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No flagpoling! Canada ends border applications for post-grad work permits

This practice, known as "flagpoling," involves leaving Canada and then immediately re-entering to access same-day immigration services.


The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked Canada as the top destination for start-up founders in 2023. Photo: Shutterstock

Sunainaa Chadha NEW DELHI

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Effective immediately, foreign nationals can no longer apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) upon arrival at a Canadian port of entry. This practice, known as "flagpoling," involves leaving Canada and then immediately re-entering to access same-day immigration services.

Flagpoling occurs when temporary residents of Canada bypass the normal wait times involved in applying for a work or study permit online by leaving the country and then immediately re-entering to receive same-day immigration services.

"Flagpoling uses significant resources at the border, taking officers away from enforcement activities, causing delays for travellers and slowing down the movement of goods. From March 1, 2023, to February 29, 2024, PGWP applicants represented about one fifth of the foreign nationals who attempted to flagpole," Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada ( IRCC) said in a statement. 

The Government of Canada is taking measures to encourage applicants to apply in Canada rather than flagpole.

The change announced on 21 June, 2024 increases fairness amongst applicants and is another step that the Government of Canada is taking to reduce flagpoling.

Previously, some temporary residents in Canada used flagpoling to bypass regular wait times for PGWP applications submitted online. This placed a significant burden on immigration officers, diverting them from other critical duties and contributing to longer wait times for all travellers and commercial traffic.

Statistics show that PGWP applicants made up roughly 20% of all attempted flagpoling incidents between March 2023 and February 2024.

The Canadian government is encouraging applicants to submit their PGWP applications electronically from within Canada. 

"“While we continue to support and recognize the contributions of international graduates to Canada’s labour market, ‘flagpoling’ is unnecessary. The time and effort required to process applications from ‘flagpolers’ takes officers on both sides of the border away from their crucial role in protecting the safety, security and prosperity of Canadians and Americans. This measure will help prevent this practice, while maintaining the integrity of our immigration system," said  Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

Implications of the move: 
  • Reduced convenience: Applicants can no longer use the quicker, same-day processing option offered at the border through flagpoling. They will need to submit applications electronically and wait for standard processing times.
  • Potential delays: Depending on current processing timelines, applicants might experience delays in receiving their PGWP compared to the flagpoling method.

Quick facts
In most cases, a study permit expires 90 days after the expected completion of an international student’s study program. When an eligible graduating student applies online for a PGWP before their study permit expires, they can work full-time while they wait for approval on a work permit and receive an automated letter that can be shown to employers. When a work permit is approved, it’s mailed directly to them. 

Flagpoling hours were recently reduced at 12 ports of entry across Canada to allow border services officers to efficiently process the large volume of travellers in peak periods and to focus on other key priorities, including high-risk travellers and trade facilitation.

Other recent measures to address flagpoling have included
  • speeding up processing times for in-Canada work permit applications
  • simplifying online application forms and processes so foreign nationals can continue working while they wait for a decision on their new application
  • authorizing workers to start working for a new employer right away, rather than waiting to have their new work permit application processed before changing jobs
Topics : Canada

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First Published: Jun 24 2024 | 12:17 PM IST

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