Know the rules, focus on your studies, and don’t pay for your work permit
Posted on - Nov 12, 2019

By Catherine Sas Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

Canada’s international student population continues to increase given that a Canadian education is one of the best ways to obtain that essential Canadian work experience to be able to qualify for permanent residence (PR) in the future. But studying in Canada is not a guarantee that you will be able to remain permanently in Canada. Before commencing your studies in Canada, be sure that you fully understand all the steps in the process for studying, working and being able to qualify for permanent residence.

1) School is for studying not working.

This may sound overly simple, but many students come to Canada with a view to working full time to be able to pay for their studies. If that is your reality, you should re-consider whether an international education is the best approach for you and your family. An international education in Canada is expensive – generally three times as expensive for an international student than for a Canadian permanent resident or citizen. If your ultimate goal is Canadian permanent residence, focus on your studies first and your work experience after graduation. The work experience that you gain while studying does not count towards your permanent residence.

2) Know the rules.

Studying part-time or working more than 20 hours a week while attending class makes you ineligible for a post graduation work permit (PGWP) or PR. Canada’s international student program provides an excellent opportunity to ultimately qualify for permanent residence. But you need to know the rules and stick to them. You must be in full time attendance throughout your entire program of studies. Full time attendance is determined by each educational institution. While in full time attendance in school, you are able to work up to 20 hours per week. No more! If you study less than full time, or work more than 20 hours a week while attending school, you will not be eligible for a PGWP nor be able to apply for permanent residence as an international graduate.

3) Don’t pay for your work permit.

A very common scam over the past several years is for immigration professionals to “sell” work permits to students that will lead to PR status. Often the “employers” in these situations hold on to your passports, have you work considerable overtime and pay less than the hourly rate that you were quoted and for far fewer than the hours you actually work. Fortunately, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officials have become aware of the scams of unscrupulous consultants and abusive employers and there is a program to enable workers to remain in Canada temporarily and find new legitimate employment that may allow you to still qualify for permanent residence. It is illegal in Canada for anyone to “sell” an offer of employment. If you are presented with such an offer simply walk away.

4) Not ALL students will qualify for PR at the end of their studies and work experience.

Have a realistic expectation of what you can achieve. Canada’s international student program is a significant part of the economic immigration selection stream. But it was not designed so that all international students will ultimately become permanent residents. You need to be realistic about your chances of ultimately qualifying for permanent residence before you come to study in Canada. Consider how your Canadian education will assist your career plans in your home country.

5) Do a self assessment before coming to Canada.

Compliance Ranking Scores (CRS) and Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) scores are steadily increasing making it more difficult to get an Invitation to Apply (ITA) to be able to submit a permanent residence application. It is recommended that you evaluate your qualifications to see what your score will likely be after you complete your Canadian education and one, two or three years of Canadian work experience. The ideal combination of factors to qualify for permanent residence under Express Entry are as follows:

Foreign education + foreign work experience + Canadian education + Canadian work experience along with a very high level of proficiency in English and/or French.

It is becoming more and more challenging to qualify for permanent residence with solely a Canadian diploma or undergraduate degree and one or two years of work experience. Obtaining an undergraduate degree in your home country with one or two years of skilled work experience will significantly increase your chances of qualifying for permanent residence in Canada. (See our former blog – https://canadian-visa-lawyer.com/when-should-i-study-in-canada-considerations-for-an-international-student/).

Studying in Canada will provide you with a high quality education that can open doors both in your home country as well as in Canada. But, as we have seen from our experiences as Vancouver immigration lawyers, a Canadian education is not a guarantee that you will obtain permanent residence in Canada. If living in Canada is your ultimate goal, you are well advised to familiarize yourself with the Express Entry system and evaluate how you will score. Choosing to come to Canada after obtaining an initial educational qualification and a few years of work experience may actually enhance your overall chances of success of becoming a Canadian permanent resident.


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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