If you’re an international student in Canada, you’ve probably thought about what comes next after graduation. Do you pack your bags and head back home? Or is there a way to continue living and working in Canada? Is there a way to have permanent residency in Canada?
Well, I’ve got good news for you! As an international student, you have a clear path to permanent residency in Canada after completing your studies.
Obtaining permanent resident status opens up a ton of new opportunities. You can live, work, and study anywhere in Canada. You can also access social benefits and healthcare. Not to mention, it’s a great way to immigrate to Canada if that’s your end goal.
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- International Students: Your Ticket to Canada is the Elusive Canadian Study Permit (Here’s How to Get It)
But the road to permanent residency can seem complex, with lots of paperwork and waiting.
In this complete guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know. I’ll explain:
- The basics of permanent residency in Canada
- The eligibility criteria you must meet
- The different pathways you can take
- A step-by-step application process
- Tips to improve your chances
So if you want to transition smoothly from student to permanent resident, you’ll find all the details right here!
Let’s dive in.
What is Permanent Residency in Canada?
First things first – what exactly is permanent residency?
Permanent residency (PR) is an immigration status that allows you to live permanently in Canada as a landed immigrant. It’s one step below Canadian citizenship.
As a permanent resident, you’ll get an ID card called a Permanent Resident card. This allows you to:
- Live and work anywhere in Canada without needing a work permit
- Access social benefits and healthcare
- Apply for Canadian citizenship after 3 years
- Get protection under Canadian law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- Travel freely in and out of Canada
The biggest perk of permanent residency is that it’s permanent! Unlike a student or work visa, your PR status doesn’t expire after a few years.
As long as you maintain your PR by living in Canada for 2 out of 5 years, it lasts a lifetime.
So in a nutshell, permanent residency gives you most of the benefits of Canadian citizenship, minus the passport and voting rights.
Now, as an international student, you may currently be in Canada on a study permit. This allows you to live here temporarily and study at a designated school.
But a study permit is not permanent – it expires when you graduate. So you’ll need to transition from student status to permanent resident status if you want to continue living and working in Canada.
Luckily, there are several pathways for students to get permanent residency in Canada after graduation. The most popular options are:
- Express Entry – for skilled workers
- Provincial Nominee Programs
- Canadian Experience Class
- Family Sponsorship
I’ll break down each of these pathways in detail later on. But first, let’s talk about whether you’re eligible to apply as a former international student.
Are You Eligible for Permanent Residency in Canada?
To be eligible for permanent residency through the student pathway, you must meet certain criteria set by the Canadian government.
First, you must have completed an eligible program of study at a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada.
- Degree/diploma programs at universities, colleges, CEGEPs
- Certificate programs of at least 8 months in length
- Master’s or Ph.D programs
- Secondary or post-secondary school programs of at least 6 months
In addition, your program must have been a recognized full-time program. Distance learning and online courses don’t count.
If possible, it’s recommended to complete a program that is at least 2 years long. This gives you more points for Express Entry (which I’ll explain later).
Gaining Canadian work experience can significantly boost your chances of getting permanent residency after graduating.
Through the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program, you can work in Canada for up to 3 years after finishing your studies.
I highly recommend taking advantage of this! Canadian work experience helps in two major ways:
- It’s mandatory for pathways like the Canadian Experience Class
- It can help substantially increase your ranking points for Express Entry
Aim to get skilled professional work experience related to your field of study. This could include:
- Professional jobs (engineer, accountant, etc.)
- Technical jobs (programmer, technician, etc.)
- Skilled trade jobs (electrician, welder, etc.)
Even unskilled work like retail, hospitality or food service counts. But professional work experience gives you way more points.
You must be proficient in either English or French to qualify for permanent residency.
For Express Entry, you’ll need to take a standardized language test like IELTS or CELPIP. Here are the minimum scores required:
- Listening: 6.0
- Reading: 6.0
- Writing: 6.0
- Speaking: 6.0
- Listening: 7.0
- Reading: 7.0
- Writing: 7.0
- Speaking: 7.0
Higher scores mean more Express Entry points, so aim for 8s or 9s if possible!
To convince immigration officials you can support yourself, you must prove you have adequate funds. This includes:
- Enough money to pay for living expenses for 6 months for you (and your spouse if applicable)
- Enough funds to cover return transportation for you and your dependents
- No debts with a combined total above your funds
Documents to show proof of funds include:
- Bank statements
- Fixed-term deposit notes
- Proof of student or education loans
- Letters of financial support from parents
The exact amounts required depend on your household size. A single applicant needs around $10,000-$12,500 CAD.
Medical and Criminal Checks
As a standard part of the process, you’ll need to pass a medical exam and criminal record check.
The medical exam looks for conditions that could pose a public health/safety risk. It also checks if you’d place excessive demand on Canadian social services.
