Immigration programs for international student grads in Canada

Shelby Thevenot
Published: May 8, 2021

You have a number of options to stay in Canada after you graduate. Having a Canadian credential plus domestic work experience makes you a prime candidate for several immigration programs.

There are some streams that just require a credential, such as a master's or PhD, but having Canadian work experience or a job offer opens the doors to more possibilities.

After you graduate, you may have the option to get a Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), which will allow you to work anywhere in Canada for up to three years. You can apply for immigration from in Canada anytime before your PGWP expires, but even if it does expire while you are waiting on a decision for your application, you may be able to stay in Canada on a Bridging Open Work Permit.

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

The best immigration program for you will depend on a number of factors such as:

  • where you are located in Canada;
  • where you intend to live in Canada;
  • your highest education credential;
  • how much work experience you have;
  • what kind of experience you have;
  • your official language proficiency;
  • how long you are willing to wait for your application to get processed; and
  • how much you are willing to pay in application fees.

There are more than 100 economic immigration pathways to choose from. Here is a list of some of the options for international student graduates in Canada.

Express Entry

Express Entry is the main pathway for economic-class immigrants. It is an application management system for the three Federal High Skilled immigration programs: the Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, and the Federal Skilled Trades Program.

You can be eligible for multiple programs once you have a profile in the Express Entry pool.

Express Entry uses a points system called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).

It is free to enter the pool but you will have to pay if you want to get permanent residence.

Provincial Nominee Program

The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) allows Canadian provinces to offer pathways to permanent residence to immigrants who would be a good match for their labour market. Most Canadian provinces operate their own PNPs.

It is a two-step process for a PNP. First, you apply for a provincial nomination from the province. Then, if you get the nomination, it supports your application for Canadian permanent residence. Only the federal government has the power to provide permanent residency status.

These are not all of the PNPs that graduates may apply for, but here are some of the options that are tailored for international student graduates.


Ontario has two streams dedicated to international student graduates: the Masters Graduate Stream, and the PhD Graduate Stream. Neither of these programs require you to have job offers in order to apply.


Manitoba's International Education Stream is for people who graduated from a post-secondary institute in the province. This stream has three sub-categories:  Career Employment PathwayGraduate Internship Pathway, and the Student Entrepreneur Pathway


Under the Saskatchewan Experience Category students who recently graduated from an eligible Canadian post-secondary may be able to apply for the Students sub category. You need a full-time job offer from a Saskatchewan employer that has been approved by the province. Your employer needs to register on the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) employer website to get approval. The provincial government will send you a Job Approval Letter, and you can submit that with your application to the SINP.


B.C. has a number of options for international graduates through the Express Entry British Columbia stream and the Skills Immigration stream. Although the sub-streams of these programs require candidates to have job offers, you do not need a job offer if you are eligible for the International Post-Graduate Category.

New Brunswick

Graduates from New Brunswick may be eligible for the New Brunswick Skilled Worker Stream. This program is for foreigners who have a job offer from a New Brunswick employer. It is not specifically for international student graduates, but they do allow people who completed a one-year program at a New Brunswick post secondary to skip the one-year work experience requirement.

Nova Scotia

The International Graduate Entrepreneur Stream is for graduates who have at least two years of full-time study at a Nova Scotia university or college. You need to have operated your own business in the province for at least one year, and intend to make Nova Scotia your new home.


The International Graduate Stream is for recent grads of P.E.I. post-secondary institutes who already have a job offer in the province. The job offer must be in a skilled profession in line with your field of study.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador offers two streams for grads. The International Graduate Category is for grads of any eligible Canadian institution who are working or have a job offer from a Newfoundland and Labrador employer. The job must be in your field of study.

The International Graduate Entrepreneur Category is for Newfoundland and Labrador grads who want to run a business in the province.


Quebec has its own economic immigration program. International students who studied in Quebec may be eligible for the Quebec Experience Program (PEQ). In addition to a job offer, and work experience, you need to demonstrate a strong command of the French language.

Atlantic Immigration Pilot

The Atlantic Immigration Pilot is slated to become a permanent program in 2022. It allows employers in the four Atlantic provinces to hire foreign talent and provide a pathway to permanent residence.

Grads from eligible institutions in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick may be able to apply for the Atlantic International Graduate Program. This program allows graduates to apply for permanent residence without having any previous work experience.

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

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