How to Immigrate to Canada as an International Student

Over the last few months, I’ve been sharing pieces of my journey going back to school and, by extension, information on how to immigrate to Canada. Most readers of those posts are interested in a more specific part of that journey; How to immigrate to Canada as an international student. So, let’s talk about that. I shared a lengthy piece on applying for a Canadian study visa and my experience as a student. However, I think I can better share more information on how one can go about a similar process if the end goal is to stay in Canada.

Before you decide to become an international student in Canada, you want to clarify your reason for wanting to study there. How you approach the situation is crucial, depending on the benefit you’re looking for from your studies. I am not an immigration consultant, but the information below is knowledge I have gathered from research and experience on the topic

Why do you want to study in Canada?

The biggest question is ‘why do you want to study in Canada’? Suppose you only want to improve your education credentials by studying in a diverse, beautiful country and return home to further your career. In that case, you most likely can learn wherever you want to, study the course you wish to, meet the requirements for the visa and move on.

If you want to stay in Canada once you finish your studies or keep your options open, other factors come into play. How long do you want to stay in Canada after studying? Do you want to work for a year or three and then return home? Working in Canada as a foreign worker is a great way to achieve foreign work experience and further your career. The experience is also enriching to personal development. Travel and exposure are remarkable outcomes of living abroad for a while.

Canadian flat at Niagara Falls, Immigrating to Canada as an international student
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

Another reason someone may choose to study in Canada is that they want to stay in Canada permanently after their studies. If this is your goal, a strategy is required to ensure you qualify for each stage of that process with a plan.

You Might Like: How to Apply for a Canadian Study Visa in 2022

Reasons to Immigrate to Canada as an International Student

Canada is always looking to increase their population numbers through immigration. The country is underpopulated, with an aging population and not enough people to maintain its economic growth. Consequently, Canada welcomes hundreds of thousands of immigrants annually to meet their needs. Most of these immigrants are economic pathway immigrants. They are selected because of their ideal age, language, education, work experience and other factors that will allow them to ingrate well in Canada. As an international student in Canada, you may qualify to stay in Canada as a permanent resident. Why and how you do so is dependent on a few things.

1. Your Express Entry Profile Score Needs a Boost

Express Entry is Canada’s flagship economic immigration system. It involves ranking candidates by assigning points for their age, marital status, education, work experience, etc. The candidate whose age, education, work experience and circumstances match the minimum requirements for at least one of the three programs. They are the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) and the Federal Skilled Trade covered under express entry will be given a profile within the express entry pool. 

Then, the Canadian government conducts draws, inviting candidates with a score above a certain number to apply for permanent residence. This number is the golden ticket and moves depending on the quality of the candidates in the pool. If a candidate has a score this lower than the threshold for an invitation, they can do things to increase their score. Candidates can re-take their language test (if they didn’t get maximum points), improve their education anywhere or in Canada, get more work experience in Canada, look for a job in Canada, and so on.

By studying (or working) in Canada, a candidate with a lower or average score increases their chance of being invited to apply for permanent residence in the express entry system. You can check your possible points using this CRS calculator. You can also play with variables to determine which action will award you more points.

Toronto, ON, Canada

2. You do not qualify for express entry

It is also possible that a person does not qualify for any of the three programs under the express entry program before studying in Canada. In this case, studying alone will not give you the points you need; you will need work experience in Canada to qualify. However, all is not lost. You would just need to plan accordingly. If you do not qualify for express entry, then where, how long and even what you study in Canada is an asset to you.

For example, Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have programs specifically for students who studied in their province or studied in Canada but want to work and live in their province. Doing some research will provide more details.

3. Get to Canada Faster

With immigration suffering horribly over the last few years due to the pandemic, many people who want to immigrate to Canada understand that backlogs mean longer wait times as the government works to clear backlogs. It also means much higher CRS scores are required to secure an ITA. So, for candidates who can afford to pay international tuition costs, candidates studying in Canada can start settling in and working on their settlement plan while waiting for an express entry ITA or improving their score.

You May Also Be Interested In: International Student in Canada: My Experience

How to Immigrate to Canada as an International Student

Finally, how do you immigrate to Canada as an international student?

Step 1: Audit Your Situation

Before you decide when, where and how long you want to study, determine your current position. Do you qualify for express entry? How many points do you have? How much more, if any, would you gain by studying? Are there any barriers to your profession? Can you afford to study in Canada? How long would you need to study? Where can you afford to study in Canada? What is your immediate family situation? Do you have children or a spouse? Would they go with you? Can you afford to take them with you?

By assessing your current situation, you can better map a route that will give you the best outcome in your studies. It also allows you to focus your research on where you will study. Some provinces have cheaper tuitions and cost of living, more focused programs, etc. Some provinces are more expensive, with fewer/different immigration options catering to time spent studying and level of study.

Step 2: Based on Your Situation, Choose a Province, School and Program

Once you understand the avenues applicable to you based on your situation, formulate a path or two (or three) to get you to your goal. Choose the best province for your finances, their immigration programs, your profession (local job market, etc.), the school and their program’s status as a DLI, and length. Then you can apply for your study visa and move to Canada to study once you have an approval.

Regina Saskatchewan Downtown
Downtown Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Step 3: Study

For it to count towards immigration purposes, you must study for at least eight months. Some immigration require at least two years of study, or a master or PhD program. Makr sure the immigration program you favour is in line with your studies.

Step 4: Work the rest of your plan

Once you have completed your studies, you can;

  1. Add your new qualification to your express entry profile and gain the requisite points and/or
  2. Apply for a provincial or some other immigration program and/or
  3. Apply for a PGWP to gain Canadian work experience before pursing the routes above.

After you have studied in Canada, you are qualified to apply for a post-graduate work permit (PGWP). however, that program has restrictions and guidelines for qualification. You want to make sure you will meet them before you start your studies. From there, you can move forward, whether that mean you qualify for immigration in your selected province immediately after graduation, if you have a job offer or after working there for some time. Either way, set yourself up for success with a plan to immigrate to Canada as an international student.

Step 5: Monitor Immigration News Every Step of the Way

Immigration rules can and do change. This means that programs’ availability and eligibility requirements can change so that you remain qualified or are no longer qualified or need to adjust to stay eligible for a program. Even if you become a student in Canada, you want to make sure that your efforts and plan will continue to support your end goal. For this reason, you want to try to have more than one option in your back pocket when thinking about your strategy.

As a perfect example, at the time of this post, IRCC has just resumed express entry all-program draws and will share information on additional pathways to immigrate to Canada as an international students along with Bill C-19. Bill C-19 will enable the government to pick candidates within the express entry pool based on their NOC codes and the country’s labour needs.

Final Thoughts on how to immigrate to Canada as an international student

I know this is a lost, and yet, there is still so much more that can be said. I hope you fond this post useful. If you did, please share, leave a comment and subscribe. Also, consider subscribing to my YouTube channel.

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Xo, Shandean

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Shandean Reid

A heavily caffeinated, quintessential millennial wife and mom doing modern family life. I’m a communications professional following a five-year stint as a SAHM, switching roles with hubby, a physician and now WFHD. I also read and write books for fun! Stick around if I'm your kind of person!




  • Natasha Robinson

    Girl! Thank you for this! I am looking to go this route as with the current Express Entry draws, my CRS of 400+ is too low. I will continue to monitor this space as I hope to transition into student life soon.

    • Shandean

      You’re welcome! Yes, I’m still in the pool too and it’s definitely not looking great. If you are already in the pool though, I suggest looking for PNP options as well.

  • Thank you for sharing amazing blog.

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