Criminal checks look at any past convictions or violations of law. Minor offenses like small fines usually aren’t a big issue. But serious or recent crimes can make you inadmissible.
Meeting all the above criteria is essential for permanent residency eligibility. Now let’s move on to the exciting part…
Pathways to Get Permanent Residency After Graduating
Alright, you know the basic eligibility requirements. Next comes choosing the right pathway for turning your student status into permanent residency.
As mentioned earlier, there are 4 main options:
1. Express Entry
Express Entry is the main system for getting PR through economic immigration programs. It uses a points-based system called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).
Here’s a quick overview of how it works:
1: Create an online Express Entry profile
2: Get ranked based on your CRS score
3: Get invited to apply for PR if your score is high enough
4: Submit your PR application within 90 days
Express Entry draws happen every few weeks. The minimum CRS cutoff score for invitations varies each round depending on competition.
Lately, it’s been around 470 points.
As an international student, you can maximize your CRS score through:
- Age (you get more points if you’re under 30)
- Education credentials
- Study duration in Canada
- Canadian work experience
- Language ability
- Arranged employment
- Provincial/territorial nomination
Express Entry is definitely your best bet for getting PR quickly after graduation.
2. Provincial Nominee Programs
Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) allow Canadian provinces and territories to nominate immigrants based on local labor market needs.
Each province has its own unique PNP streams, but there is one specifically for international students in many provinces.
For example, Ontario has the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) that lets students/grads apply directly to the province for PR.
You don’t need a job offer to be eligible. And if you get nominated, it guarantees you will get permanent residency.
So researching PNPs in the province where you studied can be a great option.
3. Canadian Experience Class
The Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program is designed for skilled workers with Canadian work experience.
To be eligible as a former international student, you must have:
- At least 1 year of skilled, professional work experience in Canada
- A valid Canadian educational credential
- Advanced language skills (CLB/NCLC level 7)
CEC is a great choice if you manage to get solid professional experience through the PGWP program.
You’ll need to create an Express Entry profile and enter the CEC candidate pool. Then you can get invited to apply through regular CEC-specific draws.
4. Family Sponsorship
If you have a family member who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you may be eligible for family sponsorship.
This includes sponsorship by a:
- Spouse or common-law partner
- Sibling, nephew, niece, grandchild
Sponsored family members can apply directly for permanent residency, without needing to go through Express Entry.
Just make sure your sponsor meets the income requirements and is willing to support you financially when you arrive.
Step-by-Step Guide to Applying for Permanent Residency in Canada
Now you know the various pathways for turning student status into permanent residency in Canada.
Next, I’ll outline the step-by-step application process for going through Express Entry, PNPs, and CEC.
Express Entry Application Process
1: Create Your Online Profile
- Go to the Express Entry website and click “Start my profile”
- Answer questions about your skills, education, language ability, work experience, etc.
- Include all relevant reference numbers (ex. IELTS number)
2: Calculate Your CRS Score
- The Express Entry system will calculate your total CRS score
- The higher your score, the better chance of getting an ITA
3: Improve Your Ranking
- Research ways to increase your score
- Some options:
- Take language tests to improve English/French skills
- Get an educational credential assessment
- Find a job offer in Canada
4: Wait for an ITA
- ITAs are issued for the highest ranked candidates
- Minimum score cutoffs vary from draw to draw
- You can wait in the pool for up to one year
5: Submit Your Application
- If invited, you have 90 days to submit your electronic application
- You’ll need to complete forms and upload supporting documents
6: Get your PR Visa Issued!
- If approved, you’ll be issued a Confirmation of Permanent Residence
- This allows you to obtain your PR visa and become a permanent resident
Provincial Nominee Program Process
1: Research PNPs
- Find PNP streams in your province for international students
- Check their eligibility criteria and application steps
2: Apply to Your Chosen PNP
- Submit your application directly to the PNP office
- Each stream has its own process and documents list
3: Get Your Nomination
- If nominated, the province will send you a nomination certificate
- This guarantees you’ll get PR if you meet health/security requirements
4: Submit Your PR Application
- After nomination, apply for PR through Express Entry
- Having a nomination adds 600 points to your CRS score!
Canadian Experience Class Process
1: Get 1 Year of Skilled Work Experience
- Make sure your work is considered “skilled” (NOC 0, A, B jobs)
- Full time (30+ hours/week)
- Paid work (authorized self-employment)
2: Take Language Tests
- Get CELPIP or IELTS results showing CLB Level 7+
- This proves advanced English/French ability
3: Create an Express Entry Profile
- Enter the CEC candidate pool
- Check regularly for CEC-specific draws
4: Get an ITA and Submit Application
- Wait to get an ITA in a CEC-only draw
- Submit your e-application within 90 days
5: Get your Permanent Resident Visa!
