Study: International students largely remain in the province where they received their first study permit

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: November 25, 2022

A recent analysis of Canadian international students suggests that most who receive a study permit in a certain province tend to remain in that province for their next period of study or work.

The Conference Board of Canada is a non-profit research organization that focuses on analyzing economic trends, organizational performance and issues related to public policy. Although there are ways, says the Conference Board of Canada, that provincial governments can further increase international student retention in the province/territory of study, research to this point indicates that there is already a notable degree of success regarding that goal.

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Let’s now dive into the key takeaways from this research study.

Settlement location one year after the first study permit has expired

Among students who decided to remain in Canada when their first study permit expired, no less than 60% of the students who studied in any of Canada’s 10 provinces or three territories remained in each region.

Quebec saw the most international student retention (around 85%), while Manitoba and Alberta also saw retention rates north of 80%. Five provinces experienced retention rates between 70% and 80% (British Columbia, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan). Finally, Canada’s remaining two provinces (Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick) and Canada’s three territories all retained between 60% and 70% of their international students one year later.

In the case of all 13 separate regions, over 75% of retained international students remained in-province/in-territory to pursue more education.

Job location three years on from first study permit expiration

Assessed based on the location from which international students filed their taxes, a similar conclusion to the one above (after one year) appeared true even three years after their initial study permit had expired.

In other words, most former international students still employed in Canada three years later stayed in their initial province of study. In fact, in nine of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories — excluding the Atlantic provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick — over 50% of international students stayed in-province or in-territory.

Quebec and Alberta, the provinces that experienced two of the three highest one-year retention rates, saw the highest retention rates after three years as well.

Recommendations for further strengthening intra-province/territory retention

The Conference Board of Canada reasons that a post-secondary education system that aligns skill development with local labour market needs will aid retention, as would continually strong provincial funding for these institutions because it would help them continue to provide high-quality education to students.

Furthermore, dedicating a larger proportion of Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) slots to international students and improving the support provided through settlement services to these foreign nationals could further entice them to remain in the provinces where they come to further their education.

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