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Immigration options for international graduates in Canada

Mohanad Moetaz - 11 May, 2021

Immigration options for international graduates in Canada
Immigration options for international graduates in Canada

When you graduate from a Canadian learning institution, you will open new doors for Canadian immigration.

If you wish to become a permanent resident of Canada, having a Canadian credential and Canadian work experience would make you an ideal candidate for many immigration programs.

In some cases, you would only need a Canadian credential, such as a master's or a PhD. However, having Canadian work experience gives you more options to choose from.

International graduates who wish to become permanent residents but do not have Canadian experience, have the opportunity to apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP). This open work permit allows you to work for any employer in Canada and is valid for up to three years. 

Complete our FREE Assessment form to see if you are eligible to immigrate to Canada!

You are allowed to apply for permanent residence at any time during your stay in Canada as a PGWP holder. If your work permit expires while you are waiting for a decision on your permanent residence application, you can apply for a Bridging Open Work Permit to stay in Canada while you wait.

Now that you have gained valuable Canadian work experience during your time as a student or with a PGWP, let's explore your options to become a permanent resident.

Express Entry

Perhaps the most popular pathway for international students is to apply for permanent residence through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) under the federal Express Entry system.

Express Entry is the application management system that the federal government uses for permanent residence applications through three economic class immigration programs.

You may be eligible to apply under the CEC if you have at least one year of work experience, and you meet the language requirements. You may also be eligible for one of the other programs.

Once you enter the Express Entry pool, you are given a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score based on factors such as your age, education, work experience and language proficiency. The highest-ranked candidates are invited to apply for permanent residence in regularly held Express Entry draws.

Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)

These types of programs allows Canadian provinces to nominate candidates who would be a good fit for their labour market needs. Most provinces have their own Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

It is a two-step process to become a permanent resident through a PNP. First, you will have to apply for a provincial nomination from the province. If you are successful, the nomination will support your permanent residence application. 

This is not a comprehensive list of your options, but here are some immigration streams that targets international graduates.

Ontario has two streams dedicated to international graduates: the Master's Graduate Stream, and the PhD Graduate Stream. For either of these streams, you will not need a job offer to apply.

Manitoba has one stream dedicated to those who graduated from a learning institution from within the province. It is called the International Education Stream.

Students who recently graduated from a Saskatchewan post-secondary institution may be eligible to apply through the Students sub-category under the Saskatchewan Experience Category. You will need to have a province-approved full-time job offer. Your employer will need to register through the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) website to get approval.

British Columbia has a few options for international graduates through Express Entry B.C. stream and the Skills Immigration stream. Most sub-streams require a job offer. However, you will not need one if you are eligible for the International Post-Graduate Category.

New Brunswick graduates can apply through the New Brunswick Skilled Worker Stream. This stream usually required candidates to have a job offer, but if you completed a one year program at a post-secondary in New Brunswick, you can skip the one-year work experience requirement.

If you graduated from Nova Scotia from a program that was at least two years of full-time study, you should consider the International Graduate Entrepreneur Stream. You must have operated your own business in the province for a least one year.

P.E.I. graduates who have a job offer in the province that is aligned with the graduate's field of study can apply through the International Graduate Stream 

Newfoundland and Labrador has two streams to choose from. If you graduated from any Canadian institution (even if it is outside the province), and you are working or have a job offer from a Newfoundland and Labrador employer, you can apply through the International Graduate Category.

Graduates from a Newfoundland and Labrador post-secondary who wish to run a business in the province can also consider the International Graduate Entrepreneur Category


Quebec does not have a PNP, but has its own economic immigration program. If you studied in Quebec, you may consider the Quebec Experience Program (PEQ). You will need to have enough work experience, a job offer and must have a strong command of French.

Atlantic Immigration Pilot

The Atlantic Immigration Pilot lets employers in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, to hire foreign talent and provide a pathway to permanent residence.

Graduates from a post-secondary in Atlantic Canada can apply through the Atlantic International Graduate Program. You do not need to have previous work experience.

Complete our FREE Assessment form to see if you are eligible to immigrate to Canada!

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