- If approved, you’ll be sent your CoPR
- Use this to get your PR card from IRCC
And that’s the basics of navigating the PR application process after finishing studies in Canada!
Now let’s move on to some tips for creating the strongest application possible.
Application Documents Checklist
A complete permanent resident application includes a ton of forms and supporting documents.
Here’s a checklist of what you’ll need:
- Application for Permanent Residence
- Additional Dependants/Family Information Form
- Schedule A: Background/Declaration
- Schedule B: Provincial Nomination Certificate (if applicable)
- Birth certificate
- Travel documents
- Marriage certificate (if applicable)
- Divorce/separation/death certificates (if applicable)
- Adoption papers (if applicable)
- Canadian academic transcripts
- Certificates/diplomas/degrees from completed programs
- Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) report
- IELTS, CELPIP, or TEF test results
- Test report numbers to enter in Express Entry profile
- Reference letters from employers
- T4 tax forms as proof of Canadian work experience
- Pay stubs/bank statements showing authorized self-employment
- Bank statements, fixed-term deposit notes
- Proof of income statements
- Loans/liabilities statements
- If supported by parents – their bank statements too
- Police certificates from every country lived in for 6+ months
- Medical exam results from your immigration medical exam
It’s a lot of paperwork, so start collecting documents early! Make sure to make certified copies rather than submitting originals.
Let’s wrap up with some final tips for your permanent residency application…
Helpful Application Tips & Strategies for Permanent Residency in Canada
Here are some tips to help avoid mistakes and create the strongest application possible:
- Start early – Compile your documents several months in advance. Rushing leads to errors.
- Check eligibility – Carefully review all criteria for your chosen PR pathway before applying.
- Show sufficient funds – Have at least 6 months living costs in your bank account.
- Avoid gaps – Be ready to explain any gaps in your study or work history.
- Check for mistakes – Review all forms/documents before submitting to avoid any errors.
- Respond promptly – If IRCC requests more information, respond within the deadline given.
- Write a strong SOP – Put time into writing a compelling Statement of Purpose to explain why you’ll succeed in Canada.
- Get help if needed – Consider hiring an immigration consultant to review your application.
The Waiting Game – Prepare for Some Delay
Once you submit your PR application, all you can do is wait for it to be processed.
Current processing times average around 6 months. But it can take over a year in some cases.
Applicants from certain countries may face longer security checks.
While you wait, make sure your contact information is up to date in your IRCC account. Respond to any requests for additional documents/information promptly.
The Finish Line – It’s Time to Celebrate!
If approved, you’ll get your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR) via mail or email. This is your official approval notice.
Use your CoPR to get your PR card – the final step to becoming a permanent resident!
You can look forward to all the amazing benefits of living permanently in Canada.
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Phew, that was a lot of information! Let’s recap the key points:
- Permanent residency allows you to immigrate permanently to Canada
- International students can transition to PR through Express Entry, PNPs, CEC or Family Sponsorship
- You must meet education, work experience, language and financial criteria
- Creating an Express Entry profile is the first step for most pathways
- Work on improving your CRS score to maximize your chances
- It’s crucial to gather and prepare documents thoroughly in advance
- Processing times are around 6 months, so patience is key
I hope this guide gives you the confidence to embark on your journey to permanent residency in Canada after graduation!
Let me know if you have any other questions. I’m happy to help however I can.
Best of luck!
Frequently Asked Questions About Permanent Residency in Canada
Q1: How long after graduation can I apply for permanent residency?
You can apply for permanent residency as soon as you get your post-graduation work permit. There is no minimum wait time, so you can apply right after finishing your studies in Canada.
Q2: Can I get PR directly through Express Entry after graduating?
Yes, Express Entry is the fastest and most common path to PR for international students. You create a profile, get ranked, and can potentially get invited to apply within months of finishing your studies.
Q3: What are the language test score requirements for Express Entry?
For Express Entry, you need a minimum score of CLB 7 in all areas of an approved test like IELTS or CELPIP. The higher your language scores, the more points you’ll get to improve your ranking.
Q4: How much money do I need to show for PR financial requirements?
You generally need to prove you have at least $10,000 CAD available. The amount depends on your household size. Funds can be shown through bank statements, fixed deposits, loans, etc.
Q5: Can I apply for PR from inside or outside Canada?
Most student pathways require you to apply for PR while inside Canada. Exceptions are sponsorship programs, which allow applications from either inside or outside Canada.
Q6: How long will it take to get PR after I apply?
The current processing time is around 6 months or more. Creating a complete application and responding promptly to any additional requests can help speed up processing.
Q7: Can I travel outside Canada while my PR application is in process?
Yes, you can usually travel in and out of Canada while your PR application is being processed. However, long absences could affect your eligibility when a decision is made.