How to extend your temporary status in Canada

Here are a few options for visitors, international students, and temporary foreign workers who want to stay in Canada longer and extend your temporary status in Canada.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) provides a number of options for temporary residents to remain in Canada and extend their temporary status in Canada while awaiting a decision on the permanent or temporary residence.

Maintaining status, for example, means that temporary residents who apply for new temporary status do not have to leave Canada if their documents expire before IRCC makes a decision. Students, visitors, and temporary foreign workers with maintained status can stay in Canada under the same conditions as their previous permit until they hear back about their new application.

Temporary residents applying for permanent residency who are nearing the end of the validity period of their documents may be eligible for a Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP).

While some temporary residency permits are eligible for extension, certain programs like the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) are not renewable nor extendable, but that does not necessarily mean these workers cannot be eligible for a different work permit.

Although it is an option for many, applying for a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) in Canada is not usually desirable because it does not allow you to work or study. Those on a TRV may also be eligible to apply for a Visitor Record, which allows them to stay for more than six months but does not allow them to work or study. In some cases, people who are eligible to be exempt from work permits may be able to stay. This article discusses possible places to stay for people who may benefit from the following:

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Work Permits

Canadian work permits are split into two broad categories, those that require a positive or neutral Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), and those that are LMIA exempt.

An LMIA is intended to show the Canadian government that there is a genuine need for a foreign worker to fill a vacancy. The LMIA process must be completed by the employer, not the employee. When Employment and Development Services Canada (EDSC) issues a positive or neutral LMIA to the employer, the employer provides a copy of the confirmation letter to the worker. The worker then applies to IRCC for a work permit.

In order to address established labour shortages, some work permit programmes provide facilitated LMIA processes. For example, the Global Talent Stream (GTS) allows employers of eligible tech occupations to bypass the LMIA’s advertising requirement, reducing processing time. The processing time for GTS work permits is two weeks. Furthermore, the province of Quebec has its own list of occupations that allows for streamlined LMIA processing.

The majority of temporary foreign workers have work permits that are not subject to the LMIA. More than 315,000 LMIA-exempt work permits were issued in 2021, nearly three times the number of work permits supported by an LMIA. To hire through an LMIA-exempt work permit programme, Canadian employers who post a job that matches an LMIA exemption code must pay a compliance fee and submit an offer of employment through IRCC’s employer portal.

From the government’s perspective, the purpose of LMIA-exempt work permits is to support Canadian interests. The most common LMIA-exempt work permits fall into the categories of significant benefit and reciprocal employment. A “significant benefit” is defined in Canada as a foreign national whose work will benefit Canadians socially, culturally, or economically. Reciprocal employment occurs when Canada has an agreement with another country that allows for the cross-border exchange of workers. The impact on the labour market is considered neutral because foreign workers can have similar opportunities in Canada as Canadian workers can have abroad.

Open work permits, which allow holders to work anywhere in Canada for any employer, are included in the LMIA-exempt category. Work permits issued under CUSMA, CETA, or other free trade agreements with Canada are also included. The same holds true for work permits obtained through the International Experience Canada (IEC) programme. The IEC provides opportunities for youth from specific countries who want to gain Canadian experience.

Study Permits

Obtaining a study permit can allow you to stay in Canada if it makes sense for your career and financial situation. You will also have the option of working part-time during the academic year and full-time during scheduled breaks.

To obtain a study permit, you must first be accepted into a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). You can then use your acceptance letter to apply for a study permit in Canada.

After you complete your program, you may be eligible to stay in Canada under the PGWP (if you have never had one before). In addition, you will be eligible for pathways to permanent residence designed specifically for international student graduates who want to extend Temporary status in Canada. 

Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)

For international student graduates who have completed a post-secondary program at an eligible Designated Learning Institution, the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) may be an option to stay in Canada (DLI). It is an open work permit, which means it does not bind the holder to a specific employer or occupation.

Study programs that are longer than eight months but less than two years in length may be eligible for a PGWP that corresponds to the length of their program. International students who have completed two-year or longer programs may be eligible for a three-year PGWP.

Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP)

Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP) allows certain permanent residency applicants to stay in Canada after their temporary status expires.

A BOWP is available for the following immigration programs:

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program
  • Canadian Experience Class
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program
  • Provincial Nominee Program
  • Quebec Skilled Workers
  • Agri-Food Pilot Program

Since September 2021, foreign workers who may be eligible for the CEC have so far not gotten the chance to apply for permanent residence. Without an Acknowledgement of Receipt (AOR) from IRCC, they cannot get a BOWP. However, they may be able to apply for other work permits depending on their circumstances.

Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP)

Spousal sponsorship may be an option if your spouse or common-law partner is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. If you apply for sponsorship from within Canada, you are considered an in-land applicant, and you may be eligible for a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP), which is designed specifically for spouses and common-law partners of Canadians who are in the immigration process. 

Spouses of temporary residents may be able to obtain an open work permit as well. Temporary foreign workers must meet certain eligibility criteria, such as having a work permit that is valid for six months after receiving an open spousal work permit, among other things. The foreign worker must also meet one of four requirements:

  • working in a National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill level of 0, A, or B;
  • working in any occupation when accepted to an Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP) stream;
  • working in any occupation holding a provincial or territorial nomination from the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP); or
  • working in any occupation and holding a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ).

There are additional program-specific criteria that must be met depending on the situation of the temporary foreign worker.

Spouses of international students may be able to obtain an open work permit if they can demonstrate to the government that they are in a genuine relationship and that their spouse is enrolled in an eligible programme.

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