International Students

Canada welcomes foreign students. According to the 2020 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, foreign students contributed more than $21.6 billion to Canada’s economy in 2018, and had a greater impact on Canada’s economy than exports of auto parts, lumber, or aircraft.

For foreign students, studying in Canada is often the first step towards much bigger things, like getting a job and immigrating to Canada as a Skilled Worker. There are many Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) in Canada that provide world class education, so the draw of learning from some of the best instructors in the world is also quite appealing for many foreign students.


In order to get a study permit, you must first have:

(a) A letter of acceptance from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)

(b) Sufficient funds to pay for living expenses

(c) Undergone a medical exam (unless exempt)

(d) Proof that you are a genuine student

For many students, (d) can sometimes be a challenge. Immigration officers will sometimes view factors such as age, lack of travel history, lack of a job in the home country, or financial circumstances to conclude that a person is not a genuine student, or would not leave Canada after his or her visa expired. At Lowe & Company, we proactively prepare to address these issues in advance to try to minimize potential objections.

How Many Foreign Students Are There in Canada, and Where Are They From?

The number of foreign students coming to Canada each year has increased dramatically over the last decade. In 2010, the Government of Canada issued 225,295 study permits to foreign students; this number has ramped up, year by year, up to a high of 638,960 people on study permits in Canada on December 31, 2019.

Foreign Students in Canada

More students arrive in Canada from India and China than any other country. In 2020, 180,275 foreign students came from India, while 116,935 arrived from China.

Foreign Students in Canada by Country
Country of Citizenship2020
China, People’s Republic of116,935
Korea, Republic of18,170
United States of America12,740
Total unique persons530,540

Can Foreign Students Immigrate to Canada after Graduation?

One common misconception, however, is that, after graduating, these students can automatically immigrate to Canada. That assumption would be misguided.

In December 2019, there were 638,960 foreign students in Canada. What few people know is that only a small number of these international graduates are actually able to immigrate. For example, in all of 2019, only 11,566 former study permit holders were granted permanent residence!

There are a number of reasons for these low totals. The Canadian government only accepts immigrants totalling about 1% of the population, or about 340,000 immigrants each year. This must be allocated between Family Sponsorships, Refugees, Caregivers, Foreign Workers, and others; so International Students are competing for positions!

Planning is Essential!

It is said that “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” To boost their chances of getting selected for permanent residence, it is crucial that foreign students plan ahead, even years ahead of graduation; if they don’t, they may lose out to others who do!

At Lowe & Company, we have helped many foreign students develop advantageous strategies ahead of applying for permanent residence. From determining which school or program to attend, your work or volunteer activities, your English or French language abilities, and other factors, we can help you assess, adjust, and improve your position and prospects.

If you are a foreign student considering permanent residence, we highly recommend getting in touch as early as possible so we can assess your situation, help you determine the optimal strategy, and help you plan for permanent residence. Book a Consultation.

Business Study Permit Strategy

For many foreign business people, starting a business in Canada can seem quite challenging—even overwhelming! They may not know the market, Canadian culture, business norms, Canadian laws, or have any contacts in Canada. If they have not been to Canada, or spent much time here, and do not understand the modern business landscape of the country, they will end up leaving a lot to luck and may easily get taken advantage of.

That’s why one of the strategies that we have developed for our business immigrant clients is the Business Study Permit Strategy. This allows you to come to Canada with your family, study business or other courses which will help you do business in Canada, and get a job or make minor investments until you are ready to take on substantial commitments.

Why Would I Want to Study in Canada?

By obtaining a study permit and studying in Canada, foreign business people can immerse themselves in Canada’s culture and get a first-hand view of Canadian lifestyle, including where Canadians shop and eat, what they read and watch, and so much more. All the while, they will be getting a Canadian education and interacting with fellow students, teachers, and others. In addition, they will earn valuable points under the Express Entry system for permanent residence.

Think of it like shopping for something online versus going to a store and actually getting to test it in-person. If shopping online, you run a huge risk if you have never actually held the product in your hand. You may even get scammed with a counterfeit product and you would not be able to tell the difference! Many immigrants are told that they should invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a particular business, that they will make a lot of money, and so on… but they are entirely reliant upon the consultant or lawyer telling them so!

Coming to Canada to study would be like going to the store, getting hands-on experience with the product, and learning from a professional what it is all about. It is important that you understand what you’re getting into, and, if you have a family, it could make or break their future if you dive into a foreign business deal blindly.

You can also get to know the community. Business immigrants overseas are often told that they can buy a business in a small town for cheap, then move to a big city after they acquire their visas. But many are shocked after they arrive to find that the town has only a few thousand people living there, and they are obligated to live there for 3 to 5 years! Coming ahead to scout out the town allows you to make informed decisions.

You can also bring your family to Canada while you are studying here. Your spouse or common law partner can work, and your children attend school which will help the whole family get established.

