If you are an international student or graduate in Canada, you are highly educated, likely to speak and understand English or French to a high standard, and have already proven that you are capable of fitting into Canadian life. For these reasons, Canada wants you to immigrate permanently. Here is an overview of your options for permanent residence in Canada for international students and graduates, from federal programs to provincial programs to family sponsorship.
Permanent residence in Canada for international students and graduates: Express Entry
You may have heard about Express Entry, Canada’s main economic immigration system.
Since Express Entry was introduced in 2015, the current Liberal government has tweaked Express Entry to give bonus points to international graduates, ensuring that more of them are invited to apply for permanent residence. The proportion of former international students invited to apply increased significantly between 2015 and 2016 from 26 percent to 35 percent, a figure that held steady through 2017.
Before being eligible to be invited, however, you have to be eligible for any of three federal economic immigration programs and enter the Express Entry pool, where you are assigned a score under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The government then invites the top-ranked candidates in the pool to submit an application, in draws that typically take place every couple of weeks. You then have 60 days to submit a complete application, whereupon the government aims to complete the process within six months. Express Entry favours young candidates with Canadian work and study experience and language ability, giving students and graduates in Canada an excellent chance of obtaining permanent residence.
Let’s look at those programs managed under Express Entry in more detail.
Canadian Experience Class
If you’re looking for a standard route to permanent residence in Canada for international students and graduates — a route already traveled by many of your peers — look no further than the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), an immigration program that allows individuals who have worked in Canada for at least one year to immigrate permanently.
After graduating in Canada and getting a post-graduation work permit, knuckle down and complete a year of skilled work, prove your language ability through a recognised test, and enter the Express Entry pool. If you don’t have enough CRS points to get invitation to apply soon after, see our tips on improving your CRS score.
Federal Skilled Worker Class
Another way to enter the Express Entry pool is as a federal skilled worker. This may be the route for you if you haven’t managed to complete a year of skilled work in Canada, but have done so abroad. Essentially, you have to score at least 67 points on a grid that assesses age, language ability, work experience, whether or not you have a job offer in Canada, and certain adaptability factors, one of which is previous study in Canada.
There is also a third Express Entry program, the Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC) for qualified tradespersons.
Permanent residence in Canada for international students and graduates: Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)
Like the federal government, Canada’s provinces also want international students and graduates to stay. If Express Entry is not an option for you now or in the near future, or if you are struggling to meet the CRS cut-off thresholds in Express Entry draws, you should consider the PNPs.
- We track all PNP streams so you don’t have to. Bookmark our Canada PNP Live Tracker and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates.
When thinking about permanent residence in Canada for international students and graduates through the PNPs, please consider not only the province you graduated in, but also the province you want to live and work in. Some provinces may allow you to apply even if you graduated in another province, while others restrict applications to those who graduated in that particular province.
The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) offers international students and graduates with a job offer the opportunity to permanently live and work in Ontario. Find out more about these graduate OINP streams:
BC’s popular international graduate categories, one of which is aligned with Express Entry, welcome applications from graduates of colleges and universities across Canada, as long as the applicant has a job offer in BC and satisfies other criteria. Learn more:
- BC Express Entry: international graduate category
- BC Skills Immigration: international graduate category
Settlement in BC through the BC PNP may also be possible without a job offer through the international post-graduate categories, which help graduates with a Master’s or doctorate (PhD) degree in the natural, applied or health sciences who have completed a valid graduate program of study at an eligible post-secondary institution in BC in the last three years to settle in BC permanently. Again, one of these categories is aligned with Express Entry:
- BC Express Entry: international post-graduate category
- BC Skills Immigration: international post-graduate category
International Graduates can apply to the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) through the Alberta Opportunity stream if they graduated from an approved Alberta post-secondary institution and are working on a post-graduation work permit. Applicants will need to show that they have at least six months of work experience in Alberta in an occupation related to their field of study (this is less than the requirement for other applicants) and meet the same minimum language and income requirements as other applicants.
International graduates who have completed education programs in other Canadian provinces could be eligible for the program if they have another type of work permit.
As of November, 2018, Manitoba is rolling out the red carpet to its cohort of international students and graduates with the arrival of the International Education stream of the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP). Under this initiative, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) graduates do not require a job offer from an employer in Manitoba, while other graduates will require such an offer.
Saskatchewan helps students and graduates of institutions across Canada to become permanent residents in the province through the Saskatchewan Experience stream of the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP).
Nova Scotia has been something of a leader with respect to attracting students and launching immigration initiatives focused on retaining them after graduation. Permanent residence in Canada for international students and graduates of Nova Scotia institutions has never been so attainable.
Currently, the Nova Scotia Nominee Program (NSNP) offers a range of immigration streams benefiting students and graduates:
- Previous study experience in Nova Scotia is worth five points towards eligibility in the Nova Scotia Demand: Express Entry stream, with a further five points available for a spouse/common-law partner’s previous study experience in Nova Scotia.
- Candidates under the Nova Scotia Experience: Express Entry stream must accrue at least 12 months full-time (or an equal amount in part-time) paid skilled work experience in Nova Scotia in the three years before the application is made, providing an opportunity for graduates who obtain a post-graduation work permit after studying in Canada.
- The NSNP International Graduate Entrepreneur stream is for recent graduates of Nova Scotia post-secondary institutions who have already started or purchased a business in Nova Scotia.
The Express Entry Labour Market stream of the New Brunswick Provincial Nominee Program (NB PNP) prioritizes international graduates who studied in the province.
You may be eligible to apply for a nomination through the International Graduate stream of the Prince Edward Island Provincial Nominee Program (PEI PNP) if you graduated from an accredited PEI post-secondary institution and are currently working in PEI.
The International Graduate category of the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Nominee Program (NLPNP) is for recent graduates who have a post-graduation work permit and a job or job offer from a Newfoundland and Labrador employer. Graduates of Canadian colleges and universities outside Newfoundland and Labrador may be eligible.
Graduates should also note the NLPNP Express Entry Skilled Worker category, which offers bonus points for previous study in the province.
Permanent residence in Canada for international students and graduates: Immigration to Quebec
Quebec operates its own economic immigration programs, separate from the federal programs and the PNPs. Graduates of Quebec colleges and universities who can prove adequate-intermediate French ability or better should look at the Quebec Experience Program, through which applications for a Quebec Selection Certificate are prioritized.
Permanent residence in Canada for international students and graduates: Family Class
This Canadian immigration option is for those of you who have fallen for a Canadian. This includes both opposite- and same-sex relationships. If this is you, here is the good news: your partner may be able to help you immigrate to Canada without you having to go through Express Entry or provincial program.
More good news: because you are already in Canada, you may be eligible to keep working here while your application is being processed.
Even more good news: the government has slashed processing times for spousal and common-law sponsorship, from around two years to less than 12 months.
And the bad news: There is no bad news with falling for a Canadian.
Your spouse or common-law partner must be:
- a Canadian citizen or permanent resident,
- at least 18 years old, and
- living in Canada (Canadian citizens living outside Canada must show that the couple plans to live in Canada when you become a permanent resident. Permanent residents living outside of Canada cannot sponsor their spouse or common-law partner for immigration.)
Learn more about spousal and common-law sponsorship.