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PGWP applicants must now provide authorized leave documentation

By CILA on January 28, 2022

This guest article was authored by Ronalee Carey, Canadian Immigration Lawyer, Ronalee Carey Law.

On January 10, 2022, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) published a program delivery update affecting those applying for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).

The instructions for IRCC staff  now state the following:

If the applicant took a period of leave that was authorized by their Designated Learning Institution (DLI) at any time during their studies, they must include documentation proving the leave was authorized by the DLI with their application.

These new instructions to immigration officers are highly problematic for two reasons:

1) They ignore the Federal Court decision Munyanyi v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2021 FC 802. In that decision, a refusal of a PGWP was found to be unreasonable. The applicant was a student at a university that did not require its undergraduate students to request an authorized leave to take a semester off. The Federal Court chided the immigration officer for not considering this when refusing the PGWP application for lack of documentation that the leave was authorized.

IRCC must mandate that Canadian post-secondary institutions offering programs to international students have a formal policy regarding authorized leaves. Until they do so, they should not be denying PGWPs to students who do not have documentation from their DLIs.

DLIs must not wait for IRCC to force them to act. They should immediately create processes for students to request authorized leaves and create standardized documents to meet the new requirements. They should also advise their international students of the new requirements. DLIs benefit significantly from international students, so it is in their best interest that students do not run afoul of requirements.

2) IRCC has not updated the information on its website meant to be read by international students. The webpage Study in Canada as an international student has no information about complying with the terms of study permits. One must consult the webpage Work in Canada after you graduate: Who can apply to find out that taking an unauthorized leave from studies can result in ineligibility for a PGWP. International students would not read this webpage until after graduation. By then, it would be too late, as they cannot request a letter from their school retroactively. Consider the student experiencing mental health issues and dropping their semester’s courses rather than having failures in their transcript. This student would be considered to have taken an unauthorized leave. According to the new instructions, they would be granted no mercy from IRCC.

Further, and most problematic, the instruction guide for PGWP applicants makes no mention of a requirement to provide documentation concerning an authorized leave.  Regarding documents to be included with the application, it refers to the Document Checklist. This checklist is similarly silent:

IRCC is instructing its officers to reject PGWP applications when documentation about an authorized leave is missing despite the instructions to applicants and document checklist making no mention of the requirement to provide this documentation. Certainly, this will come before the Federal Court again unless IRCC immediately updates their website and forms.

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