward eligibility for the Canadian Experience Class. Similarly, students will not earn Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System (“CRS”) points for this experience. Therefore, foreign workers contemplating permanent residence and relying on their Canadian work experience to that end might want to consider part-time study to not jeopardize their permanent resident eligibility down the road. It is important to also address the possible benefits of studying under this policy for permanent residence opportunities down the line. For example, if a foreign worker is able to achieve a higher level of education while studying under this policy, that may boost their CRS points for express entry. Similarly, studying in Canada may improve the foreign worker’s English or French language ability, allowing them to perform better on a language test and again achieve a higher CRS score as a result.

This client update is provided for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about the above, please contact a member of our Immigration Group.

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