It should hardly come as a surprise that Canada ranks third in the world for numbers of international students, with our world-class educational system, friendly and welcoming culture, French and English learning options, and favourable living costs.
In fact, many new Canadians start their path to citizenship through post-secondary education. What begins as a search for adventure can end in falling in love with Canada.
By encouraging immigration schemes that support international students, Canada gains highly educated, productive members of society who make our country better by contributing to academia, working at our best firms, serving as doctors, science, etc. There are many reasons why, barely a year ago, Canada ranked third in the world for most international students, with more than 642,000 attending Canadian post-secondaries. Three major drivers for these numbers include: a world-class system of universities and colleges; a welcoming environment; and tuition and living costs favourable in comparison to the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Studying and working in Canada
There is tremendous value to studying in Canada. International student graduates can be eligible for work permits and immigration programs that lead to permanent residence.
While studying-full time in Canada on a valid study permit, students can work up to 20 hours per week during the school year, and full-time on scheduled breaks. After completion of a post-secondary program, graduates 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 a great degree of freedom in working legally in Canada. PWGP holders can choose to work full-time, or part time. They have the option of working for themselves or an employer. Perhaps most importantly, they are exempt from the requirement of the Labour Market Impact Assessment. This exemption means that the employer does not have to first prove that there is no Canadian citizen or permanent resident available to take the job.
Pathway to permanent residency
Being an international graduate of a Canadian post-secondary institution is also valuable for gaining coveted permanent residency in Canada. Each of Canada’s ten provinces has at least one immigration stream dedicated to the recruitment for permanent residence of foreigners who recently graduated from institutions in a Canadian province. Many provinces have more than one; Manitoba has three and British Columbia has four. Many streams are very broad in their focus while others are targeted for graduates with training in specific areas, such as natural or applied sciences. There are also pathways for those with entrepreneurial ambitions. Some programs are designed for specific levels of education like a Master’s or Ph.D.
International students who want to immigrate through the Express Entry system can get an advantage for having Canadian work experience. Express Entry is a points-based application management system for Canada’s three main federal permanent economic immigration programs: the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class. Candidates can get extra points toward their immigration application for having skilled work experience in Canada.
Why international students make excellent candidates for immigration to Canada
There are many good reasons why federal and provincial governments should prioritize the nomination of international students. International students who graduate from Canadian institutions, generally have many of the qualities that Canada values most in economic immigrants. These attributes include: Canadian study or work experience; high educational attainment; and relative youth. Studying in Canada also demands and develops strong skills in English or French, another key to gaining permanent residency and succeeding in Canada.
Such individuals, by their very nature, generally have many of the qualities, in addition to Canadian study and/or work experience, that Canada values most in its economic immigrants, particularly: high educational attainment; relative youth; and, strong proficiency in English and/or French. Research has identified each of these factors as promoting immigrant integration and success in Canada.
Continuing to welcome international students
Hosting international students is clearly a priority for Canada, and this year has been an excellent test case for finding innovative solutions to bureaucratic hurdles.
The federal government has invited post-secondary institutions to develop quarantine plans for arriving international students. If the government approves the institution’s plan, it can welcome new international students. The federal government has also modified some of the rules regarding international students to accommodate people who— through no fault of their own— are currently unable to be physically present on campus. For example, distance or online learning normally cannot qualify as study for the purposes of a study permit or PGWP. The government has relaxed this rule to not penalize students away from campus due to COVID-19, and to make it clear that Canada still values them and hopes they will return when the situation stabilizes.
IRCC has also relaxed deadlines for PGWP applications and renewals. Circumstances have changed, but Canada remains committed to welcoming the learners of today and Canadians of the future.
Whether you are a Manitoba graduate with a job offer in the province, an Ontario Ph.D. graduate looking to settle permanently, or an International Graduate Entrepreneur seeking to build a business in Nova Scotia, study in Canada can be not only the start of an exciting and enriching educational experience, but also the launching pad to building your life in Canada.
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