Studying Opens the Door to Canada
By: Kerry Molitor
I am a 28-year-old Software Engineer living overseas. My husband and I want to come to Canada under Express Entry, but his score is only 362 and mine is 385. Our friend in Canada said we might be able to immigrate as international students. How does that work? Can our six-year-old son come with us?
One of the most frequent inquiries I get is from people overseas who want to apply for permanent residence in Canada through Express Entry. As you know, to qualify for Express Entry a person must score a certain number of points that are based on personal characteristics such as language ability, education, work experience, and age. The number of points assigned greatly increases if an applicant has previously worked or studied in Canada. Right now Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is accepting Express Entry candidates with scores above 450. With a score of 385, your chances of being selected are quite low.
The easiest way to gain a significant number of Express Entry points is to have a Canadian education and/or Canadian work experience. As it is difficult for most foreign nationals to gain work experience in Canada, when someone with a low Express Entry score contacts me I often suggest they study in Canada. A Canadian education gives them additional points and often leads to Canadian work experience.
For a Canadian education to count towards permanent residence you will need to study full time in a program that leads to a post-secondary certificate, diploma, or degree. Although you have the choice between a public/private college or public/private university, you must ensure that the school is approved for international students by IRCC. Approved schools are called Designated Learning Institutions. You can apply to programs on your own, through an immigration representative, or through an education agent who works with specific schools.
Once you have an acceptance letter you will need to complete the mandatory forms and collect mandatory and supporting documents. IRCC will weigh the evidence against two factors: can you afford to study in Canada and will you return to your home country after completing your studies?
Of course your plan is to stay in Canada after completing your studies, so the challenge is to convince an immigration officer that you will return home if you are asked to do so. There are various ways to demonstrate this, including showing that you have family members still living overseas.
Studying in Canada is expensive. Tuition costs can range from about $12,000 per year to over $25,000 per year. You and your husband should also expect to spend a minimum of $1,000 per month on living expenses like rent, food, and transportation. People invest this amount of money in a foreign education because there are big benefits to studying in Canada.
First, your study permit will act as an open work permit that allows you to work in most types of jobs without needing a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). You can work up to 20 hours per week during class time and unlimited hours on school breaks such as summer vacation.
Your husband will be entitled to an open work permit too. His work permit will not be restricted to 20 hours per week, so he can work full time. Once he can prove that he has a full time job that will last more than six months, your family will be able to apply for free public health coverage. This is the rule for Ontario and health care eligibility varies by province. Finally, your son will be entitled to study permit allowing him to attend public school for free while you remain a full time student.
Once you graduate with a certificate, diploma, or degree you will be entitled to a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP), which is another type of open work permit. You can work unlimited hours on a PGWP. If you work full time in a skilled job after graduation, your spouse will be given a new open work permit. Your son can also continue to attend school during this time.
A PGWP is issued for a time period that matches the length of time you studied. For example, an eight month program will get you an eight month PGWP (this is the minimum length of time allowed). A one year program will get you a one year PGWP. When you graduate from a program of two years or more you get a three year PGWP. After you or your spouse works for a full time skilled job in Canada for a year or more, your family will likely score enough points to be issued an Invitation to Apply under Express Entry.
The advice given above is general information only. Please contact us for more detailed advice before starting your journey to Canada as an international student.