Study in Canada: A Guide for International Students
Canada is home to some of the world's best education and immigration options. This comprehensive CanadaVisa page provides you with everything you need to know on how you can study in Canada, work, and immigrate.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates for International Students
International students are able to enter Canada if they had a valid study permit by March 18, 2020 or if their designated learning institution has an approved COVID-19 readiness plan. International students may also pursue their program online at a Canadian designated learning institution and still be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) once they complete their studies. Please visit our coronavirus FAQ page for more updates.
How to Study in Canada
The following are the steps you need to take if you wish to study in Canada and transition to permanent residence.
Conduct research and find the education program you want to pursue in Canada.
Once you have determined which education program to apply to, submit your application to the Canadian designated learning institution (DLI) of your choice.
After completing your studies, Cohen Immigration Law can help you remain in Canada to gain more professional work experience and pursue permanent residence.
Benefits of Studying in Canada
Canada has made it easier for international students to begin their Canadian immigration journey. Whether you wish to begin your program at a Canadian college or university, you will be able to study online in your home country and still access the same benefits of being in Canada.
The reason for this is that Canada is allowing new international students to start their Canadian educational programs online, and still be eligible to obtain a Post-Graduation Work Permit after they complete their program. This is a temporary policy that aims to provide more flexibility to international students due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), a student can complete up their entire Canadian program online and remain eligible for the PGWP.
The PGWP is important for international students that want to make their Canadian immigration applications more competitive. The combination of a Canadian education and Canadian work experience gained through the PGWP will enhance a student’s chances of obtaining Canadian permanent residence.
Hence, assuming that a student is currently enrolled in a qualifying two-year program at a Canadian college or university or other designated learning institution, they can get a full, three-year PGWP after completing their program as long as they complete 50 per cent of their program in Canada.
The benefits of beginning your Canadian immigration journey include:
- Get peace of mind that you can start your Canadian program in your country even if you are unable to come to Canada in time because of a coronavirus interruption (e.g., lack of available flights).
- Canadian colleges and universities are currently offering their programs online for the 2020-21 academic year.
- If you take a qualifying program at a Canadian designated learning institution (e.g., a college or university) of at least two years in duration, you can get a full, three-year Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). A PGWP of this length will provide you with three years to get enough qualifying Canadian work experience to become eligible for more immigration programs.
- Beginning your program online can make studying in Canada even more affordable for you. Canada is already more affordable to study in than the likes of the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia. This temporary PGWP policy enables you to save on several months of living costs in Canada while you remain in your home country.
- If you are like most study permit holders, you will be legally eligible to work in Canada for any employer as soon as you arrive to the country. Under the terms of most study permits, you can work for up to 20 hours per week during your program, and full-time during regularly scheduled breaks such as winter and summer breaks.
- Your spouse or partner is eligible to obtain an open work permit to work for any Canadian employer during and after you complete your studies. You can also bring your children with you to Canada and they can attend one of Canada’s public schools without needing their own study permit.
- Once you complete your program, you will get a Canadian degree, diploma, or other credentials that will be recognized and respected by Canadian employers and government authorities. This credential will help you integrate into the Canadian labour market and gain more points under a variety of federal and provincial immigration programs.
- Pursuing Canadian studies will also help to enhance your English and/or French skills. Stronger language skills will support your economic and social integration in Canada and also help you obtain more points under Canada’s immigration programs.
About Canada’s Universities and Colleges
There are over 1,500 universities, colleges, and other educational institutions that are authorized by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to welcome international students. These educational institutions are called designated learning institutions (DLIs) and they exist to help international students learn in Canada and stay in the country after graduation. The list of DLIs that are authorized by IRCC is constantly growing. Please verify that the university, college, or other institution you wish to enroll in is authorized by IRCC by visiting the Canadian government’s official website.
Ontario and Quebec are Canada’s largest provinces by population, and hence, they host the most number of DLIs in the country (nearly 1,000 combined).
Given the large number of DLIs across Canada, you are very likely to find an educational program that meets your needs.
