Canada has become an increasingly attractive study destination for international students. In the last 10 years, the number of foreign students has doubled, making Canada one of the most popular destinations among international students in the world.
Education institutions and the different levels of government are now working closely to help overseas students with Canadian credentials apply for permanent residency in Canada, if they wish to do so.
Typically, half of the international post-secondary students studying in Canada submit requests for permanent residency after graduation. Through the help of programmes like the ‘Canadian Experience Class’ and the ‘Provincial Nominee Programmes’, about 86 per cent of these applications are approved.
The ‘Canadian Experience Class’ is a federal programme directly targeting foreign students’ transition to permanent residency. Introduced in 2008, the Canadian Experience Class allows international students to make an easier transition to permanent residency. As a result, post-secondary institutions are now key factors in Canada’s immigration system. The federal government projects granting permanent residency to up to 25,000 immigrants a year (for both international students and temporary foreign workers) by 2014.
Attracting overseas students to Canada is a priority at all levels of the government and educational institutions. International students contribute approximately C$6.5 billion (US$6.4 billion) to the Canadian economy not to mention intangibles to which a price tag cannot be placed such as skills, innovation and diversification.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), students are currently an immigration priority and there has been a shift in thinking from “temporary residents, to a pool of highly-qualified permanent residents.” In Canada, where immigration will soon account for all net population growth, and where a majority of new jobs will require a post-secondary education, new immigration strategies that attempt to leverage and harness the skills of international students are being implemented.
Naomi Alboim, Maytree Senior Fellow and Adjunct Professor at the School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University, has noted that immigration policy shifts in Canada have been made with student migration in mind, based on the assumption that international students will be able to avoid those barriers regularly encountered by highly-skilled immigrants, by virtue of their Canadian education, language skills and work experience.
Preliminary research suggests that immigrants with former international student status can also lead to better economic outcomes. Immigrants with previous Canadian education and work experience earn approximately C$12,000 more per year than skilled workers without work or educational experience in Canada.
For international students, there are a number of important factors behind the decision to remain in Canada. In a recent Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE) survey of international students in Canada, half of surveyed university students and three-quarters of college students chose Canada as a study destination because of post-graduate work opportunities, and 51 per cent of university students and 57 per cent of college students planned to pursue permanent residency.