Going through this process to study in Canada allows foreign business people to eventually make more calculated business decisions, build their network, and simply become more accustomed to Canadian life. In essence, it would be like getting a head start instead of having to start from square one.

Where Should I Study in Canada?

It’s important for entrepreneurs, especially older students, to choose the right school, as well as the right programs. If you choose a program which is unsuitable for you, or you can’t logically explain why a particular program makes sense for you, the Immigration Officer may well determine that you are not a genuine student, and you may be denied your Study Permit.

Also, even if you do get your Study Permit, would a 45 year old seasoned business person really want to be studying in a class with a group of twenty year old classmates with little business or life experience?

Lowe & Company has assisted many mature students find school programs which are suitable for the Business Study Permit Strategy. Book a Consultation to find out if this strategy is workable for you!

Can I Work or Start a Business While Studying in Canada?

Yes! With the right kind of Study Permit, you can work up to 20 hours a week while school is in session and full-time during scheduled breaks.

In fact, you can even start your own business, or buy a business, free from any restrictions such as minimum investment, hiring a minimum number of employees, and so on. That allows you to “test the waters” on a small scale with limited financial commitment until you can really understand the Canadian market and opportunities.

Do note that where you are allowed to work will vary.

Can I Work or Start a Business after I Have Finished Studying in Canada?

If the Designated Learning Institution (DLI) you attended offers Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWP), you can remain in Canada to work with a Post-Grad Work Permit for up to three years, depending on how long your program was.

  • For a 1 year study program, you can get a 1 year Post-Graduation Work Permit
  • For a 2 year or longer study program, you can get a 3 year Post-Graduation Work Permit

With a Post-Graduation Work Permit, you can get a job, start your own business, or go into partnership with others. In doing so, you can prepare to apply as a Business Immigrant under programs like the BC Entrepreneur PNP Programs or the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Entrepreneur Program, or the Canadian Business Experience Strategy.

Can My Spouse Work or Start a Business in Canada?

If you have the right kind of study permit, your spouse or common-law partner can get an “open work permit,” which allows him or her to work in Canada for any job, or even start their own business.

Again, if starting a business with an open work permit, they will not be limited by minimum investment amounts or a minimum amount of employees to be hired. In fact, this could be a good testing opportunity for many business immigrant families!

Can I Bring My Kids to Canada?

Yes! We can help acquire study permits for your children in primary or secondary school. In many provinces, such as British Columbia, they may be exempt from international student fees for primary or secondary school, resulting in significant cost savings.

At Lowe & Company, we have used our Study Permit Strategy to assist business immigrant clients for over 15 years. This allows our clients and their families to get settled in Canada quickly, learn about the business environment in Canada, and make educated investments of their time as well as money! To find out if this strategy is suitable for you, request a consultation.

Working in Canada

Foreign students can work in Canada while they are studying full-time. If they have a valid study permit that allows them to work while studying, they may be able to work off campus for up to 20 hours a week while school is in session and full-time during scheduled breaks.

It is crucial that foreign students make the best of their ability to work in Canada, learning valuable skills and meeting with potential employers. This can be critical in obtaining a job offer or starting a business after graduation.

Working On-Campus

As a study permit holder, foreign students may be eligible to work on their school’s campus if they are studying full-time at:

  • A public post-secondary school, such as a college, university or CEGEP in Quebec;
  • A private college-level school in Quebec operating under the same rules as public schools and is at least 50% funded by government grants, or
  • A Canadian private school that legally awards degrees under provincial law.

They cannot work on-campus if their study program has ended and they are not studying full-time, if their study permit has expired, if they are on an authorized leave from their studies, or if they are switching schools and are not currently studying.

Working Off Campus

Study permit holders are allowed to work off campus for up to 20 hours per week while in school, and full-time during scheduled breaks, if they meet the following requirements:

  • They are studying full-time at an eligible Designated Learning Institution,
  • They are enrolled in a post-secondary academic, vocational, or professional training program (or, in Quebec, a secondary-level vocational training program),
  • Their study program is at least 6 months long and will award a degree, diploma, or certificate, and
  • They have already started studying.

Foreign students cannot work off campus if:

  • They are on an authorized leave from their studies, or if they are switching schools and not currently studying,
  • Their study permit says they are not authorized to work off campus while studying,
  • They are only enrolled in an ESL or FSL program (English as a second language / French as a second language),
  • They are only taking general interest courses,
  • They are only taking courses required to be accepted into a full-time program, or
  • Their situation changes and they no longer meet all of the requirements to work off campus.

Post-Graduation Work Permits

If you wish to work in Canada after you have graduated, you will need to look for a Designated Learning Institution that offers programs eligible for “PGWPs,” or Post-Graduation Work Permits. The options will vary based on which institute you attend and where it is located. For example, in the province of British Columbia, there are 265 Designated Learning Institutions as of September 1st, 2021. Of those 265, only 62 actually offer programs eligible for Post-Graduation Work Permits.

