Best Country for Foreign Students—450,000 International Students in Canada in 2021

A record 450,000 study permits took effect in Canada in 2021. The ‘taking effect’ number includes students entering Canada from abroad as those already in Canada now applying for a permit to study in the country.

This number is very significant for multiple reasons. The previous record year was 2019 that saw around 400,000 study permits taking effect. 2020 was not a normal year since the pandemic was a huge disruption across the entire globe.

So, looking at 2019 to 2021 and excluding the exception of 2020 indicates that Canada has become an even more popular study destination for foreign students.

Further, the 2021 number is almost double the number of study permits that took effect in 2015. So, Canada’s popularity among foreign students is not a recent phenomenon. There has been a steady increase in the international student population of Canada over the past 5-7 years.

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As of 31st December 2021, Canada had around 622,000 international students compared to the 640,000 foreign students it had in 2019.

These numbers clearly highlight a very important point—Canada is THE preferred destination for foreign students. And for all the right reasons too.

Canada is not the cheapest country to study in the world. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to an exodus of Indian medical students studying in the country. The primary reason why these students chose Ukraine was that it was significantly cheaper to become a doctor in Ukraine as compared to India.

Although not as expensive as the US, Canada isn’t a low-cost study destination, which means there are other reasons why foreign students are ready to pay top dollar to study in Canada.

Best Post-Study Work Opportunities

While quality of education is an important factor, the primary reason why foreign students love to study in Canada is its pro-immigration government policies combined with scores of immigration options, especially for skilled workers and international students.

A Canadian degree is an investment for any student coming from outside Canada and nothing makes it more worthwhile than a shot at working in a high-paying job in Canada itself. Obviously, you need to have the necessary educational qualifications and other in-demand skills to qualify for the job.

But skills and education apart, a skilled worker will also need a work permit to work abroad. This is where Canada scores over all other developed countries. If the international student studies from a Designated Learning Institute in an eligible course, then he/she can qualify for a LMIA-exempt open work permit called the Post Graduation Work Permit.

The PGWP Advantage

Valid for up to three years, the PGWP is a big deal because it allows employers to hire foreign workers without the complicated Labor Market Impact Assessment process as well as the $1000 LMIA fee.

Once the international graduate has one year of work experience, he or she can qualify for permanent residence through either the Canadian Experience Class program or the Federal Skilled Worker Program through Express Entry.

Even if the PGWP were to be taken out of the equation, the student still has multiple work permit and immigration opportunities in Canada.

PNP Options

Many provinces have setup PR streams for international graduates under their respective Provincial Nomination Programs. A student graduating from the Atlantic provinces has the option of qualifying for PR through the International Graduate stream of the Atlantic Immigration Program.

Entrepreneur Route

Students also have the option of becoming an entrepreneur and qualifying for PR through either the Federal Startup visa program or the International Student Entrepreneur programs in different provinces. Of course, PNP nomination is possible only if the student chooses the right province to study.

Work Permits

Finally, there are other work permit options for international graduates. One LMIA-exempt option is the Francophone work permit that’s open to foreigners proficient in French. And the LMIA-mandatory work permit under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program too is an option for somebody who is unable to qualify for any other work permit or PR program in Canada.

In addition to these options, the international graduate has the option of continuing studies in Canada and exploring the various work permit and PR routes after getting the advanced degree.

The best thing about Canada is that these attractive post-study work options don’t come at the cost of quality of education. Canada ranks among the top destinations for quality education, which means you just cannot go wrong with your decision to study in Canada.

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