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Canada has more than 500,000 international students currently enrolled in study programs across the country.
Not only can people who choose to study in Canada benefit from a world-class education — students and graduates are also set on a path that may lead to incredible career opportunities and permanent settlement in Canada.
The study pathway to settlement in Canada can be summed up in three words:
Learn. Earn. Stay.
Let’s find out how it all works.
Learn: Find out how you can study in Canada
Many international students are choosing to study in Canada over other potential destinations — such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and France — because Canada offers certain advantages that may not be available elsewhere.
- International students in Canada can work for up to 20 hours per week during semester, and on a full-time basis during school breaks.
- The tuition fees and other study in Canada costs, even for international students, are usually lower than in other countries.
- The spouse or common-law partner of an international student may accompany the student in Canada. Not only that, spouses and partners may obtain an open work permit, allowing them to work any hours they wish and for any employer.
- International students in Canada can bring their children to Canada, and the kids can attend one of Canada’s public elementary or secondary schools without needing their own study permit.
- Canada’s largest cities are ranked among the best student cities by the QS World University Rankings, with Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto among the best student cities in the world.
- Graduates can first study and then work in Canada for up to three years on an open post-graduation work permit (see below under ‘Earn’).
- Rather than closing the door on graduates who complete their studies in Canada or making things incredibly difficult, as some countries may do, Canada actively sets out to provide permanent residence pathways to students and graduates (see below under ‘Stay’).
- Canada’s liberal citizenship naturalization process allows international students to count time spent on a study permit towards citizenship residency days requirements.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? But remember, this is a two-way street. Prospective students need to follow a few steps before they too may benefit.
Find a suitable study program and college/university to study abroad in Canada
There are hundreds of institutions to choose from if you want to study in Canada. You may already have some idea as to which areas of study are of interest to you, or a preference with regard to the type of institution and location.
- Universities Canada offers a strong database for beginning your search.
- Colleges and Institutes Canada also has a tool designed for finding study programs.
- Maclean’s magazine offers some great advice on choosing the right college or university for you.
- We also have this handy article on finding the right study program in Canada for you.
Make sure it’s a DLI
International students planning to study in Canada for a period longer than six months need a study permit. Study permit applicants need to know how they can study in Canada and an acceptance letter from a designated learning institution (DLI) is a crucial step in this process. A DLI is an institution approved by a provincial or territorial government to host international students. The DLI list is subject to change on an ongoing basis.
The next step is to get admitted to the chosen college or university. Prospective students should take note of application deadlines, potential language requirements or other entrance requirements to study in Canada, and to what extent, if any, the chosen study program includes distance learning. This may prove important in the study permit application, or at a later stage if applying for a post-graduation work permit.
Letter of acceptance
Having a letter of acceptance from a DLI is crucial. Without this document, a study permit may not be granted.
This document is issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) allowing you to study in Canada in your chosen study program.
Book a consultation with a study permit expert
Earn: First study, and then work in Canada
Canada’s economy is diverse and growing. As a graduate who chose to study in Canada, you could be a part of it.
As mentioned above, international students can actually enter the Canadian workforce before graduating. This allows them to gain an income, build up valuable Canadian work experience, and create professional connections that can lead to opportunities at a later stage.
The big earning opportunity, however — in monetary and networking terms, as well as being a springboard to permanent residence in Canada — comes with the post-graduation work permit.
A post-graduation work permit is an open work permit that allows graduates to work for employers anywhere in Canada for up to three years. It represents a unique opportunity to build a long-term life in Canada.
To learn more about Canada’s economy and job opportunities, see our resources:
- Labour market report
- Jobs Board
- Finding work in Canada
- Resume format in Canada
- Employment services
- Career-specific advice
Stay: See how international students in Canada can end up staying long-term
International students often have an advantage when it comes to staying in Canada permanently. This is because Canada’s permanent immigration programs are designed for those who will be able to easily integrate into Canadian life, and international students have demonstrated ability to live in Canada.
But how does this integration work in practice? Under many of Canada’s economic immigration systems and programs, international students and graduates have a clear advantage.
The main driver of economic immigration is the Express Entry system, through which IRCC manages the selection of new permanent residents on a priority basis. There are three ways to enter the Express Entry pool of candidates:
This is a fast-track immigration program for individuals with recent work experience in Canada in a skilled occupation. Graduates are prime candidates, given that they can obtain an open work permit for up to three years — plenty of time to build up the required experience for the CEC.
Candidates need 67 points in order to be eligible. There are points available for previous study in Canada and for work experience in Canada. The FSWC points grid also favours younger people with language skills, giving most students and graduates an advantage.
This program for qualified tradespersons requires candidates to have a full-time offer of employment in a skilled trade from up to two Canadian employers or a certificate of qualification from a Canadian provincial or territorial authority. Towards this end, trades students and graduates have a great opportunity to build connections in Canada. Students who graduate in Canada get a little bonus in the CRS scoring system, as well, receiving up to 30 bonus CRS points in addition to the points received for the level of education in its own right.
Immigration to Quebec
There are also pathways to permanent residence through the provinces. Let’s begin with Quebec, which operates a distinct immigration system.
The Quebec Experience Program, or PEQ (Programme de l’expérience québécoise), offers international students the opportunity to apply for PR after studying in Quebec and gaining Quebec work experience. Notably, French-language proficiency is a requirement under PEQ.
Under the QSWP, graduates of study programs in Quebec can receive a significant number of points through the area of training and previous stays in Quebec factors. Unlike the PEQ, graduates with limited or no French ability may be eligible to apply.
Provincial Nominee Programs
Canada’s provinces are able to nominate people for permanent residence through their Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). The eligibility requirements set by the provinces for these programs is generally favourable to people who choose to study in Canada, as these highly-educated immigrants-to-be also have strong language skills and experience living in a local community.
The provinces that prove most popular with students — Ontario, British Columbia — have dedicated PNP streams for students and graduates who wish to transition to permanent residence, as do many of the other provinces.
Sometimes, these PNP streams may provide a pathway to permanent residence for students or graduates who may not be eligible under Express Entry or, if they are eligible to enter the pool, struggle to reach the CRS cut-off threshold in Express Entry draws.
Certain PNP streams have interesting aspects that may prove appealing. For example:
- Under the BC PNP, graduates of institutions across Canada may apply, even if they didn’t study in BC.
- Masters and PhD graduates in Ontario may apply to the OINP without a job offer.
- Nova Scotia has an International Graduate Entrepreneur stream, dedicated to helping graduate entrepreneurs settle in the province
These are just a few of the PNP options available to students and graduates. To learn more, see our other resources:
- Canada PNP Live Tracker — All the latest updates, as they happen!
- Links to information about all PNPs
- How PNPs work
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