Canada welcomes over 120,000 international students each year. Many students come to study English or French to improve their language skills. Some students come for the cultural experience of living and studying in a different country. Most students come with the goal of obtaining Canadian work experience and ultimately, permanent residence. Here are some tips for achieving that goal.
Not all schools are equal! It is important to know whether your program of study at your school will entitle you to obtain a post graduate work permit after you complete your program. In order to qualify for a study permit, your school needs to be a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). However, in order to be eligible for the post graduate work permit, the school also has to be a diploma or degree granting institution. Most private language schools or colleges don’t meet the provincial criteria for granting a degree, diploma or certificate and you will not be entitled to a post graduate work permit. Many of these private colleges have a work experience component – this is often referred to as a co-op program which combines both study and practical work experience. However, co-op work experience is not accepted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in support of an application for permanent residence. You must obtain a diploma or degree from an educational facility recognized by IRCC to be able to qualify for permanent residence in the future.
Familiarize yourself with the post-graduate work permit process. Obtaining work experience after you graduate is essential to be eligible for permanent residence in Canada’s Express Entry system. You can obtain a university bachelor’s degree (3+ years), a college diploma (2 years) or a certificate program (8-10 months). With a bachelor’s degree or a college diploma, you are eligible for a 3 year post graduate work permit. With a certificate program you can only obtain a 1 year post graduate work permit which will not likely allow you to qualify for permanent residence. You are only eligible for ONE post-graduate work permit so you want to ensure that you are taking a program of study that will entitle you to the three-year post-graduate work permit.
Study English or French before you apply. Canadian colleges or universities have minimum proficiency standards for international students to obtain a letter of acceptance. The most common testing method relied on for English schools is the IELTS test. Each school has different standards but most of them require a combined IELTS score of 6.5 or higher. While it is possible to start your studies with a concentrated ESL component, it is recommended to have begun your language studies before you apply. Language is the most heavily weighted factor in the Express Entry system for permanent residence. The higher your language proficiency in either English or French, the better your chances of being offered an Invitation to Apply in the Express Entry system. Language proficiency will also enhance your chances of finding Canadian work experience which is also key to success in the Express Entry system. So start acquiring your language skills before you come to Canada.
Take advantage of the opportunity to work while you are studying. International students no longer need work permits to be able to work in Canada. Your study permit entitles you to work up to 20 hours per week while you are attending school. But be sure to be in full time study at all times. If at any time you are not in full time attendance at school, you are not authorized to work and if you continue to work and come to the attention of IRCC you will be given an Exclusion Order and required to depart Canada without finishing your studies. Full time study is defined by the school that you are studying at. Be sure to know what constitutes full time study and never fall below that course load. You are only eligible for the post graduate work permit if you have been studying on a full time basis throughout your studies in Canada.
Studying in Canada is a good way to obtain your education while experiencing a new culture and environment. It also provides you with an opportunity to obtain Canadian work experience and possibly apply for permanent residence. Under the new Express Entry process, studying in Canada no longer provides for automatic eligibility to apply for permanent residence to Canada. Be sure to be familiar with all the aspects of both the study permit and permanent residence application process to maximize your opportunity to apply for Canadian permanent residence in the future.
Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 6 consecutive years.