There are many things that draw international students to Canada: a well-respected higher education system, welcoming immigration policies and a relatively easy path to post-study work opportunities are some that are most well-known. But applying for a Canada visa online can be one confusing experience.
The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website is where the Canadian government provides official information on matters stated in its namesake. This should be every prospective international student’s primary source of information related to their immigration status. The mandate of the IRCC comes from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, which states it is to facilitate the arrival of immigrants, provide protection for refugees and offer programmes to help newcomers settle in to their new life in Canada.
Since immigration is a wide and varied process, the IRCC’s website is naturally filled with information on every stage. For international students however, it can be hard finding specific pages, so here’s a quick guide to the key pages relevant to studying, staying and working in Canada:
1. Study permit
This page provides information for every stage of obtaining and maintaining a study permit for Canada. A study permit is a document issued by the Canadian government which allows foreign nationals to study at designated learning institutions (DLI). It doesn’t replace a visa – foreign nationals must still apply for a temporary resident visa or if they are from a visa-exempt country, an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).
This page contains links explaining the process, who can apply, how to apply, what happens after applying and how to prepare for arrival in Canada. It provides information about what a study permit is, fees charged, processing time, how to remain in legal status throughout your stay and so forth. Pro tip: if you’re confused with any of the terms used, consult this handy glossary page.
Want to work in Canada after graduating? You’ll have to transition from a study permit to a post-graduation work permit (PGWP). The PGWP is eligible for graduates of certain programmes at DLIs.
This page contains four links: the application process, eligibility, how to apply and what happens after you apply. One of the most popular questions about visas is about timing, specifically, the gap between the expiration date of one’s study permit and the date when one’s PGWP takes effect. The Who can apply sub-page explains how a student can time their PGWP application so there is a smooth transition from their study permit to their work permit.
After studying and gaining work experience in Canada, you may have decided to make this country your home. The page above lists several programmes international students can apply for. There’s also the Come to Canada tool which can help you explore your options.
The programme most suitable for you will depend on your language skills as measured by the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) or Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC) for French speakers, work experience (type and amount), job offer, education and other factors (for example, a job offer in Atlantic Canada)