If you wish to pursue undergraduate (i.e., Bachelors) or post-graduate studies (i.e., Master’s or PhD), Canada has some 100 universities, including internationally-renowned schools such as:
- Dalhousie University
- McGill University
- McMaster University
- Queen’s University
- Simon Fraser University
- University of Alberta
- University of British Columbia
- University of Calgary
- University of Montreal
- University of Ottawa
- University of Toronto
- University of Waterloo
Generally speaking, universities across Canada offer comparable levels of high-quality education. The reason for this is that Canada promotes equity within its education system, meaning that it strives to ensure all students get the best possible education possible, irrespective of which institution that they go to.
Canada also has some 150 community colleges which also offer good quality education. Whereas universities specialize in providing theoretical knowledge and career training in certain professions (e.g., medicine, engineering, law), community colleges offer more applied training to help students quickly integrate into the labour market. College programs are more practical, with the knowledge provided to students meant to help them find work within their area of study.
Just like universities, colleges across Canada tend to offer similar levels of education. International students should take comfort at studying at a Canadian college, since the credential that they gain will support their professional and immigration ambitions upon graduation.
If you want help finding the right program for you at a Canadian designated learning institution, whether it is a college, university, or other type of designated learning institution, please complete CanadaVisa’s Study Assessment Form so that we can assist you as soon as possible.
Study Pathways to Permanent Residence (PR)
International students who complete post-secondary education in Canada have many opportunities to extend their stay and ultimately transition to permanent residence.
Your education in Canada may put you at an advantage when it comes to pursuing Canadian permanent residence. Many federal and provincial immigration programs value candidates with Canadian education and work experience.
After completing your education in Canada, you can gain Canadian work experience by obtaining a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) which, depending on your Canadian academic program, may enable you to work in Canada for up to three years.
While holding a PGWP, you can then go ahead and pursue a number of federal and provincial permanent residence avenues, such as:
One of the most prominent ways of pursuing permanent residence is by submitting an Express Entry profile. Express Entry is the main way that Canada manages economic class immigration applications.
Express Entry candidates are assessed through the Comprehensive Ranking System. The Comprehensive Ranking System rewards candidates who are young, have Canadian education and work experience, and strong English and/or French proficiency. These are characteristics that many of Canada’s international students possess.
Through Express Entry, former international students may be well-placed to be eligible for the popular Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program, which enables tens of thousands of former international students and temporary foreign workers to become permanent residents each year.
Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)
Quebec is Canada’s second largest province and the city of Montreal is a very popular destination for international students. The province operates its own immigration system with programs that are different from those offered by the federal government and under the PNP. Quebec also encourages former international students to transition to permanent residence. One of the notable ways it seeks to do this is through the Quebec Experience Program.
Other Federal Programs
In addition to the three programs it manages under Express Entry, the federal government operates additional economic class immigration programs. The programs offer special streams to international students and/or exemptions from Canadian work experience requirements. These include the Atlantic International Graduate Program (which operates under the Atlantic Immigration Pilot) and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.
Frequently Asked Questions
Reasons why international students choose Canada include:
- High quality of education offered by Canadian schools
- Canada offers international students with opportunities to work during and after their studies, and transition to permanent residence
- Opportunities to study in English and/or French
- Safety and security
- Multicultural society
- Canada welcomes immigrants and international students from nearly 200 different countries each year
- Canada is affordable compared with other popular international student destinations. Consider also that the Canadian dollar is weaker than major currencies such as the USD, GBP, and EUR
There were 642,480 international students in Canada as of December 2019. Due to its popularity as a great destination to study, work, and immigrate, Canada has seen its international student population triple over the past decade.
Canada welcomes international students from nearly 200 different countries each year.
Popular source countries of Canada’s international students include India, China, South Korea, France, Vietnam, the U.S., Iran, Brazil, Nigeria, and Mexico.
Many countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and Asia also send large numbers of international students to Canada each year.
Yes. You may bring your spouse, common law partner, and dependent children.
Canadian cities tend to offer many of the same benefits including good quality of education, an openness to all types of different cultures, and safety and security.
Choosing a city to study in depends on your preferences. Factors for you to consider include:
- Which educational program you wish to pursue
- Job opportunities in your preferred career within the Canadian city
- Existing immigrant and international student communities within the Canadian city
- Whether you prefer to be in an English and/or French speaking environment in Canada
- Cultural activities
- Whether you prefer to be in a larger city or a smaller one
- Your budget
You can learn more about the benefits of Canada’s various provinces and cities here.
