International Students, Immigration, and IELTS: FAQs in the Canadian Context

December 13, 2018 by Tony Rusinak Tony Rusinak

Almost 500,000 international students are studying in Canada now, and there is good reason for it.

Canada's education system is excellent, and it has a great reputation internationally. Canadians are welcoming to international students. Canada is safe, our environment is clean, and people are generally treated equally. On top of that, international students choose Canada because it has opportunities to stay here and opportunities to work here.

In other words, international students are in a good position to immigrate. The Canadian government prefers students from abroad for several reasons. They are educated. Most already have experience living and working in Canada. Also, most have good English or French skills. One of the top ways students prove English skills for immigration applications to Canada is IELTS. A high IELTS score will certainly improve immigration approval chances. So, as you can see, working, living, studying, and a higher IELTS score are key to the pathway from international student to Canadian immigrant. Let's have a look at some more specifics on this.

Can international students who just study English work in Canada?
In general, students only studying at a language school, or only studying ESL, aren't allowed to work. Sometimes there's a way to do this. For example, if you are here on the 'working holiday' visa, you may be able to work. This is most common with visiting students from Japan and Korea who are here on the International experience visa. In the end, though, most students who are here on just a language learning study permit or are on their way to university in Canada, are not allowed to work.

Can international students at a Canadian university work?

Woman handing coffee cup to customer in cafe. Coffee shop counter, service, coffee bar.

The simple answer is yes. In general, full-time university students at a designated learning institution (DLI) can work. DLIs are schools that the Canadian Government has approved to offer study permits. Most universities and many colleges in Canada are in this category. In terms of hours, the general rule is full-time students can work 20 hours during study, and 40 hours during study breaks.

How can international students get a work permit?

Rearview shot of a student on graduation day

As we saw in the question above, while you are in university, your study permit will allow you to work. However, there is an awesome program that allows international students to get a work permit after graduation. Most people know this as the PGWP or the Post-Graduate Work Permit. If you have completed a Canadian university degree, you'll be able to apply for this. The PGWP allows you to work between one and three years. A really important thing to remember about this is that it gives you Canadian work experience. So, if you plan to apply for your PR (Permanent Residency), the PGWP experience could be a big part of that application.

How do international students get their PR? Try the CEC!
PR means permanent residence, as we saw above. The CEC means Canadian Experience Class. So, what is this? The CEC is an immigration program specifically made for international students. If you graduate from a Canadian university, get some skilled experience in the Canadian workforce, and have good language skills, you might qualify. Be sure to check the details for this one. It's a great pathway for those who want to both study and immigrate to Canada.

Are there any other ways for international students to immigrate to Canada?
The CEC is the most popular way for international students to immigrate. However, there are dozens and dozens of other ways to apply to immigrate to Canada, too. One common way is the spousal sponsorship, which is for those who fall in love with and marry a Canadian. Another are Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP). These are programs that the provinces design themselves. There are some very cool PNPs like the Nova Scotia International Graduate Entrepreneur Stream. This is for recent graduates who want to start their own business. Another good example is Employer Job Offer: International Student Stream in Ontario. This stream can get you your PR and is aimed at university students from abroad.

Is a PR a citizen?

A permanent resident is not a Canadian citizen. However, it is the final step to becoming one and allows you to live, work, and study here for as long as you want. If you follow the conditions (the rules), you can apply to be a citizen after a few years with your PR.

Almost every immigration application asks for a language score, what are the specifics?
The best way to provide Canadian immigration with a language score is to give them an up-to-date IELTS score. Remember, if your language test score is more than two years old, it may not be valid. Also, make sure you have the right exam. For immigration, you will need an IELTS General Exam – the IELTS Academic Exam is not used for immigration purposes.

Where is the best place to get more information?
Immigration is serious business. Applications requirements are strict. The laws and program details are often changing. The most trustworthy source of info for immigration is the IRCC website. For IELTS, the best info is on the IDP IELTS Canada website. Finally, if you are lucky, you will have a licensed immigration advisor (RCIC) at your school to help you, too.


There you have it. If you want to both study and immigrate to Canada, you have lots of options. Remember to always check the specifics of your program with the government websites, your student advisors, and IRCC licensed experts. With the right plan and some hard work, a Canadian life might be just around the corner.



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