Canada’s education and immigration systems are widely known to be very welcoming for international students. More than 500,000 international students came to study in Canada last year, a number that has grown four times since 2000. Canada’s international student program offers powerful incentives. Under Canadian rules, students can work part-time while studying; they automatically qualify for a work permit of up to three years upon graduating; and they are given preferred status if they apply to become permanent residents.
The federal and provincial governments in Canada are aligned in implementing policies that improve international student retention rates. As a result, the number of international students in Canada that are likely to stay after graduation as permanent residents is on the rise every year.
Because of the welcoming policies introduced by both Conservative and Liberal governments, 40 per cent of all economic class immigrants accepted by the federal government are now international students who have graduated from a Canadian college or university.
Reports from Statistics Canada suggest that former international students in Canada are higher salaries over other categories of immigrants. This advantage is largely based on the Canadian work experience they have been able to gain over their time as an international student, which allows them a definite advantage over workers with university degrees acquired abroad.
“International students are well-placed to integrate into Canadian society," said Larissa Bezo, interim head of the Canadian Bureau for International Education. “They are already familiar with Canada, they speak one or both official languages, and they have networks both in Canada and abroad.”
Let’s review the top 5 reasons why international students who come to Canada are best placed to stay in Canada.
Post-graduate work permit
The possibility to get a post-graduation work permit (PGWP) is one of the most popular reasons why international students choose Canada as a study destination over other English-speaking countries. According to the Government of Canada website, the validity of the post-graduation work permit awarded to an international student depends on the length of their study program. It is important to note that international students cannot qualify for a work permit if their program is shorter than 8 months. If it is the case that you came to Canada with the intention of working here after your graduation, you must apply for a second program to extend your study duration and eventually earn eligibility to work in Canada.
For study programs that are longer than 8 months but shorter than 2 years, a PGWP may be awarded for up to the same length as the study program (for example, if you completed a 9-month program, a work permit may be issued for up to 9 months).
The ideal scenario is for international students who either came to Canada for a 2+ year program or otherwise came for a shorter 8-12 month program but upon graduation, immediately enrolled in another degree or diploma (1-3 years). In both cases, a PGWP may be issued for 3 years upon graduation.
What is important to remember is that you can’t get a PGWP if you already received one after completing your first program of study. That is why good planning and enrolling in a second-degree program are key to making the most of the generous opportunities afforded by the system.
Under any of the above scenarios, eligibility to work in Canada is dependent on the program being PGWP-eligible.
Advantage of Canadian work experience
The Government of Canada allows international students to gain Canadian work experience as long as they have a study permit and are enrolled full-time in a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). The current rules allow students to work on and off campus without a work permit.
The ability to work in Canada as an international student adds great value to their time in the country. It gives them the opportunity to apply their existing skills and gain new ones, earn extra income, develop a professional network, and experience Canadian work culture and values. When the time comes to look for employment after graduation, international students who have combined their studies with work experience in Canada are much better placed to succeed in the hiring process.
It is important to respect the law and be mindful of the limitations of your study permit.
International students must check their study permits to ensure that they are able to work off-campus. If the permission has been granted, you can work for up to 20 hours per week while your program is in session, and full-time during scheduled breaks in the academic calendar. International students may work for any employer who is not blacklisted by the Government of Canada.
International students hoping to take part in a co-op or internship program must have the appropriate work permit and can reach out to their international student office and/or program counselor for assistance with the application process.
More points on immigration application and preferred status with CIC and provincial nominee programs
Canada sees international students as perfect candidates for immigration and has introduced several features within the immigration qualification system that work in their favour.
There are various pathways under which international students can apply for permanent residency status in Canada. The most common among them is the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), which was launched in 2008 to facilitate the integration of international students.
International students applying for PR through the Experience Class program must submit their applications through the Express Entry system.
At the federal level, the government has introduced special points for international students graduating from Canadian universities under Canada Express Entry. In November 2016, Comprehensive Ranking System points were added for three-year post secondary, master’s, professional degrees and doctorates (30 CRS points) and post-secondary diplomas lasting one or two years (15 CRS points). These points make international graduates more competitive than Express Entry pool candidates who have no additional points.
In addition to federal programs, some Canadian provinces and territories have included an international graduate stream under their individual Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP). Most of the provincial nominee programs also have an Express Entry stream and some even have an international graduates Express Entry stream, both of which give international graduates preferred standing in the competitive process.
Recent changes to Canadian citizenship requirements are also beneficial to international students, allowing them to count their study time spent in Canada towards a citizenship application. Study permit holders can count a half day for each full day spent in Canada towards a citizenship application, up to a maximum of a year.
In 2015, the Liberal government also reduced the overall physical presence requirement from four years in six to three years in five, allowing international students to become Canadian citizens just two years after becoming a permanent resident.
Assimilation to the Canadian way of life
The friendly and welcoming nature of Canadians combined with the multi-cultural make-up of Canadian society makes it easier for new international students to feel comfortable and confident about settling in to their new home.
According to the results of annual interviews conducted by the Canadian Bureau of International Education there is a consensus among international students to there being unique advantages to forming friendships with Canadian students. Interactions with locals are quoted to be particularly useful with regard to improving language skills and orientating newcomers to Canadian culture and lifestyle. As a result, international students who make efforts to get involved in a variety of on-campus and community events find it easier to integrate and find success in their new home.
A credit score determines your ability to pay debts. Phone providers, banks, landlords, and many other vendors and service providers in Canada rely on credit scores to determine whether a client/tenant will be able to keep up with their payments.
International students can get ahead of the game by getting a credit card as soon as they land in Canada. By using a credit card responsibly, international students have an opportunity to build up their credit scores so that by the time they graduate, they are already established to transact successfully in the Canadian economic system.
In conclusion, international students enjoy serious advantages in the path to acquiring permanent residency and citizenship in Canada. Numbers from the Immigration Department show that 10,950 former study permit holders became permanent residents in 2018. If you respect the rules and plan out your next steps with care, there is no reason that you will not be able to call Canada your home one day.
In the words of Denise Amyot, president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada, “…some of our best immigrants, in fact, have been international students that have studied in Canada, worked in Canada.