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What School Should I Choose for My Student Visa?

There are a lot of benefits to studying in Canada, but it is important to plan ahead and select the right program to prepare for a great future in Canada. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of studying in Canada, how to select a post-secondary institution (a college or university), working in Canada after your studies, how to pursue post-secondary in Canada (if you already have a diploma from a college or university in your home country), and finally, we will look in detail at how to apply for college or university.

Benefits of Studying in Canada

High-Quality Education
Canadian universities and colleges are also some of the top-ranked in the world. According to the 2021 QS rankings, there are seven universities in the top 200 universities in the world, with The University of Toronto, McGill University, and The University of British Columbia in the top 50 schools! Choosing to study at a Canadian college or university is making the choice of high-quality education. Colleges in Canada have the benefit of preparing you more directly to work in a specific field or career such as Information Technology, legal assistant, nursing, etc.

Low Tuition Rates
Another benefit of Canadian universities and colleges is the comparatively low tuition rates. In comparison to other English-speaking post-secondary institutions, Canada’s tuition rates for colleges and universities are more affordable by a significant margin, with a college program typically costing between 2/3 and 1/2 of tuition for university programs. In addition, our dollar is significantly lower than in other countries typically hovering between 0.60 USD – 0.80 USD. This means that Canada is a good choice for a lower cost of living for prospective students, particularly if they are from a country with a fluctuating currency. Both factors, coupled with the high international ranking of Canadian universities, mean that students will get a high quality of education for a more affordable cost, compared to studying at an American or British university.

Work Opportunities
Another significant financial benefit of pursuing your education in Canada is the fact that you are able to work during your studies and in study breaks. Your study permit allows you to work part-time on campus as a teaching assistant, research assistant, or student worker. You are also able to work for up to 20 hours per week off-campus. During school breaks (if you are a full-time enrolled student on either side of the break) then you may work off-campus full time.

If you are in Canada on a study permit for an ESL or FSL (English or French as a Second Language) program at a language school, then your study permit does not authorize you to work off-campus. The ability and flexibility to have a part-time job while in Canada studying is a huge benefit to prospective international students. It both provides an additional financial resource for students and gives the people the opportunity to experience the Canadian labour market.

Diverse Campus Environment
Studying in Canada has many benefits: a welcoming country, international prestige, and relatively low tuition costs. These advantages are coupled with a clear path to permanent residence through the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program. We will begin today by discussing some of the benefits of Canadian education. A big benefit is Canada as a place overall; Canada is a nation of immigrants and so Canadian society is generally quite welcoming, warm, and friendly. Canada is also a diverse society with respect for human rights. Living in Canada, you will find a warm community of people surrounding you. Canadian universities and colleges foster a welcoming environment on their campuses. Canadian universities have a large international student population and programming to help international students adjust to studying in Canada. For example, at the University of Toronto, the Centre for International Experience offers a variety of programs and services for students who are new to Canada, providing everything from immigration support, to English language help, to organized social activities. Most Canadian universities and colleges have places and programs like this available for international students to help students feel welcomed and adjust to life in Canada.

What is a Designated Learning Institution?

An important part of studying in Canada is confirming that you are doing so at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). This means that the school is approved to accept international students. To keep track of each school, they are assigned a DLI number.  In order to receive a study permit to come to Canada, you must first apply to study at a designated learning institution. In Canada, all accredited primary and secondary schools (elementary, middle, and high schools) are designated learning institutions, and a list of college, English/French language, and university DLIs and their numbers can be found here.

Once you have been accepted into the college or university of your choosing, then you will use your acceptance letter from the school to obtain your study permit. If you are accepted into a school that does not have a DLI number then you cannot apply for a study permit visa or come to Canada to study at this school. The acceptance letter needs to contain certain information, a complete list of what must be on the acceptance letter from the DLI, and a sample letter of acceptance is available here. Because of all this, your acceptance letter is very important, and you must keep it safe to apply for your study permit and come to Canada.

Your acceptance letter is also important if you ever need to renew your study permit, a possibility if you end up in Canada for an extended period. You may also need to supply a letter that proves that you are enrolled in the designated learning institution, or a transcript with your grades to renew your permit. The list of Designated Learning Institutions is also significant for applying for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program and rest assured we will discuss this in the next section.

