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Working in Canada after graduation became much easier for international students Thursday after the federal government published substantial changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit program.

A Post-Graduation Work Permit allows an international graduate to work anywhere in Canada at any job for up to three years after finishing a degree or diploma at a Canadian university or public college. The permit is often a crucial first step to becoming a permanent resident.

Prior to Feb. 14, two rules often disqualified students from obtaining the permit. Students had to apply within 90 days of finishing their studies, and they had to study continuously throughout their degree or diploma to qualify.

The federal government has doubled the application window to six months. Students can now apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit up to 180 days after finishing their degree or diploma.

“This update from IRCC is a welcomed announcement and will have a significant impact on international graduates in their efforts to gain valuable Canadian work experience,” said Melissa Payne, director of member services for the Canadian Bureau of International Education.

The second key problem for many students was a requirement that they could not take time off school to deal with personal or financial problems. Students who missed a term to get cancer treatment, give birth or care for sick relatives became ineligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit.

Under new rules published Feb. 14, students are only required to have actively pursued their studies, not continuously pursued their studies, to qualify for the Post-Graduation Work Permit. That means students may be able to leave school for a term and still qualify for the work permit, as long as they return to class within 150 days and if the leave is specifically approved by their university or college.

Statistics published by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada shows that at the end of 2018, more than 570,000 people held valid permits to study in Canada and more than 130,000 people held a valid Post-Graduation Work Permit.

The new rules also clarify other aspects of the permit, including the fact that recent graduates may work in Canada while their application is being processed.

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