If you have completed your studies and wish to remain in Canada to work, you may be eligible to obtain a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). This temporary status will replace your study permit. There may be other temporary and permanent pathways you can also pursue to remain in Canada. For instance, after obtaining a PGWP and are interested in becoming a permanent resident, you may be eligible to submit an Express Entry profile and/or apply for other federal and provincial immigration programs.
Your options depend on your goals.
For instance, if you are interested in obtaining permanent residence within the province, you may be eligible to obtain a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).
Yes. Tens of thousands of the over 300,000 people that become Canadian permanent residents each year are former international students.
There are several programs that can lead to permanent residence, including the three programs managed under Express Entry (Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, and the Federal Skilled Trades Program). There are many other options available through the likes of the Provincial Nominee Program, Quebec, the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.
Some of these programs require qualifying Canadian work experience. If you want to work in Canada after you finish your studies, you can apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).
The PGWP is an open work permit issued to foreign students who have graduated from a designated learning institution.
It allows you to gain work experience in Canada and can help you become eligible for a variety of federal and provincial immigration programs (which sometimes require that candidates have qualifying Canadian work experience to become eligible for a given program).
The PGWP is valid for a period equivalent to the program of study you completed in Canada. Its duration can range from a minimum of 8 months to a maximum of 3 years.
You may be able to work on campus or off campus, provided your study permit lists that condition. You can only begin working in Canada after you have begun your Canadian study program.
You may be allowed to work on your school’s campus if you:
- are a full-time post-secondary student,
- have a valid study permit, and
- have a Social Insurance Number (SIN)
If you need to work for a co-op or as an intern, you must apply for a co-op or intern work permit. You may be eligible if:
- work is required to complete your program,
- you have a valid study permit,
- you have a letter from your institution confirming that all students must work to get their degree,
- your co-op or internship is 50% or less of your program.
If you are taking English or French as a second language, general interest courses or courses to prepare for another program, you may not be eligible for a co-op work permit.
If you want to work off-campus, your study permit must say that you can work off campus. You must also:
- be a full-time student,
- be enrolled in a post-secondary program,
- be enrolled in a study program that is at least 6 months long, and leads to a degree, diploma or certificate,
- have started studying,
- have a Social Insurance Number (SIN)
If you are a part-time student, you may only work off campus:
- if you have met all the criteria listed above, and,
- you’re only study part-time because:
- you’re in your last semester and you don’t need to study full-time to complete your program
- you were a full-time student in Canada up until your last semester
Assuming your study permit states you can work in Canada, you are allowed to work off campus for 20 hours per week during the school year. You can also work full-time during scheduled breaks.
There are no restrictions to the number of hours you can work on campus.
Yes. You may apply for a merit-based scholarship, bursary or grant through your institution or through third-parties.
Tuition fees in Canada are considered affordable compared to other popular destinations such as the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and European Union countries.
Many Canadian academic institutions offer programs with tuition fees that are under $15,000 CAD per year.
In addition to your tuition fees, you must be able to demonstrate your ability to financially support yourself and any family members.
Tuition and living expenses vary by each province and territory. Generally speaking, studying in a larger city in Canada costs more than smaller cities.
If you plan on studying outside Quebec, the following table illustrates the minimum funds you need to have access to in order to support yourself while studying in Canada (also known as "proof of financial suport"):
|Amount of funds required per year (excluding tuition fees)|
|First family member||CAD $4,000|
|Any additional family members||CAD $3,000|
If you plan on studying in Quebec, the following table illustrates the minimum funds that you need to have access to in order to support yourself financially while studying in the province:
|Amount of funds required per year (excluding tuition fees)|
|First family member (18 or older)||CAD $5,100|
|irst family member (under 18)||CAD $3,800|
|Any additional family member (18 or older)||CAD $5,125|
|Any additional family member (under 18)||CAD $1,903|
The Student Direct Stream (SDS) is a program that expedites the processing of study permits for candidates who meet eligibility requirements. One of the eligibility requirements is you must be a legal resident of one of the following countries:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Costa Rica
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
To be eligible for the SDS, you must:
- Be a legal resident of Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, or Vietnam.
- Have completed a valid language test in the last 2 years, with an IELTS score of 6.0 or higher, or a TEF score equivalent to the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) of 7 or higher.
- Have a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of at least $10,000 insured by the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC). The GIC must meet specific criteria.
- Prove full payment of your tuition fees for your first year of study.
