March 7, 2018 – International students are being drawn to Canadian colleges as they look to get a feel for the country before deciding whether to attend university here.
Pre-university level students cite low crime rates and cheap cost of living as key factors in their decision to choose Canada over rivals such as the U.S. and Britain.
The political climate in both countries is also playing a key factor, as Canadian colleges and universities swell their ranks of international students, backed by progressive federal immigration policies.
Canada has made it clear that it wants to attract international students and make it easier for them to stay and build their careers here after graduation.
Colleges play a key part in the process, providing everything from one-year certificates and university preparation courses all the way to full degrees.
They are also very flexible, giving points for higher education already completed and qualifications that are recognized all over the world.
Figures show international student enrollment in Canadian universities increased by 10.7 per cent in 2017.
The figures, compiled by Universities Canada, show 192,000 international students are now attending university in Canada.
Leading the increase was British Columbia, which saw a 15.6 per cent increase in international student enrollment. Prince Edward Island (12.8%) and Ontario (12.7%) also saw significant increases.
Canadian University International Student Cohort, 2017 Increase
|Province||2017 Increase (%)|
|Newfoundland & Labrador||10.5|
|Prince Edward Island||12.8|
Figures: Universities Canada
These figures are only related to institutions with university status. Overall federal government figures show there are more than 400,000 study permit holders currently in Canada across all levels of education.
Meanwhile, the latest figures from U.S. colleges and universities show an average decline of 7 per cent in the international student enrollment for the 2017-2018 academic year.
A survey of 500 U.S. colleges and universities from the Institute of International Education revealed the enrollment decline. While it is not as significant as many in the U.S. feared, it is the first indication that the policies of President Donald Trump are having an impact on international student numbers.
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Since Trump came to power, he has repeatedly attempted to impose a travel ban and threatened a crackdown on popular U.S. immigration visas. He has also threatened to end special status for a number of nationalities in the U.S. because of problems in their home countries.
Canada More Appealing
At the same time, Canada is attempting to make itself more appealing to international students. Ottawa recently announced that it will accept nearly a million new permanent residents over the next three years, and a significant chunk of those are expected to be international students who are graduates from Canadian universities.
The federal government sees them as blue chip new permanent residents: young people with a Canadian education, knowledge of the official languages, often with Canadian work experience and knowledge of how life works here. This puts them already on the pathway to integration, a crucial buzz word at IRCC.
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Since coming to power in fall 2015, the Liberal government has attempted to make it easier for international students to gain permanent residence.
At the federal level, the government has introduced points under Canada Express Entry. In November 2016, Comprehensive Ranking System points were added for three-year post secondary, master’s, professional degrees and doctorates (30 CRS points) and post-secondary diplomas lasting one or two years (15 CRS points). No points are awarded for a Canadian high school education or below. This gives many graduates the extra push they need to achieve a coveted Invitation to Apply.
The federal government and relevant provinces also promote the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, which includes a category aimed at international graduates. It was introduced earlier in 2017 to try and reverse aging populations and shrinking labour markets in the Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
Provincial International Graduate Programs
In Quebec, the international graduate stream, which forms part of the Quebec Experience Program, is the only provincial program that offers permanent immigration to diploma and undergraduate degree holders, without a job offer.
The category imposes an advanced intermediate oral French requirement, but this stipulation is waived if half of the candidate’s studies are completed in Quebec and the qualification is recognized by the province. Candidates must either complete their studies in French or pass a French language test to transition to Canadian permanent residence.
The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program runs a similar program without the need for a job offer, but it is aimed at Master’s and PhD graduates. The education requirement, therefore, is much more onerous, and the candidate must have English or French at Canadian Benchmark Level 7 or higher. The Ontario Master’s and PhD streams are open periodically throughout the year.
International students can already qualify to work in Canada after graduation by applying for a Post Graduate Work Permit. Here they can gain valuable Canadian work experience through a special work permit issued for the length of the study program, up to a maximum of three years. The work experience could then be used to qualify for permanent residence, through one of the above avenues.
Post Graduate Work Permit Requirements
- Studied full time in Canada in a program of at least 8 months duration.
- Graduated from a public post-secondary institution, a private post-secondary institution, or a private institution authorized by provincial statute to confer degrees.
- Submit an application for a work permit within 90 days after receiving written confirmation of completing a study program.
- Received notification of eligibility to obtain a degree, diploma or certificate.
- Possess a valid Canada study visa or Canada study permit.
Citizenship Made Easier
Recent changes to Canadian citizenship requirements are also beneficial to international students, allowing them to count their time spent in Canada while studying towards a citizenship application. Study permit holders can count a half day for each full day spent in Canada towards a citizenship application, up to a maximum of a year.
At the same time the overall physical presence requirement was reduced from four years in six to three years in five, allowing international students to become Canadian citizens just two years after becoming a permanent resident.
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