No More Port of Entry Applications for Post-Graduation Work Permits

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) has announced that international student graduates can no longer apply for a post-graduation work permit (“PGWP”) at a port of entry when entering Canada. This also means an end to applying for PGWP by way of flagpoling – a legal practice of leaving Canada and re-entering in order to have an immigration application processed by the Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) at the time and place of entry. This new policy is now in effect and feels too much of a coincidence that it comes within a month of CBSA’s announcement on further curtailing flagpolling hours across various land borders in Southern Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia and the government’s announcement of earlier in the year to limit the number of temporary residents in Canada.

Over the past few years and as recent as last month, CBSA has limited the ability to “flagpole” at certain land border crossings in Québec, southern Ontario, and British Columbia, to certain days and hours of business. This has been done to limit the workload of officers and to increase the perception of fairness as flagpolers are often seen as jumping the queue over online applicants, despite many flagpolers having legitimate and pressing reasons to flagpole given lengthy inland processing times and CBSA having no legal authority to deny processing applicants. Under section 23 of the Immigration Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA”), an officer may authorize a person to enter Canada for the purpose of further examination or an admissibility hearing, but there is no authorization to refuse to process an application. Restrictions to flagpoling are, therefore, unlawful.

While this new policy will certainly further limit flagpolling as IRCC and CBSA are now making it a requirement for foreign students to apply for a PGWP online, the announcement certainly has broader implications. The restrictions from applying at a port of entry for PGWP extends to visa exempt individuals as well who would otherwise be eligible to apply at a port of entry for another type of a work permit. Further, there is precedent for requiring certain applications for work permits to be filed online regardless of whether the individual is from a non-visa required country and would normally be able to make their application at a port of entry. For example, International Experience Canada and Seasonal Agricultural Worker work permit applications must be made online and cannot be made at a port of entry, although once approved, if these applicants are in Canada, they could flagpole to have the work permits issued at a port of entry by CBSA.  Based on this, it would seem therefore that this announcement is not simply about restricting flagpolling but more towards international students – a program that has recently undergone significant changes and further changes are expected to be coming in the fall and IRCC’s broader strategy to restrict the number of temporary residents in Canada.

For context, currently most international students who have graduated from a post-secondary institution in Canada are eligible for a PGWP. The academic program must have been PGWP-eligible and at least eight (8) months in length. An applicant can only obtain a PGWP once.

Most foreign students do apply online from within Canada for their PGWP, so this announcement will have limited impact. However, there are circumstances, where foreign students may have to or want to travel outside of Canada after completing their studies in Canada, and in the past would have been able to apply for their PGWP on re-entry to Canada.  This announcement will inconvenience these individuals, which again suggests that the announcement may be aimed at making it more difficult to apply for a PGWP to limit the number of temporary residents in Canada, and has less to do with queue jumping, fairness or any integrity issue.

If you or an employee has any questions about this policy of restricting PGWP applications to online-only or have any other questions about PGWP applications or overall eligibility to apply for a work permit at a port of entry, feel free to reach out to us for a consultation. Our Canadian immigration legal professionals can be reached by phone (416-368-1111) or via email:;;;;;