Studying in Canada: A Pathway to Canadian Permanent Residence

Education offers a route to Canadian permanent resident status.

There are a range of programs whereby international students may apply for permanent immigration. In some cases, this can be done without obtaining a job offer from a Canadian employer.

In addition, international students in Canada may:

  • work for up to 20 hours per week while in school, and on a full-time basis during school breaks;
  • obtain a Post-Graduation Work Permit for the equivalent duration of the studies once the program is successfully completed, allowing students to remain in Canada for many years before becoming a permanent resident;
  • bring an accompanying spouse or common-law partner to Canada on an open full-time work permit, allowing him or her to work for any employer;
  • bring accompanying minor children to study in Canada at the same rate that Canadians pay; and
  • become eligible for Canadian permanent residence, either through a Provincial Nominee Program, through Quebec’s immigration system, or through the Express Entry immigration selection system.

Step 1: Learn the basics and begin your search

Beginning your search offers FREE tools and resources available to help you get to grips with the process.

Concern:‘I have been working in a full-time job for many years. How could I put everything on hold and (re)-enter the education system? How would I gain an income?’

Solution: International students in Canada can work off-campus while studying, allowing them to gain an income, build up valuable Canadian work experience, and make professional connections that can help them later in their career.

Concern: ‘Isn’t college or university only for young people who haven’t yet begun their working lives?’

Solution: If you are worried that immigration to Canada via education is not a realistic pathway, note that age is neither a barrier to gaining admission to a school nor obtaining a study permit. Canadian schools, including colleges and universities, have many mature students on their enrollment.

Step 2: Gain admission to a Canadian designated institution

Once you have identified a particular study program, or a shortlist of potential study programs, you will need to gain admission by obtaining what is known as a Letter of Acceptance. While the exact admission requirements and procedures vary between institutions across Canada, our dedicated ‘Get Admission to a Canadian Educational Institution’ page outlines potential requirements for gaining admission to a Canadian designated institution.


Step 3: Apply for a Canadian Study Permit

Once you have gained admission to a study program at a Canadian designated institution. you may begin to apply for a Canadian Study Permit. A Study Permit is a document issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that allows a foreign individual to study in Canada for a designated period of time. In addition to having already obtained a Letter of Acceptance, an applicant for a Study Permit also needs to satisfy the Canadian Visa Officer that he or she has sufficient funds to pay tuition fees and cover living expenses while in Canada.

Applicants from certain countries may also require a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV).

  • Learn more about Canadian Study Permits.
  • Learn more about Temporary Resident Visas.

Concerns and Solutions

Concern: ‘I don’t have sufficient funds.’

Solution: Thetypes of proof of financial support that may be accepted by IRCC include: proof of a student/education loan from a financial institution, a letter from the person or institution providing you with money, and proof of funding paid from within Canada if you have a scholarship or are in a Canadian-funded educational program.

Concern:‘I have already been refused in a previous effort to obtain a Canadian Study Permit’

Solution: Prospective students in Canada who have been refused a Canadian study permit may find themselves in a frustrating position. There may, however, be a solution. Learn more on our dedicated ‘Study Permit Refusals and Appeals’ page.


 CanadaVisa Study Hub

The Study Hub is an online portal designed to help prospective students, current international students and recent graduates on a post-graduation work permit easily navigate Canada’s immigration system. Sign up and check out the wide range of customized tools and resources inside the Study Hub.

Members of the Study Hub who are currently on a Study Permit or post-graduation work permit can also apply for the new CanadaVisa Scholarship! Every month, one member will win a scholarship worth $500. Join the CanadaVisa Study Hub now to enter with a chance to win — you’re only one step away!

Step 4: Complete your study program and obtain an open work permit

Once you are studying in Canada, it is important to maintain your status in the country. This may entail renewing or changing your study permit. After completing your study program in Canada, a typical path from student to permanent resident status in Canada is through taking advantage of something Canada offers that is not available, or more difficult to obtain, in other countries — an open Post-Graduation Work Permit.

This work permit, which allows its bearer to work for any employer in Canada, may be issued upon completion of the study program and is equal in length to the duration of that program, up to a maximum of three years. Thus, a graduate who completed a three- or four-year study program may be eligible for a three-year work permit, allowing him or her to remain in Canada for a total of six years.


Step 5. Become a permanent resident of Canada

Individuals who have obtained a Canadian degree, diploma or certificate and built up professional experience in Canada may have multiple immigration options through the available federal and provincial programs. There is only one place where you can get an assessment of your immigration options across the more than 80 programs that lead to Canadian permanent resident status — the CanadaVisa immigration assessment form.

Even if you have submitted this form before and been informed that you are likely ineligible to immigrate to Canada, remember that things may change. New programs may be created for which you may be eligible, or existing programs may be amended, which also has the potential to make previously-ineligible individuals eligible.

Individuals who are currently ineligible to immigrate to Canada can take control of their own destiny and begin the pathway to Canadian immigration through education — it may be your best chance to achieve your Canadian immigration goals.