Immigration Strategy: Student to Worker to Permanent Resident

After you complete your studies in Canada, you may be eligible for the post-graduation work permit program (PGWPP), which allows you to apply for a work permit, lasting anywhere from 1-3 years. This depends on your designated learning institution (the university or college where you study) as well as the length of your program of study. If you take a one-year program, you will be eligible for a one-year work permit, and if your program is two or more years, you are eligible for a three-year work permit.

The designated learning institution list shows whether you will qualify for a Post-graduate Work Permit (PGWP) following your studies, with the ability to search for the institution by province or territory. Typically, if you study at a language school or private career college, you are ineligible for a PGWP. But if you study at a public university or college, then you can apply for a work permit upon the completion of your studies. You can confirm whether or not you will qualify for a PGWP following graduation from your school by checking the Designated Learning Institution List. It is strongly recommended to always choose a program that has the PGWP option to ensure you always have that option to work in Canada and eventually apply for PR, if you chose to do so.

A PGWP is an open work permit, which means that it is not tied to any employer and can work for whoever you want. This is important because if you plan to apply for PR under Canadian Experience Class (CEC) under the Express Entry Program, you need to have Canadian work experience at either NOC Skill Type 0 or NOC Skill Level A or B, these are management, professional, or technical jobs. The PGWPP provides an excellent opportunity to gain this work experience and prepare your application for permanent resident. While you are waiting for your open work permit under the PGWPP, you are allowed to work, provided you were a holder of a valid study permit at the time that you applied for the program, were a full-time student enrolled at a DLI in post-secondary academic, vocational, or professional training, were authorized to work off-campus under your study program, and did not exceed the hours of work permitted by the study permit.

Once you acquire at least one year of skilled work experience, you may be eligible to apply for permanent resident status through the CEC program. You must also take into consideration the other basic eligibility requirements for CEC. Remember: Your work experience needs to be a skilled job to qualify for this program, which is a Skill level 0, type A or B.

The government is dedicated to bringing international students into Canada and keeping them here, so they can work after their studies and flourish in Canada. We have seen in the last few Express Entry rounds of invitations that the Government of Canada wants to keep workers and students in Canada.

Studying in Canada as a Mature Learner

A very common path to both permanent residence and to developing a career in Canada is to attend post-secondary education in Canada as a mature learner. This may mean that you are an older adult who already has an established career in your home country, but to immigrate to Canada, you will come to Canada first as a student in a field related to your field of work, to obtain both accreditations to work in your field in Canada and establish Canadian work experience. For example, if you are a nurse in your home country, you might study nursing or practical nursing in a college or university in Canada. Approximately 16% of international students are mature learners (students over the age of 25 years old).

Many people choose the student pathway if their CRS scores for Express Entry are not high enough for an Invitation to Apply. This is a great strategy and pathway to Permanent Residency if the direct pathway does not work for you, whether it be because of your age or lack of foreign education. Education in Canada can award you extra points for another degree/diploma (depending on your previous education), extra points for studying in Canada, and points if you work in Canada after your study.

Choosing a School to Complement Your Skills

It is so important for incoming students to choose a proper school and program. If you already have a foreign education or a long history of work experience, the officer evaluating your file will consider this when approving your study permit. A common reason for refusal is that the officer is not satisfied the applicant has a reason to study in Canada or their reason to study is genuine. It is necessary to pick a program that is different than your experience but also compliments the previous education and will develop your professional life.

For example, if an applicant who has a Bachelor’s degree in marketing and two years of experience as a Marketing Coordinator applies for a marketing program diploma in Canada, the officer will question their need to study in Canada when they already have educational and professional experience. A good option for this student would be the Fashion Management and Marketing Program at Fanshawe College. Why this program? Well, the student has that background in marketing but has always had a love for fashion and repurposes clothes for her local thrift shop in her spare time. This is a perfect program to complement her degree and experience but also broaden her skill set.

Final Thoughts

Today we’ve explored the benefits of pursuing a college or university education in Canada and how to plan your studies here. You must choose to study in Canada at a Designated Learning Institution. This is the only way that you can come to Canada on a student visa. If you choose to study at a college or university in Canada, then you will qualify for the Post Graduation Work Permit Program. Establishing work experience in Canada is a great way to begin on your path to becoming a permanent resident.

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