The length of the Post-Graduation Work Permit you can get from a Designated Learning Institute will depend on the length of your study program. For example:

  • For a 1 year study program, you can get a 1 year Post-Graduation Work Permit
  • For a 2 year or longer study program, you can get a 3 year Post-Graduation Work Permit

Can My Spouse or Common-Law Partner Work in Canada?

If you have the right kind of study permit, your spouse or common-law partner can get an “open work permit,” which allows him or her to work in Canada for any job, or even start their own business. This is very useful for many foreign students to support their studies.

From choosing the right school, to working in Canada, to planning for permanent residence, Lowe & Company has been helping people come to Canada to work, study, invest, and immigrate since 1990. Request a consultation to find out how we can help you on your journey to Canada!

Can You Really Immigrate to Canada After Graduation?

Yes, it’s possible to immigrate to Canada via Express Entry after you graduate. However, before you jump headfirst into the process and start applying for programs at Canadian institutions, there are a few things you should be aware of.

What Do the Stats Say?

Every year, the Canadian government generally admits roughly 1% of Canada’s current population in immigrants. That means that, if Canada’s population is 34 million, they will admit 340,000 immigrants during the year.

Of the immigrants admitted, roughly half of them belong to one of the Skilled Worker categories (Federal Skilled Workers, Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Trades, or Provincial Nominees). The other half are primarily made up of sponsored spouses and children, parents and grandparents, or refugees.

Most foreign students would need to apply to immigrate under one of the Skilled Worker categories, for which there were about 170,000 positions; however, these include spouses and dependent children, so the actual number of principal applicants is less than 85,000.

Besides foreign students, there are also foreign workers in Canada who also want to immigrate, and hundreds of thousands of potential immigrants in their home countries all vying for one of the coveted 85,000 spots.

Less than 12,000 Former Graduates Qualified in 2019!

In 2019, 11,566 former study permit holders were granted permanent residency. That is a small fraction of the 638,000 foreign students in Canada in 2019, which would suggest that obtaining permanent residence after graduating is far less likely than most students realize!

We can help with that.

Why Is It Difficult to Gain Permanent Residence after Graduation?

Much of the reason that it’s difficult to get permanent residence for international graduates is that, often, many of them haven’t planned ahead for permanent residence. The process isn’t as simple as graduating and then applying for permanent residence. They must enter themselves into the Express Entry system to be selected to apply for permanent residence, like any other applicant.

As noted above, very few foreign students are granted permanent residence each year. However, if they remain in Canada with a Post-Graduation Work Permit and are able to use that time to bolster their Express Entry profile, they can optimize their chances of getting selected for permanent residence.

Some provinces have streams specifically designed for graduates and postgraduates. There are also the Provincial Nominee Programs, for which international postgraduates do not need a job offer.

To have the best chance at permanent residence in Canada, international students must start preparing years in advance, which is why it’s best to consult with us as early as possible. We can analyze their situation and their goals, developing a strategy that will give them an advantage heading into the permanent residence application process after graduation. Request a Consultation.

Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs)

In order to apply for a study permit, you first need a letter of acceptance from a government-approved school that admits international students. These are called Designated Learning Institutions, or “DLIs.” There are 2 kinds of DLI’s: those which have programs eligible for Post Graduation Work Permits (“PGWPs”), and those which do not.

The Importance of PGWP-Eligible DLIs

If you are looking to stay in Canada after you have graduated from your study program, you will want to look for a DLI that offers PGWP eligible programs. In the province of British Columbia, there were 265 Designated Learning Institutions as of September 1st, 2021; however, out of these, only 62 of them actually offer PGWP eligible programs.

The length of the Post-Graduation Work Permit you can get from a Designated Learning Institute will depend on the length of your study program.

  • For a 1 year study program, you can get a 1 year Post-Graduation Work Permit
  • For a 2 year or longer study program, you can get a 3 year Post-Graduation Work Permit

In some cases, courses of study which are the equivalent of 2 year programs may be as short as 18 months or less if you don’t take a break between semesters, and may still be eligible for a 3 year PGWP.

Can I Change Schools After I Arrive in Canada?

In most cases, yes, though you would need to comply with any conditions on your Study Permit. This is important to know because, if you get to your original school, and find out that this is not what you were promised, you may need to study elsewhere. Often, getting a refund may be difficult, however, so it is best if you can enrol in a good DLI from the outset

We have advised students who have wasted years of their schooling and substantial monies studying at DLI’s, only to find that they are in not eligible for a PGWP or advancing their goal of Permanent Residence.

At Lowe & Company, we have helped international students since 1990 choose or change their DLI’s and advance their goal of Permanent Residence. Find out how we can help you: Request a Consultation.