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international students pathways to permanent residence

Canada immigration: international students pathways to permanent residence

Canada is unique in its openness to international students and more so for its many programs that provide international students pathways to permanent residence after graduation. These and our world-class educational system, friendly and welcoming culture, French and English learning options, and favourable living costs are the reasons why Canada is ranked as the world’s third-leading destination of foreign students.

Canada is home to 21 of the world’s top 500 universities and 32 in the top 1,000. In 2020 Canada had over 650,000 international students.

Canada’s international student population was on an upward surge before the pandemic. It grew by 13 per cent in 2019 compared to the previous year, marking yet another year of double-digit growth. Some 404,000 international study permits took effect in 2019.

Applying for Canada study permit

Foreign students who have applied for and been accepted into a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) may apply for a Canadian student visa to come to Canada for the program to which they have been accepted. To be eligible you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have been accepted by a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada.
  • You must prove that you have enough money to pay for your:
    • tuition fees
    • living expenses for yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada and
    • return transportation for yourself and any family members who come with you to Canada.
  • You must be a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record and not be a risk to the security of Canada. You may have to provide a police certificate.
  • You must be in good health and willing to complete a medical examination, if necessary.
  • You must satisfy an immigration officer that you will leave Canada at the end of your authorized stay.

You must have received an acceptance letter from the designated institution before you submit your application for a Canada study permit.

For detailed eligibility and step-by-step application instructions, read Applying for Canada study permit – Guidelines for International Students

See also  Find Colleges & Universities in Canada and Find Canada Scholarships.

Working while studying in Canada

Working eligibly while studying supports international students pathways to permanent residence. There is tremendous value to studying in Canada because international students can work while studying, and international graduates are eligible for open work permits and immigration programs that lead to permanent residence.

Full time international students with valid study permit can work up to 20 hours per week during the school year, and full-time on scheduled breaks.

Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).

After graduation international students can apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). These permits, which are valid for at least eight months and may last for up to three years, allow international graduates to obtain an open work permit to gain valuable Canadian work experience.

Skilled Canadian work experience through the PGWPP helps strengthens international students pathways to permanent residence by through the Canadian experience class within Canada Express Entry System.

Pathways to Canadian permanent residence

International students have a number of options to stay in Canada after graduation. Having a Canadian degree plus Canadian work experience makes international graduates prime candidates for several immigration programs.

The Canadian government has in place several pathways for international graduates to become Canadian permanent residents through the Canada Express Entry System.  In addition, many of Canada’s provincial immigration programs are also specifically targeted at international graduates.   Each of Canada’s ten provinces has at least one immigration program offering a pathway to permanent residence for international graduates of Canadian learning institutions. Some programs are designed for specific levels of education like a Master’s or Ph.D.

Federal Express Entry System

Express Entry is the application system that Canada uses to manage skilled worker applications. It is the most popular way to immigrate to Canada.

In order to enter the federal Express Entry pool, candidates must first create an Express Entry profile. You must meet the eligibility requirements for one of the three federal government economic immigration programs: the Federal Skilled Worker Class; the Federal Skilled Trades Class; and the Canadian Experience Class.

A job offer is not required to enter or be selected from the Express Entry pool although additional CRS points are awarded to those who already have a job.

Based on the information you entered in your federal Express Entry profile you will be given a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score and placed into a pool of other candidates ranked. 

International graduates can be eligible for multiple programs once they have a profile in the Express Entry pool.

international students pathways to permanent residence

Accelerated PR process for International Graduates

On Thursday May 6, 2021, Canada began to accept applications for six new immigration streams for permanent residence. The new program is aimed at landing 90,000 international graduates, health care workers and other essential workers in 2021.

The English-speaking International Graduates stream targets to land 40,000 international graduates in 2021. The quota of 40,000 was filled by applicants within 25 hours of opening on May 6. It is expected that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will re-open the stream as it processes and rejects hundreds if not thousands of the applications in the initial review. Given the popularity of the English-speaking International Graduate stream, it is also likely that the quota will be increased in order for IRCC to meet its overall 2021 immigration target level.

Provincial Immigration Programs

Canadian provinces do not have the ability to give out permanent residency status, but they can help an application along by issuing provincial nominations to candidates who have registered a profile in the federal Express Entry immigration system.

The Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) enable Canadian provinces to offer international students pathways to permanent residence where such candidates’ qualifications meet their labour market needs.

Provincial nominations involve a two-step process. First, candidates apply for a provincial nomination from the province. Then, if you get the nomination you use it to support your application to the federal government for Canadian permanent residence.

Applying for a provincial nomination is not the same as applying for Canadian permanent residence. Rather a nomination effectively means the province is guaranteeing that the federal government will issue you an invitation to apply for Canadian permanent residence in one of its Express Entry draws.

A provincial nomination gives the candidate an additional 600 points toward their federal Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. The additional 600 CRS points virtually guarantee that the candidate will receive an invitation to apply for Canadian permanent residence in an Express Entry draw.

Atlantic Immigration Pilot

The Atlantic Immigration Pilot was launched in 2017 by the federal government to address labour shortages in the Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. It was initially billed for three years but is now slated to become a permanent program in 2022.

International graduates from eligible institutions in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick may be able to apply for the Atlantic International Graduate Program. This program allows graduates to apply for permanent residence without having any previous work experience.

Quebec Immigration Programs

The province of Quebec has its own economic immigration program. International students who graduated from a Quebec learning institution may be eligible for the Quebec Experience Program (PEQ).

In general, PEQ requires that candidates have work experience, a job offer, and demonstrate a strong proficiency in French language.


Canada releases application & document guide for 6 new immigration streams