From International Student to Permanent Resident in Canada
The ultimate objective of most international students is to settle down in Canada. But this requires obtaining permanent resident status or, even better, coveted Canadian citizenship.
“The woods are dark lovely and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”
This phrase by Robert Frost encapsulates international students’ journey to Canada. It’s a long and tiring journey, which starts from their home country and continues long after they arrive. Fighting a lot of emotions and juggling work and school, they will eventually complete their student journey to Canada. But what happens after that? What are the options available to them?
The ultimate objective of most international students is to settle down in Canada. But this requires obtaining permanent resident status or, even better, coveted Canadian citizenship. And it can take years before they realize their dream of complete integration into Canadian society. So where do they start after they finish their studies?
Apply for a Work Permit
The most obvious thing to do after you complete your studies in Canada is to apply for a post-graduation work permit. A PGWP is an open work permit which will allow you to work for any employer in Canada and undertake work without any restrictions (though certain prohibited trades do exist) without the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
A PGWP can be issued only once and lasts for a maximum duration of 3 years. Also, students must remember that they must apply for a PGWP within 90 days of completing their studies. Students who have graduated from public, post-secondary schools and certain private schools are eligible to apply for a PGWP.
Distance learning programs and programs which are under 8 months in duration are not eligible for PGWPs. Also, some scholarships, awards, and exchange or fellowship programs will not be considered when applying for a PGWP.
Currently, the cost to apply for a PGWP is CAD $155 + $100 (the Open Work Permit Holder fee).
Applying for Permanent Residency
There are various pathways under which international students can apply for their permanent residency status. The most common among them is the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), which was launched in 2008 to facilitate the integration of international students and foreign nationals who have been working legally in Canada on a temporary basis.
Canadian Experience Class
To apply through the CEC, the student must possess:
- Strong English or French language skills (CLB 7 if your NOC is 0, or A and CLB 5 if your NOC is B)
- Canadian experience in one of the following NOCs:
- Managerial jobs (NOC Skill Level 0)
- Professional jobs (NOC Skill Type A)
- Technical jobs and skilled trades (NOC Skill Type B)
- 12 months of full-time work experience, or an equal amount in part-time hours (at least 1,560 hours)
- Although education is not required to apply under CEC, the student can earn points under Express Entry if he or she was educated in Canada or if he or she possesses an Education Credential Assessment (ECA) for education gained outside Canada.
- Plans to live outside the province of Quebec.
Please remember that self-employment and work experience gained while you were a student (such as a co-op work term) does not count under the CEC program.
The CEC is aligned with the Express Entry system, so all applications must be submitted using the Express Entry medium. It costs the same as a Federal Skilled worker program; i.e. CAD $550 application fee and CAD $490 Right of Permanent Resident fee, totalling CAD $1040. However, the applicants will be required to submit their medical exam reports and police clearance certificates from countries where they have stayed for more than 6 months since the age of 18.
The process is fairly simple and IRCC expects to process most applications within 6 months or less. Since its launch 10 years ago, thousands of international students have successfully used CEC to file their permanent residency applications.
Provincial Nominee Programs
One way to apply for permanent residency is through Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP). These programs have gained much ground in recent years. Many provinces (for example, Ontario) have specific programs aimed at international students, such as the International Student Stream, Masters Graduate Stream, and PhD Graduate Stream, giving international students a much-needed edge over other applicants.
Similarly, provinces like Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, as well as the Atlantic provinces, have their own pathways for permanent residency for international students.
Let’s have a look at them:
Saskatchewan is the only province that counts work experience gained working as a student on campus, off campus, Co-op work terms, and graduate fellowships as separate from the experience gained on a PGWP, and this experience needs to total 960 hours or 6 months for the applicant to qualify. In very special cases some NOC C categories can also be considered by the province.
The province provides permanent residency options to students after just 6 months of full-time work, following the completion of their studies. Applicants will need to secure a full-time (long term), permanent job offer from the same employer they have been working under for the past 6 months to qualify for this program. In certain situations, the province will also open NOC C category for its graduates to apply for permanent residency.
British Columbia has four programs to help international students apply for permanent residency in Canada:
- BC PNP – International Graduate
- EEBC – International Graduate
- EEBC – International Post Graduate
- BC PNP – International Post Graduate
You can apply under this stream if you graduated from an eligible post-secondary institution in Canada in the last three years and have accepted a full-time, indeterminate job offer (a permanent job, or one with no set end date) from a B.C. employer. The job must be in a National Occupational Classification skilled occupation (Skill Type 0 or Skill Level A or B).
This stream is aligned with the Express Entry system. To qualify, you must have received an Express Entry profile number and a job seeker validation code from the IRCC Express Entry system, and you must have accepted a full-time, indeterminate job offer (a permanent job, or one with no set end date) from a B.C. employer. The job must be in a National Occupational Classification skilled occupation (Skill Type 0 or Skill Level A or B). Your job offer must be in line with B.C wage rates for the occupation.
If you have graduated from an eligible B.C institution with a degree in science in the last 3 years, you can apply under this program to work in the growing technology, health care, and applied sciences sectors in B.C. This program is aligned with the Express Entry system and you do not need a job offer to qualify for this program.
If you have graduated from an eligible B.C institution with a degree in science in the last 3 years, you can apply under this program to work in the growing technology, health care, and applied sciences sectors in B.C. This program is NOT aligned with the Express Entry system and you do not need a job offer to qualify for it.
The Atlantic Provinces
“Study and Stay” is a pilot project currently being implemented in Nova Scotia through EduNova (provincial education and training cooperative in Halifax, Nova Scotia). The other three Atlantic provinces, namely New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, will also be joining the initiative, which is aimed at attracting and retaining international students studying in community colleges and universities in these provinces. Broadly speaking, the “Study and Stay” project will focus on equipping international students with the right education, providing them with the tools and community network necessary for graduation and a successful career and life.
All four Atlantic Provinces run their own “International Graduate Program” for International students graduating from their own province.
Processing times for Provincial Nominee Programs vary by province and the program applied to. In some instances, the wait time can be 15 months or longer.
As stated earlier, the road for International students is long and tiring, and is dotted with many tempting parking spaces. But the ones who have the resolve and the right guidance will surely make it through. Canada is arguably the best country in the world for international students to study and settle down. There’s hardly any other country which has dedicated federal and provincial programs aimed at helping foreign students integrate into the society so soon. And it doesn’t end there. Time spent studying as international students and/or work experience gained following their studies also count toward reducing the wait time for gaining citizenship.
I conclude by saying that there’s hardly anything that Canada has not done to make international students feel welcome, and the onus is now on the students to make the most of it.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost