According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data, in 2019, there were approximately 642,000 international students in Canada, demonstrating the country’s position among the most desirable places to study internationally. The opportunity to gain world-class education at an economical cost in comparison to countries like the United States, United Kingdom or Australia, combined with a uniquely multicultural environment, and the potential of applying for a temporary work permit upon completion of studies, make Canada an attractive and rewarding study destination. 

Thanks to Canada’s welcoming immigration policies, many students also see this as the first step in becoming permanent residents (PRs), and eventually, Canadian citizens! In this article, we will outline a few options that international students in Canada can explore to get a head start in their PR process.

Considering pursuing education in Canada?
See
Study permit: Moving to Canada as an international student for a step-by-step approach on how to apply for a Canadian study permit.

There are a few immigration programs that international students can leverage:

Notes: 

  • Some of these categories require eligible Canadian work experience. If you want to work in Canada after you graduate from your studies, you must apply for a work permit under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWP). Only graduates of certain designated learning institutions (DLIs) are eligible for PGWP. Be sure to review all eligibility criteria before applying. If you’re not eligible for a PGWP, you may still be able to work in Canada after you graduate. Learn about other work permits, and check if you qualify.
  • Completing an Express Entry profile is the first step to immigrate to Canada permanently as a skilled worker. Completing an Express Entry profile does not guarantee that you will receive an invitation to apply for PR. An invitation to apply for PR will be based on your score and ranking in the Express Entry pool using the CRS.

Tip: To better understand the process of creating an Express Entry profile, see Express Entry: Moving to Canada as a permanent resident (PR).

Understanding language and skills classification requirements

Before you learn more about specific immigration programs, here are two key terms you need to know:

1. Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB)

The Canadian standard used to describe, measure and recognize the English language ability of adult immigrants and prospective immigrants who plan to live and work in Canada or apply for citizenship. The Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC) is used to assess abilities in the French language.

Important: Language tests are valid for two years after the date of the test result and must be valid on the day you apply for PR.

2. National Occupational Classification (NOC)

The NOC is a list of all the occupations in the Canadian labour market. It describes each job according to skill type and skill level. For immigration purposes, these are the main job groups:

  • Skill Type 0 (zero): management jobs
  • Skill Level A: professional jobs that usually call for a degree from a university
  • Skill Level B: technical jobs and skilled trades that usually call for a college diploma or training as an apprentice
  • Skill Level C: intermediate jobs that usually call for high school and/or job-specific training
  • Skill Level D: labour jobs that usually give on-the-job training

Express Entry: Canadian Experience Class (CEC)

The CEC program is intended for skilled workers who have Canadian work experience and want to become permanent residents in Canada.

Criteria to apply through CEC as an international student:

  • There is no education requirement for applying through the CEC program, but you can get extra points for your Canadian education.
  • Prove your language ability in either English or French by taking a recognized test.
    • CLB 7 is required if your NOC is 0 or A 
    • CLB 5 is required if your NOC is B
  • Gather at least 12 months (full or part-time work, or a combination of both) of Canadian skilled work experience in NOC 0, A or B. Work experience gained while you were a full-time student (even if you were on a co-op work term) doesn’t count towards the minimum requirements for this program.
  • Create an Express Entry profile.

Express Entry: Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program

The FSW program is for skilled workers with foreign work experience who want to become permanent residents in Canada.

Criteria to apply through FSW program as an international student:

  • There is no education requirement for applying through the FSW program, but you can get extra points for your Canadian education.
  • Prove your language ability in either English or French by taking a recognized test.
    • CLB 7 is required for all NOCs
  • Gather at least 12 months (full or part-time work, or a combination of both) of continuous work experience in NOC 0, A or B. Work experience gained while you were studying in Canada may count towards your minimum requirements if the work:
  • You must show that you have enough money for you and your family to settle in Canada unless you:
  • Create an Express Entry profile.

“If you’re attending a post-graduate program in Canada, try to find a co-op as soon as possible and work hard to be hired after your graduation. My co-op and internship helped me apply for my PGWP feeling stress-free and also gave me more time to apply for my PR.”

– Lucas Mendonca, former international student on the path to Canadian PR

Express Entry: Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)

The PNP program is for experienced skilled workers who intend to move to a specific province and want to become permanent residents in Canada.

Criteria to apply through PNP as an international student:

  • Complete your studies in Canada.
  • Prove your language ability in either English or French by taking a recognized test.
    • Qualifying levels vary by province
  • Gather work experience. Requirements and eligibility vary by province.
  • A job offer may be required (requirements vary by province).
  • Create an Express Entry profile or apply directly to the province.

Overview of PNP aimed at international students:

Express Entry: Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP)

The FSTP is for experienced skilled trade workers who want to become permanent residents in Canada.

Criteria to apply through FSTP as an international student:

  • There is no education requirement for applying through the FSTP, but you can get extra points for your Canadian education.
  • Prove your language ability in either English or French by taking a recognized test.
    • CLB 5 for speaking and listening
    • CLB 4 for reading and writing
  • Gather at least two years of work experience (within the last five years) in a skilled trade under key groups of NOC B (major groups 72, 73, 82, 92, 632, and 633).
  • An offer of full-time employment for a total period of at least one year OR a certificate of qualification in that skilled trade issued by a Canadian provincial or territorial authority is required.
  • You must show that you have enough money for you and your family to settle in Canada unless you:
  • Get assessed by the province or territory for your trade. You may also need an employer in Canada to give you experience and training. To learn more about getting assessed, you should go to the website of the body that governs trades for the province/territory where you would like to live and work. The process is different, depending on where you want to go. If your trade is not regulated by a province or territory, it may be federally regulated (for example, an airplane mechanic). You can find out who regulates your trade by visiting the website of the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials.
  • Create an Express Entry profile.

Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP): International graduate stream

The AIP program is a pathway to permanent residence for skilled foreign workers and international graduates who want to work and live in one of Canada’s four Atlantic provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.

Criteria to apply through AIP as an international student:

  • Complete your studies from a publicly funded post-secondary institution in Atlantic Canada. The program must have been for a duration of at least two years. And you should have graduated from this institution in the 24 months before submitting your PR application.
  • You must have been a full-time student for the entire duration of your studies.
  • You should have lived in an Atlantic province for at least 16 months in the two years before getting your degree, diploma or credential.
  • If you have education credentials from outside Canada you want to include, you must have that education assessed.
  • Prove your language ability in either English or French by taking a recognized test.
    • CLB 4 is required
  • A full-time job offer from a designated employer in Atlantic Canada for NOC 0, A, B, or C is required. This offer must last at least one year from the date PR is granted and should be non-seasonal. 
  • Show that you have enough money to support yourself and your family when you get to Canada.
  • You have the visa or permit required to work, study or train in Canada.

“Be aware of the PR requirements and organize all your documents from the get-go; don’t wait until you complete your graduation. Being aligned with the requisites for your application will help you avoid any mistakes and speed up the process.” 

– Lucas Mendonca, international student on the path to Canadian PR

International students not only have multiple options to apply for PR but are awarded additional points in their application for study and work in Canada, increasing the probability of securing an invitation to apply for PR sooner than other applicant categories. 

 

As you decide on which option would be best for you, it’s important to consider the province in which you want to settle and any restrictions that may apply to your case (for example, if you’ve graduated from a different province). If you’re uncertain or have a complex situation, you may wish to consult an authorized immigration consultant or lawyer.

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Disclaimer:
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.