Over 20,000 former students granted permanent residency in Canada in 2023

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Over 20,000 former students granted permanent residency in Canada in 2023


Canada has issued permanent resident status to more former international students so far in 2023 than throughout the whole of last year. 

Over 20,000 former study permit holders transitioned to permanent residents so far in 2023. Photo: Unsplash

Ontario has remained the most popular destination for former students to apply to stay permanently

According to data from IRCC, 20,580 former study permit holders transitioned to permanent resident status in the first three quarters of 2023, compared to 19,735 in 2022.

The number of students becoming permanent residents in Canada has spiralled over the last four years, with the latest figures showing a 78% increase in former international students receiving permanent residency compared to 2019.

Ontario has remained the most popular destination for former students to apply to stay permanently, with 35% of those who transitioned to permanent residency in 2023 intending to live there. This was followed by British Columbia (21%), Quebec (12%) and Alberta (9%).

When discussing the next iteration of the country’s international education strategy, Global Affairs Canada highlighted the need to increase the diversity of study locations international students choose in Canada, suggesting this will “spread the burden on services” and the economic impact of students more equitably.

It comes as Canada plans to stabilise permanency residency levels in 2026, marking a new strategy from the government after years of immigration growth.

Canada will maintain its planned targets for the next two years, which will see the number of new permanent residents increase to 485,000 and 500,000 in 2024 and 2025 respectively. In 2026, the government will stabilise permanent resident levels at 500,000.

The new policy is partly in response to pressures on infrastructure and housing resulting from Canada’s growing population.

Former international students still make up a minority of Canada’s new permanent residents. Last year, the country granted the status to 437,180 people in total, the highest number on record.

In the same year, Canada also saw a surge in new college and university enrollments from foreign citizens, with over 800,000 international students in the country in total.

Research has found that the majority of international students in Canada hope to become permanent residents, but many are not granted the coveted status.

The number of students gaining permanent residency is “very small” when compared to the overall number in Canada and some students take “false hope” from the available pathways, said Jenny Francis, an instructor at Langara College whose research focuses on employment pathways for international students.

Speaking at a recent press conference, immigration minister Marc Miller said, “I think it’s important to stress that being an international student or being a prospective international student isn’t a guarantee of permanent residence or a guarantee of citizenship.”

Miller spoke about “unscrupulous agents” entertaining “false hope that if you can get into a program you can become a Canadian [citizen]” but said in reality there are limited pathways to permanent residency.

Francis called for agents and colleges to take more responsibility to make it clear that studying in Canada is “a chance to get permanent residency, but it’s not a certain or guaranteed pathway by any means”.

“People don’t just come to the country to study and necessarily to leave”

Miller has committed to opening “more clear paths” to permanent residency for people already in Canada as well as changing the post-graduate work permit scheme, but has yet to share more details of what this could entail. 

“People don’t just come to the country to study and necessarily to leave,” he said, adding that pathways need to be aligned to ensure that someone studying in Canada can get a job after graduating and potentially move into a pathway to permanent residency.  

In a submission to IRCC earlier this year, the Canadian Bureau for International Education called for a “special stream” for international students within the immigration system as part of a deliberate strategy to facilitate access to permanent residency for international students.

Miller said more details would be announced in “the coming months”. 

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