- Provide a letter of acceptance from the institution.
- Provide your most recent secondary or post-secondary transcripts.
- Get a medical exam before you apply if you are required to get one (You may be required to complete this step if you have lived or travelled to one of the designated countries before coming to Canada, or if your field of study requires it.
- Get a police certificate before you apply if it is required in your case (your visa office instructions will tell you if you need to get a police certificate).
There is no age limit to study in Canada.
You do not need a language test to apply for a study permit, but you may be asked for one by the institution you are applying to. For more details, please review the policies of the academic institutions you are interested in applying to.
Once you have been approved for a study permit, you must fulfil the following conditions established by the Canadian government:
- Remain enrolled at your designated learning institution
- Work towards completing your program
- Fulfil all conditions listed on your study permit
- Stop studying if you no longer meet your study permit requirements
- Leave Canada when your study permit expires (unless you have obtained another temporary permit or permanent residence)
Your study permit will become automatically invalid if you violate any of the conditions listed on your study permit.
Processing times depend on each visa office. CanadaVisa’s Immigration Processing Times Tool contains more information.
22) What are the differences in study levels, and between colleges, universities, and other designated learning institutions in Canada?
- Universities: They offer undergraduate, professional, and postgraduate degrees, in addition to certificates and diplomas.
- Community colleges: They offer certificates, diplomas, associate degrees, undergraduate degrees, and postgraduate diplomas.
- Career and technical colleges: They offer certificates and diplomas for technical training meant to help adults advance in their careers.
Certificates and Diplomas
Career oriented programs to help adults find work related to credential.
Similar to first two levels of study of a 4-year Bachelor’s degree.
Usually 4 years in length except can be as short as 3 years in provinces such as Quebec. Offered at universities and tend to be more theoretical in nature than college programs.
A specialized qualification after completing a Bachelor’s degree.
Can either include a research thesis or no thesis submission.
Usually involves a combination of course work at the beginning of the PhD, followed by the completion of a dissertation that is successfully defended before an academic panel.
No time limit
Specialized research program after completing a PhD.
All DLIs in Canada will have their own deadlines, which may also vary depending on the program, department or faculty to which you may be applying. You will find the most up to date information on the Website of the school where you plan to apply.
Launched as a pilot in 2020 by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the Nigeria Student Express aims to reduce the study permit processing times for eligible Nigerian students.
To be eligible for faster processing through the NSE, you must:
- Apply online
- Be a Nigerian citizen or legally reside in Nigeria
- Have an acceptance letter from a post-secondary designated learning institution in Canada for a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD degree program or a post-graduate diploma course
- Live outside of Canada when you apply
- Have a MyBank certificate showing sufficient funds for your studies (equivalent of CAD $30,000) for at least six months PLUS 12 months of banking history
- Get a medical exam before you apply
- Have a language test result that shows:
- a score of 6.0 or higher in each skill (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) on the IELTS, or
- a Test d\'évaluation de français (TEF) score that is equal to a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) score of at least 7 in each skill (reading, writing, speaking, and listening)
- Only if you\'re applying to study in Quebec, have a certificat d\'acceptation du Québec (CAQ) from the Quebec government
More international students are transitioning to become immigrants of Canada each year since many of Canada’s federal and provincial immigration programs reward international students with extra points and/or provide them with dedicated application streams. According to the most recent federal government statistics, over 50,000 international students become permanent residents each year.
The questions and concerns of parents vary by each country and region of the world, however you can share the following information with your parents:
- Canada is a very safe, secure, and stable country that is open and welcoming to people from all over the world. No matter what your nationality, ethnicity, or religion is, you will find people of the same background as you in Canada.
- Canada offers some of the highest-rated educational institutions in the world, several of which are ranked among the top 100 globally.
- Canada is more affordable than countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, and also enables you to work during and after your studies so you can support yourself financially while in the country. Scholarships are also available to international students.
- International students have promising career prospects in Canada. Canada is always looking for talent that is motivated, ambitious, educated, multilingual, and that offers diverse and global perspectives.
- Canada seeks to help international students remain in the country as permanent residents.
- According to international surveys, parents rate Canada as having better study permit requirements than other countries such as the United States and United Kingdom. Obtaining a Canadian study permit can also be very quick under the likes of the Student Direct Stream and for international students from certain source countries.