Study in Canada as a Permanent Residency (PR) Pathway
Canada has a series of ways that Studying in Canada can lead to permanent residency. Some ways simply involve obtaining points from a Canadian qualification, but beyond that, there are more options available in terms of post-graduate work permits and province-based programs which can lead you to Canadian Permanent Residency.
If you have not already studied in Canada, this section is to help you understand the benefits and options to help your decision-making process on whether you should consider Studying in Canada as a path to permanent residency.
Many people have come to study in Canada over the years with the intention to use it as a pathway to Canadian permanent residency, it is a well-worn path and this is why and how you have to go about it if you want to do the same.
Which Courses Should I consider to study in Canada?
For starters, any course you consider in Canada must be from what is known as a DLI. DLI stands for ‘Designated Learning Institution,’ which means the school is approved by a provincial or territorial government to enroll international students.
Only courses conducted by DLI providers will grant you points and benefits in the permanent residency process. Any courses conducted by a normal ‘LI’ or ‘Learning Institute’ will not grant you any “study in Canada” benefits, so please check that your course provider is a DLI as a first step.
How long should my study course be?
You will want your course to be at least one year to gain points for Canadian Study but most applicants with permanent residency on their minds will aim for a two-year or more course.
The choice here comes down to:
1 – cost considerations for the individual and
2 – the extra benefit of the 2-year study and the 3-year post-graduate work permit. i.e. you spend 5 years in Canada giving plenty of time to sort out a permanent residency path (being a 2-year course and 3-year PGWP).
People generally find that the longer they can spend in Canada the better it is for their Canadian Permanent Residency application. It creates a combination of points across Canadian Study, Canadian work experience, and Canadian skills transferability.
You should aim to choose a course that shows progress from a previous course level you have completed wherever possible. eg if you have studied a bachelor’s degree before, enroll in a masters or other postgraduate course, or a specialist course for your chosen career. It helps your study visa and PGWP visa process go more smoothly.
Can I work while I study in Canada?
Yes, you can. You can work for up to 20 hours per week during course time, and up to 40 hours per week during holiday or reading week times. These hours are strict and not to be exceeded.
Post Graduate Study Permit, what is it, and what are the benefits?
Canada offers further benefits to students who have completed their study courses in Canada. You can apply for a Post Graduate Work Permit. This work permit will allow you to work in Canada after you graduate from your Canadian study course.
The length of the work permit offered will generally match the length of your course. However, if your course is two or more years, you will generally be offered a 3-year work permit.
Be careful if choosing a one-year program that operates just two semesters (being eight months of teaching time). An immigration officer can give you a permit that is only eight months in this case even though it is a “one year course”.
This is a problem as to gain your Permanent Residency points for Canada you really want to have a full year post-study work experience, for that you need a full one year permit.
To ensure you have a full year on offer with your post-graduate work permit, look for a course that has a full year of teaching time such as including a “placement” option of a few months during the summer, or a co-op program or one that is a one year program over three semesters.
Your DLI / Education provider will know more about this in relation to the specific course you are looking at. You are only allowed one post-graduate work permit during your lifetime, so it is very important that you get the full year to make the most of the benefit of having Studied in Canada.
Not all DLIs offer courses that qualify for the Post Graduate Work Permit, but many do, so please ensure yours does before you enroll.
Also, remember the offer of a PGWP is up to the immigration officer who handles your application, it is not automatic, so do put the effort into your study and PGWP application to provide all the correct information, and to make sure the courses you choose are long enough to gain the length of work permit you want.
Can my family come with me while I study in Canada?
Yes, your spouse or common-law partner and dependent children can come with you to Canada while you study. One of the great things about Studying in Canada is that not only can you work up to 20 hours per week during the semester and up to 40 hours per week between semesters, but your spouse or partner can also come with you and work full time in Canada while you study.
This is a great opportunity if you happen to be married as your partner can accrue Canada work experience points for working full time for a year or more as well as being able to earn an income thus contributing to the cost of Studying in Canada.
Can my child attend school in Canada while I study?
Yes, they can. Your dependent children can attend public school in Canada without charge, just as Canadian children can, when they accompany you on your study visa.
You must include your children in your application for your study permit.
Consider learning French
Consider also studying French while you are in Canada – not even as a formal course, but on your own and then follow up with some formal lessons once you are speaking and reading. You will have plenty of French language around you in Canada so make the most of it.
