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Ask Tito Mike by Michael Scott  

“Flag poling” ends for PGWP applicants

by Michael Scott

In a June 21, 2024, news release, IRCC announced a change in services provided at ports of entry. In order to speed up the orderly movement of entrants at ports of entry, Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced that foreign nationals can no longer apply for a post-graduate work permit (PGWP) at the border. This change is effective immediately and will end the process known as “flag poling” for international foreign student graduates from Canadian schools.

“Flag poling” is an irregular entry process used by some temporary residents of Canada (study permit and work permit holders) to bypass the normal wait times involved in applying for a work or study permit extension by leaving the country and then re-entering to receive same day service. The Minister opposes this activity because it comes at the expense of other entrants. The process takes significant resources away from enforcement activities at the border and slows down the orderly movement of goods between Canada and the United States. The government of Canada prefers applicants to apply in Canada rather than leave and re-enter. The department is working to provide a more integrated, modernized and centralized service to help speed up application processing.

The intention of the government move is to increase fairness amongst all applicants rather than allow some to circumvent the system by leaving the country and then re-enter from the American side. “While we continue to support and recognized the contributions of international graduates to Canada’s labour market “flag poling” is unnecessary,” said Minister Miller. “The time and effort required to process applications from ‘flag polers’ 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.” His words were echoed by Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Public Satety, who said, “Flag poling” places an undue burden on our border officers. With this change, we’re taking a measured approach to combatting the issue and putting an even greater focus on maintaining the integrity of our shared border with the United States.”

The ministerial release provided some quick facts to support the restriction on “flag poling.”

  • In most cases the study permit expires 90 days after the expected completion of an international students 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 potential employers. When a work permit is approved, its mailed directly to them.
  • Flag poling hours were recently reduced at 12 ports of entry at the Canada – American border to allow border services officers to process the large volume of travellers in peak periods and to focus on key priorities, including high-risk travellers and trade facilitation.
  • Other measures to address the flag poling challenge 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; and authorizing workers to start working for a new employer right away, rather than waiting to have their new work permit application proceeded with before changing jobs.

The assurances of the government are somewhat comforting, and it is important to warn applicants that they must have multiple entry options because the “flag poling” process does not allow all persons the ease of re-entry. We are all warned by the departmental release to stay inside Canada and apply in the conventional way to avoid complications. This is the caution for all users, especially the graduating foreign students.

Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Immigration Canada and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with Immigration Connexion International Ltd. Contact him at 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: mscott.ici@gmail.com.