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Why is PGWP Program so popular among international students?

The number of study permit holders in Canada rose from 122,700 to 638,740. This massive spike in international interest is thanks in large part to the popular Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP).


The PGWPP provides students who have graduated from a designated learning institution (DLI) with the opportunity to stay and work in Canada post-graduation. Work permit lengths can range from 8 months to 3 years, depending on the length of the program that the student completed. For many international students, the PGWPP serves as a launchpad for their careers.


I noted that a secondary benefit of the program for international students is the opportunity to start on the pathway to permanent residency (PR) and citizenship. The skilled Canadian work experience that students gain through this program helps them increase their chances of qualifying for permanent residency.2 For students who want to make Canada their home—a dream my brothers and I all once had—the PGWPP is a major stepping stone.

Based on a host of new PGWPP data, I’ll be diving into the numbers and examining the program’s growth across several markets (big and small), its sky-high approval rates, spikes in program interest, and breakdown what this all means for schools.

Key Insights at a Glance

  • 98% of students who applied for a post-graduate work permit in 2020 were granted one.

  • 25% more PGWPs were issued in 2020 than in 2019, partially due to the growing popularity of the PGWPP among smaller and lesser-known source markets.

  • From 2016 to 2020, the number of issued PGWPs increased by 124%.


Growth of the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program

The number of students participating in Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit Program has soared since its inception in the early 2000s. But as we can see from the chart below, PGWPP enrollment has really picked up over the past five years: Over the past five years, the amount of PGWPs issued by the Canadian Government increased by an astonishing 124%. On a percentage basis, the growth in PGWPs from 2016 to 2020 far outpaced the growth in the number of new study permits issued from 2016–2019. The number of new study permits issued over this period grew from 150,399 to 244,696—an increase of just 62.7%.


So where is this surging growth in PGWPs coming from?


In this case, soaring PWGP numbers can be attributed to both rising student interest and growing international student populations in Canada. The number of new study permits issued between 2015 and 2017 grew at nearly twice the rate as what we saw from 2017 to 2019. Before the 2020 data came in, I chalked the increase in PGWPs up to the large number of study permits issued from 2015-2017. New students who enrolled in those years largely became the cohort of graduates eligible for the PGWPP between 2017 and 2019.

Given the decrease in study permit growth post-2017, I expected PGWP numbers to rise incrementally in 2020. Instead, there was a 24.9% increase in PGWPs issued last year over 2019. Since study permit growth levelled out in 2018—the first enrollment year for students that would be eligible for the PGWPP in 2020—program interest clearly trended upward.


Top Source Countries for the PGWPP


As you might imagine, the countries producing students that are issued the most Canadian study permits each year typically also rank within the top 10 source countries for PGWPs issued. Of the 10 countries with the most PGWP holders in 2020, eight were ranked in the top 10 for new study permits issued.Here are the countries : India, China, Vietnam, France, Brazil, South Korea, Iran, Nigeria, Philippines and Morocco.


PGWP Growth Among Smaller Source Markets

Whenever I explore data for ApplyInsights, my findings are usually focused on larger source market trends. In this case, I was excited to discover that a significant portion of the growing interest in the PGWPP during 2020 was driven by countries that seldom leveraged the program in years past.


Only two of the top 10 countries ranked by year-over-year PGWP growth appeared in the top 10 PGWP source countries in 2020. This shows that there is a whole host of new countries with students who are actively leveraging the PGWPP once they graduate.

There were 57 source markets with at least 100 graduates who were issued PGWPs in 2020. That’s 11 more source markets than in 2016.

Over the past five years, more source countries experienced significant YOY growth in the number of PGWPs issued. The following chart highlights the number of source countries that saw a 25% or greater YOY increase in PGWPs issued, from 2016–2017 to 2019–2020: In 2020, 32 different source countries posted a 25%+ increase in graduates issued PGWPs. This growth is an encouraging and reassuring sign for our recruitment partners and students in smaller source markets all around the world. It shows that committing to studying abroad in Canada can lead to valuable work experience, and potentially PR, regardless of the country of origin’s size. Students who prioritize gaining work experience after graduating and want to explore immigration options should be excited about the diversity within the PGWP program and strongly consider Canadian institutions during their application process.


  • Students who value the opportunity to work and potentially immigrate to Canada following their education should consider PGWPP eligibility when targeting Canadian institutions during the application stage.

  • Recruitment Partners should make a point to discuss booming PGWPP growth with students from emerging countries and work to educate potential students on the post-graduation employment opportunities that could await them following their studies in Canada.

  • Canadian Schools would be wise to leverage the value proposition of studying in Canada before pursuing a PGWP in conversations with prospective students, specifically targeting students from countries with higher ratios of PGWP to study permits issued.

All the information is taken from our fellow partner organization Apply Board.






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