Canada’s International Student Numbers Rise Beyond 620,000 In 2021

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Canada’s International Student Numbers Rise Beyond 620,000 In 2021
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Canada immigration news: Far more international students came to Canada last year than during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with massive surges in the number of Canada study permits issued in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. 

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data shows 621,565 study permits were issued last year, up almost 17.7 per cent from the 528,190 in 2020.


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The rebound in study permits last year puts Canada a hair’s breadth – only 2.6 percentage points – from hitting its record-setting level of 638,280 study permits issued in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic. 

Processing Of Study Permits To Return To Standard: IRCC

But Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says Canada wants to do even more to speed up the processing of study permits.

“We’re going to be putting additional resources to get the study permit processing times back to our service standard this year in hopes that we can get as many students here on the schedule they need to complete their academic programs,” vowed Fraser earlier this year.

Those measures which Ottawa is implementing to speed up the processing of applications include the hiring of 500 new processing staff and also digitizing applications.


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With the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war in late February, Canada has also decided to extend the study permits of any Ukrainians in Canada for free for up to three years.

Last year, the provinces which saw the greatest increases in international students were Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, Alberta and British Columbia. 

There were 292,240 study permits issued in Ontario in 2021, a jump of 49,540, or 20.4 per cent, compared to the 242,700 issued the previous year. In the last full year before the start of the pandemic, there 306,055 study permits issued in Ontario.

Alberta saw 32,645 study permits issued last year, an increase of 4,940 study permits, or 17.8 per cent, from the 27,705 issued in 2020. With that jump in study permits last year, the Prairie province came within 300 study permits of the level set in 2019.

British Columbia Saw 13.8% Jump In Study Permits

On the West Coast, British Columbia saw a spike of 16,350 study permits last year to hit 134,860, an increase of almost 13.8 per cent compared to the 118,510 issued the previous year. But British Columbia was still down about 6.6 per cent at the end of last year from the 144,340 study permits in 2019 before the pandemic temporarily slowed international travel to a trickle.

Under a Study Permit, international students can come to Canada and then apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit. That then puts them into a position to try to get their permanent residents by applying through the Express Entry system.


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To be eligible to study in Canada these students must demonstrate that they:

  • have been accepted by a school, college, university or other educational institution in Canada;
  • have enough money to pay for their tuition fees, living expenses, and return transportation;
  • are law-abiding citizens with no criminal records;
  • are in good health and willing to complete a medical examination, and;
  • can satisfy an immigration officer that they will leave Canada at the end of their authorized stays.

Once issued a study permit, these students can work in Canada under the following categories:

  • on campus without a work permit;
  • off campus with a work permit;
  • in co-op and internship programs, where work experience is part of the curriculum, with a work permit.

PGWP Allows New Graduates To Get Work Experience

Upon graduation, a foreign student may apply for a work permit under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program. Under this program, the work permit may be issued for the length of the study program, up to a maximum of three years.

The valuable work experience gained while an international grad works in Canada under a Post-Graduation Work Permit can count towards a permanent residence application through Canada Express Entry system.

Under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) used by Express Entry system programs, applicants for immigration are assigned points based on:

  • Skills;
  • Work experience;
  • Language ability;
  • Language ability and education of the applicant’s spouse or common law partner;
  • Possession of a job offer supported by a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment;
  • Possession of a provincial government nomination for permanent residence, and;
  • Certain combinations of language skills, education and work experience result in a higher chance of the applicant becoming employed (skill transferability).  
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