Changes to certain aspects of Canada’s immigration selection system, and how they may affect past, present and future international students in Canada, have come under the spotlight recently. Reports in some major media publications have led to the perception that these changes have made it more difficult for international students who have graduated from Canadian universities to become permanent residents. Conversations on university campuses and workplaces across Canada, as well as online, have since focused on this issue.
This is not necessarily the case, however. Canada remains an attractive destination for individuals wishing to continue their studies in an environment that not only offers a quality education, but also career and settlement opportunities thereafter.
While the traditional path from international student status to permanent resident status via the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) immigration program may not be as straightforward as it was before, the various provinces of Canada are, now more than ever, focusing their efforts on attracting and retaining the world’s brightest young minds. All the while, the CEC remains a real option for postgraduates who demonstrate that they can integrate into Canada’s labour force.
Canadian Experience Class (CEC)
This CEC targets individuals who have obtained at least one year of skilled, professional or technical work experience in Canada. Eligibility criteria for the program remains the exact same under Canada’s new Express Entry immigration selection system, which came into operation on January 1, 2015, as it did before that date. What has changed is that eligible candidates may no longer apply directly to the program. Instead, they may make an expression of interest in immigrating to Canada and enter the Express Entry pool, where, subject to their ranking under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), they may receive an Invitation to Apply for permanent residence and make an application.
The CEC has been popular among foreign workers who graduated from a study program in Canada and subsequently obtained a Post-Graduation open work permit. While a qualifying job offer from a Canadian employer is not necessarily required in order for a candidate to receive an Invitation to Apply under Express Entry, employers of international postgraduates who find gainful employment in Canada may be able to apply for and receive a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which serves as proof that the employee has either a positive or neutral effect on the Canadian labour market. This will give the candidate an additional 600 points under the CRS and an Invitation to Apply for permanent residence at a subsequent draw from the Express Entry pool.
The government of Canada’s immigration plan for 2015 allocates a greater number of spaces under the CEC than has ever been the case before. Moreover, eligible candidates who have studied and worked in Canada may be awarded CRS points under the human capital and skills transferability factors due to having completed a study program in Canada and for their Canadian work experience.
The province of Quebec is home to some of Canada’s most renowned universities, which have historically proven popular with both French- and English-speaking international students. More than 20 percent of students at McGill University in Montreal, for example, are non-Canadian. Other popular options include Université de Montréal and Concordia University in Montreal, and Université Laval in Quebec City.
Under the Quebec Experience Program (Programme de l’expérience Québécoise, or PEQ), international students may apply for a Quebec Selection Certificate (Certificat de Sélection du Quebec, commonly known as a CSQ) upon obtaining a degree or diploma from an educational institution recognized by the Quebec Ministry of Education. This program requires candidates to prove at least advanced intermediate French proficiency. Once the applicant obtains a CSQ, he or she must then submit an application to Citizenship and Immigration Canada for federal approval before a Canadian permanent resident visa can be issued.
The ‘Opportunities Ontario’ International Students category accepts applications under the following sub-categories:
- International Student with a Job Offer Stream — This sub-category was created to help employers recruit international students. It is open to Ontario employers and students with job offers in the province.
- International PhD Graduate Stream — This sub-category targets individuals who have graduated from a PhD program at one of Ontario’s publicly funded universities. A job offer is not required.
- Pilot International Master’s Graduate Stream — This sub-category, which is currently operating as a temporary pilot program, targets individuals who have graduated with a Master’s degree from one of Ontario’s publicly funded universities. A job offer is not required.
The British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) has two streams for international postgraduates:
- International Postgraduate Category — Individuals with a master’s or doctoral degree in the sciences received within the past two years from an eligible program at a post-secondary institution in B.C. may be eligible to apply under the International Postgraduate category, as long as the postgraduate degree was obtained in one of the following natural, applied or health sciences: Agriculture, Biological and biomedical sciences, Computer and information sciences and support services, Engineering, Engineering technology, Health professions and related clinical sciences, Mathematics and statistics, Natural resources conservation and research, and Physical sciences. Candidates do not require a job offer in order to be eligible under the International Postgraduate category.
- International Graduates Category — International graduates who have graduated from a Canadian university or college within the past two years may be eligible to apply under the International Graduates category.
The Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) contains these two streams for international postgraduates:
- Post-Graduate Worker Category — Students who graduated from an eligible post-secondary educational institution in Alberta, and are residing in the province on a Post-Graduation work permit, may be eligible to apply to this stream.
- International Graduate Category — This stream was created for individuals who graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution and have received a full-time, permanent job offer from an Alberta employer. Both the employer and the targeted employee must be deemed eligible in order to submit an application.
The Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) Experience Category contains a sub-category for students who have graduated from a recognized post-secondary institution in Canada. Among the requirements, the student must have worked in Saskatchewan for at least twenty-four months before applying, or for six months if the institution is in Saskatchewan. This sub-category requires candidates to have a job offer from an employer in Saskatchewan.
International postgraduates who graduated from an authorized training or education program at an eligible post-secondary school in Manitoba may be eligible to apply under the Experience Category of the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP). This sub-category requires candidates to have a job offer from an employer in Manitoba.
International graduates from a Canadian college or university with a job offer from a Nova Scotia employer may be eligible to apply for Canadian permanent residence through the International Students sub-category of the Nova Scotia Nominee Program’s Skilled Worker stream.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The International Graduates category of the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Nominee Program aims to attract international students who have recently graduated from a recognized post-secondary educational institution in Canada. This category requires candidates to have a job offer from an employer in the province.
Canada still a major international student destination
“More than 250,000 international students are currently studying in Canada, a figure that continues to grow. With quality tuition, safe cities, employment options during and after the study period, and as a pathway to Canadian permanent residence, the decision to study in Canada can be one of the most important, and best, decisions made by young people from around the world,” says Attorney David Cohen.
“Rest assured, Canada continues to attract the world’s best and brightest young minds. Current international students in Canada, as well as those who graduated recently, have shown that they have integrated and adapted to life in Canada, and would therefore seem tailor made for the Canadian labour force. For individuals thinking about continuing their studies in Canada or deciding on which school to attend, the immigration opportunities presented by the province in which the school is situated may become more of a factor in their decision-making process than was previously the case.”
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At the time of writing, the following provinces and territories do not have an immigration stream for international students and/or postgraduates: New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut.
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