How to go from a Canadian study permit to Canadian permanent residence

Julia Hornstein
Published: January 28, 2024

International students who are studying in Canada can apply for permanent resident status while studying in Canada or after graduating from their study program.

Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration

There are many options for international students in Canada who wish to become a permanent resident, provided they meet the requirements and eligibility of the program they are applying for.

International students are not guaranteed to receive permanent residence after completing their studies in Canada. However, they can improve their chances by preparing in advance and learning about what they need to be eligible for the various immigration pathways.

Canada offers many permanent residence pathways to international students because research has shown that those with Canadian education tend to be successful in the Canadian job market. These students are seen as a promising pool of skilled individuals that can be used to address labour market needs in Canada. In addition, Canadian employers value the local education and work experience that international students get in Canada.

After completing studies in Canada, many international students go on to apply for a Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). The PGWP provides international students with an open work permit that enables them to work almost anywhere and for almost any employer in Canada.

Students may be eligible for a PGWP if they:

  • Completed studies in an academic, vocational or professional training program that is at least eight months long at an eligible Designated Learning Institution (DLI) List. The study program must lead to a degree, diploma or certificate
  • Held full-time student status in Canada during every academic session of the program or programs of study completed and included as part of their post-graduation work permit application
  • Received a transcript and an official letter from the eligible DLI confirming that the applicant has met the requirements to complete their program of study

The benefit of the PGWP is that it enables international students to get the Canadian work experience that makes the student eligible for permanent residence and makes them a more competitive candidate for Canadian immigration, as many of the pathways reward candidates with Canadian work experience.

Express Entry

Express Entry is an application management system that manages three federal skilled worker immigration programs: the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).

The CEC is a permanent residence pathway for candidates who have worked in Canada. It is a popular option for international students who have gone on to obtain Canadian work experience.

To be eligible for the CEC, a candidate must meet the following criteria:

  • Have obtained at least one year of skilled, professional, or technical work experience in Canada within 36 months of the application date; and
  • Meet or surpass a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) of 5 ("initial intermediate") for NOC TEER category 2 or 3 jobs or CLB 7 ("adequate intermediate proficiency"), for NOC TEER category 0 or 1 jobs.
  • Plan to live and work outside of the province of Quebec (individuals with work experience in Quebec and who plan to reside in Quebec may apply to the Quebec Experience Class).

If you are eligible for one of the programs, you can upload a profile onto the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. Candidates receive Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores based on factors like age, education, work experience and language ability. Those with the highest scores are invited to apply for permanent residence.

Candidates who have completed a study program in Canada or have Canadian work experience obtain more CRS points, increasing their chances of obtaining permanent residence.

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)

Nearly every province and territory in Canada operates the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). The PNP allows the provinces and territories to nominate individuals who wish to immigrate to Canada and are interested in settling in a particular province.

Many PNP streams reward candidates who have studied and worked in Canada.

Quebec Experience Program (PEQ)

A candidate who has studied in Quebec and would like to settle in the province permanently may be eligible for immigration under the Quebec Experience Program (PEQ). The PEQ provides a fast track way for foreign graduates and individuals with work experience in Quebec to obtain a Quebec selection certificate (QSC), which is a mandatory step towards permanent residency that is given by the federal government.

International students who have studied in Quebec may be eligible to apply for a CSQ under the PEQ if they:

  • Show an intention to settle in Quebec to hold a job;
  • Have stayed temporarily in Quebec for the purposes of study;
  • Have obtained an eligible degree or diploma from an educational institution recognized by the Quebec Ministry of Education within the past 36 months;
  • Have studied in Quebec for at least 1,800 hours (two years)
  • Hold a Masters, Bachelors or DEC diploma and have 12 months of work experience in a 0, A, B level job and to hold such a job at the time of application
  • Hold a DEP and have 18 months of work experience in a 0, A, B or C level job and required to hold such a job at the time of application. Please note that C level work must be related to the degree.

Candidates must also demonstrate that they possess a level of proficiency in the French language in order to qualify for the PEQ.

Other permanent residence pathway options

The Atlantic Immigration Program is an option for students that have studied in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador.

Similarly, the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot offers permanent residence to international students that reside in participating rural and northern communities across Canada.

Another option is for Hong Kong residents, as Canada offers two permanent residence pathways for Hong Kong residents who have studied in Canada.

Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration

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