There are strong benefits to having both French and English language skills in your application for Canadian permanent residency and given you are going to be at least a year in study and another year in work, it gives you plenty of time to build your French language to a standard that will gain you even more points.
If you can apply with Canadian Study, Canadian work experience as well as English and French you have an incredibly strong application.
What are the costs of studying in Canada?
Courses vary widely in cost. The cost is a big consideration and in reality, makes studying in Canada prohibitive for some applicants. Still, take a look at all the options as some are much cheaper than others.
One way people can lower their costs and still gain the benefit is to finish the final year or two of their undergraduate course in Canada, meaning their first year or two is credited for their study in their home country, and the last year or two is conducted in Canada.
Age issues and choosing the study path
One of the problems people at the upper end of the Canadian immigration age scale experience is decreasing points. An option for people in this situation is for one of the couple to take up study in Canada and the partner work in Canada, then follow this with the post-graduate work permit.
This then covers off Canadian work experience and having studied in Canada as well. Your children can also be in the Canadian school system for the entire time for free.
There are numerous Province based programs where you can study and then with your Post Graduate Work Permit apply for permanent residency up to age 59. So please read the section at the end of this chapter on the province-based study programs.
The study path is not just for young people. It is one of the more secure permanent residency path options for older applicants so don’t discount it. Going back to school might be the best option for you.
Does the study need to be University-based?
No, it does not. The education provider needs to be a DLI as previously mentioned. There are many types of courses available, University, trades, career diplomas, etc. Do consider the level of course of study you are undertaking and how many points it will attract in your express entry application.
What if I am a tradesperson?
If you are a tradesperson in your home country and wish to apply for Canadian Permanent residency within your trade, you should do all you can to “challenge the exam” for your trade in Canada. Do the Red Seal Challenge if it is available for your trade.
To do this you do not need to do a course in Canada, you just need to take the examinations. If you pass you obtain the Red Seal Canadian Trade Certificate. This will give you extra CRS points in your application for permanent residency, and you won’t need to have a job offer to apply.
There are short refresher courses you can take in the trades in Canada, some colleges even offer them online. Please read our more detailed content on these exams in the Federal Skilled Trades section of this guide.
You will have to apply to take the exam and then go to Canada in person to take the trade exams. However, you can do this on a holiday or standard tourist visa. It really is such a strong path for qualified professional tradespeople.
Which Province should I choose to Study in to maximize my pathways to Permanent Residency?
Your choice of a province in which to study is very important if you are intending to study in Canada with the goal of permanent residency. Most of the provinces have some programs which offer Provincial Nomination by giving preference to applicants who have studied or worked or have a job offer in their province. However, some provinces are much more generous while others are much more restrictive.
We don’t have the scope to cover all PNP’s here as there are more than 80 programs. What we will do is cover some of the most important programs to consider. Some of the programs are open to people aged up to 59 and some have a ‘no points’ system.
You will need to look through them on the internet to find one that is best for you as there are many and the benefits vary, but there will be a way for you to pursue your Canadian Permanent Residency one way or another.
Here are a few programs that might spark your interest:
Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island all have programs for former students of their province who now have a Postgraduate Work Permit to gain residency. The age brackets for these programs are up to 59 years old.
New Brunswick also has a graduate program for nomination.
There is the Atlantic immigration pilot program where there are no qualifying points. All you need is a job offer. So once you start working in Canada on your postgraduate work permit and prove to be a good employee, in most cases, employers are happy to support your application.
If you are studying and your spouse comes with you and works while you study, your spouse’s employer could apply and you could have your residency before you even finish your study. It is a great option to consider.
Ontario has a master’s graduate stream. If you have completed your masters program or a Ph.D. program in Ontario, you will be able to apply for nomination by creating your expression of interest.
British Columbia has a postgraduate stream, if you have completed a postgraduate degree in a range of specific subjects in a DLI inside British Columbia, you will then be able to apply for BC nomination.
British Columbia also has a tech pilot program under their skilled worker stream. The tech pilot program is for people who have job offers in the tech NOC codes. So once you are working on your PGWP or if your spouse is able to get a job with a tech company in a tech role then you can apply for this program.
If Canada is your dream, look through our list of all the links to the many Province Based programs in our PNP Provincial Nomination section and also consider studying in Canada as a way you can gain permanent residency in Canada, even if you are in your 50’s.