The Current Landscape for International Students in Canada

On May 11th, our managing partner for Serotte Law Canada, Cathryn Sawicki was featured in a virtual town hall hosted by Career Path Intelligence. In her presentation, Cathryn discussed the role that International Students play in the Canadian workforce, post-grad and permanent residence options, as well as the future of work in Canada following the current COVID-19 landscape. Here is a recap of how it went:

International education in Canada is an essential feature to driving workforce growth. Due to the aging demographics of Canada, immigration has been a welcome facet to Canada’s long-term competitiveness. While America has become increasingly more restrictive when it comes to accepting international students, Canada has enthusiastically opened its borders to foreign talent, according to Cathryn.

Between 2014 and 2018, Canada has seen a 68% increase in the number of international students choosing to study there, approximately half of which are from India and China. Based on the current workforce climate, the demand for skills that drive innovation, competition, and generate sustainable growth have increased dramatically. The overall perception being that international students will help Canada’s economy recover. The key, however, is Canada enabling institutions to offer advanced courses to foreign talent and ensuring the path to permanent residence.

What does this indicate for institutions? According to Cathryn, institutions need to align business plans with where the government is going – in other words, expand into other provinces and recruit students by offering high quality, desirable programs directed toward and affiliated with industries in need. More and more countries are recognizing the need for international students as a source of revenue, and foreign talent can better integrate into the Canadian workforce with these measures in place.

In her presentation, Cathryn details the benefits of studying in Canada, according to the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE):

  1. The quality of the Canadian education system,
  2. Canada’s reputation as a highly tolerant and socially equitable society, and
  3. Canada’s reputation as a safe country to live in.

Other equally attractive prospects for international students looking to study in Canada are its affordability, a booming job market seeking youth talent, and the ability to apply for work and study permits at the port of entry. There are even international scholarship opportunities for non-Canadians, paving the economic path for many international students. Perhaps more importantly however, the path to permanent residence in Canada is through post-grad work permits. Canada offers the option for an open work permit, allowing for students to remain in Canada following graduation as they seek job opportunities even if they don’t have a job offer yet.

While this seems like an offer one couldn’t refuse, there are some key considerations to keep in mind. Inevitably, COVID-19 has posed a strain on the immigration system in Canada, as it has all over the world. Cathryn cautions that study permit holders may be denied entry by border officers, even if the study permit has been approved before March 18th. If not denied, one will need to quarantine for 14 days upon entry to Canada. She also strongly advises against self-employment when looking to secure a post-graduation work permit.

The good news is that if you are in Canada and your classes have been moved online due to COVID-19, you’re still eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program. However, you will need to provide evidence to demonstrate that the class was in fact “in-class,” and was only moved online because of the pandemic. Those who are unable to travel to Canada at this time but have been approved for a study permit in May or June still have the option to begin their classes while outside of Canada and complete up to 50% of their program from where they currently live.

Knowledge and appreciation of other societies and a thorough understanding of intercultural differences is imperative for a trading society like Canada. As far as innovation goes, Canada is already looking ahead. From cutting transportation costs as an Urban Farmer to researching and writing design augmentations as alternate reality architects, post-graduation work options are not only innovative and exciting but allow for the development of modern skills over the course of one’s career.

Are you an international student looking to evaluate your options? Contact or call our office at 716-881-2600 for additional guidance.

Written by: Everleigh Malley 


Stay up to date