Posted on - Sep 15, 2013

By Catherine Sas Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

Fall’s “Back to School” season not only represents the start of another school year but also provides many opportunities for international students who are seeking to study and ultimately live and/or work in Canada. Opportunities for international students have changed dramatically over the years. Historically, it was often difficult for international students, who are seeking temporary entry into Canada, to demonstrate that they had a genuine intention to enter Canada on a temporary basis and yet at the same time have a desire to remain in Canada permanently at the end of their studies. Furthermore, students were historically limited in employment opportunities to only being able to work on campus. Recent changes have seen a dramatic shift in philosophy toward international students as Canada’s Immigration Department has come to realize that international students tend to make excellent workers and permanent immigrants who are able to establish themselves in Canada with considerable success.

Studying in Canada

To come to Canada as an International Student the first step is to obtain a letter of acceptance from an educational institution. There are many different types of educational facilities in Canada including public colleges and universities, private schools and independent English as a Second Language (ESL) schools. In order to provide students the greatest degree of flexibility and opportunity for both work and permanent residency in the future, it is recommended that an international student choose to study at a publicly funded college or university or approved private educational facility such that they will be able to both work and apply for permanent residence at the end of their program. Most schools have international student departments and it is recommended that students start with the individual school to find out what the entrance requirements are. In addition to academic requirements most schools generally have requirements for proficiency in English or French. These requirements may vary depending on the school and the program of study. You must contact the specific school you want to attend to learn what their specific requirements are. Once you are issued a letter of acceptance from the school it will be necessary to apply for a study permit. This process will require you to demonstrate the purpose of your intended studies in Canada – why you are choosing to study in Canada, what your history has been and your financial ability to both pay tuition for your studies and provide for yourself while you are studying in Canada. Applications for study permits can take several months to process and you are strongly urged to obtain a letter of acceptance well in advance and to submit your application for a study permit at least three or four months prior to the commencement of your program.

Opportunities to Work in Canada

International students now have the opportunity to work in Canada under both the Off-Campus work permit program and the Post-Graduate work permit program. The Off-Campus work permit is available to those students who are studying at a publicly funded college or university that has been recognized by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

For a full list of participating institutions please see the following link:
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/study/institutions/participants.asp

Students seeking an Off-Campus work permit will firstly all have to attend school on a full-time basis for at least six months and then are eligible to apply for the Off-Campus work permit. You will first have to obtain a Personal Identification Number (PIN) form your school and then submit an application for an Off-Campus work permit. This will allow you to work up to twenty hours per week during the regular school year and full-time during semester breaks. This is an excellent opportunity to get Canadian work experience while you are pursuing your education.

Students are also eligible to apply for a Post-Graduate work permit following the completion of their studies. Generally students are eligible for a Post-Graduate work permit for a period of one to three years depending on the length of their course of study in Canada: if you complete a one year certificate program you will be eligible for a one year Post-Graduate work permit; if you are studying a study a two year diploma program or a university program of three to four years you will be eligible for up to a three year Post-Graduate work permit after the completion of your studies. It is important to note that you are only eligible for one Post-Graduate work permit ever. Resuming studies subsequent to having had a Post-Graduate work permit does not entitle you to a second Post-Graduate work permit. This may be important in planning for the length of your studies in Canada and future opportunities to apply for permanent residence.

Permanent Resident Opportunities for Students: The Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) and Graduate Student Programs.

There are now numerous opportunities for students to apply for permanent residence after completion of their studies. The CEC provides that students who have studied for a minimum of two years in Canada and subsequently obtained one year of Post-Graduate work experience are eligible to apply for permanent residence in the CEC. If you have a three year Post-Graduate work permit, after completing one year of full-time employment you are eligible to apply for permanent residence and this will likely be finalized prior to the completion of your three year Post-Graduate work permit.

Most PNPs also have international graduate programs that allow you to apply for permanent residence in a province where an employer has given you an offer of employment. PNPs vary from province to province so it’s very important to understand the details of the program in the province which you intend to reside.

Both the Federal government and many PNPs also offer specific programs for graduate students. The graduate student programs for permanent residence generally do not require an offer of employment from an employer but a student is eligible to apply for Permanent Residence upon completion of their graduate program. The Federal program for International graduate students is part of the Skilled Worker Program. PNP for international graduate students generally provides for a work permit whereas the Federal Skilled Worker Program for international graduate students does not. You need to consider your work permit options in light of your overall immigration strategy.

The start of a new school year brings lots of opportunity for international students. Coming to study in Canada is not only a good way to obtain an international education experience but also provides tremendous opportunities for gaining work experience and Canadian permanent residence.


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.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

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