The number of international students being granted permanent residence is growing, statistics released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reveal.
Figures show 8,565 former international students became permanent residents in 2005, compared to 19,330 in the first three quarters of 2023.
During the time-frame documented in the official dataset, Ontario maintained its position as the province that admits the highest number of permanent residents with prior study permit holder status.
In 2015, for example, it admitted 2,725 PRs, which is a total 1,025 more admissions than Alberta (the province with the second-highest number of admissions that year).
This number nearly tripled by 2023, when Ontario admitted a whopping total of 6,760 permanent residents who used to be international students in Canada.
Meanwhile, the ranking for the other provinces in terms of study permit to PR transitions changed over the period studied in IRCC statistics.
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In 2015, for example, Ontario was followed by Alberta (1,700 PRs), Quebec (1,575 PRs), and British Columbia (1,425 PRs) respectively in second, third, and fourth positions. By 2023 Q3, however, British Columbia had climbed to second position with 4,195 PRs (a growth of 2,770), followed by Quebec (2,115) maintaining third place, and trailed by Alberta (1,900) in fourth place.
This shows that Alberta admitted only 200 more PRs with former study permit holder status from 2015’s total to 2023’s total (excluding Q4).
Although the long-term trend overwhelmingly points towards a positive year-on-year growth in the number of international students being granted a Canada PR, there short-term statistics show an uneven pattern of crests and troughs in the number of admissions.
In 2015, for example, 8,565 international students became permanent residents of Canada. The following year, however, that number dropped to 8,270.
Although there was growth in 2017 (9,410), 2018 (10,950), and 2019 (11,565), COVID-19’s advent in 2020 showed the adoption of a stricter immigration policy. This included a drop in immigration number for study permit holders to 7,750.
The year following this, however, witnessed an unprecedented boom in immigration records for international students. 22,675 of them were granted PR in Canada, which is even higher than the numbers for 2022 (19,735) and – until now – 2023 (19,330 total PR grants for foreign students).
These numbers – although indicative of growing immigration prospects for foreign students in Canada – do not mean that studying in a Canadian post-secondary institution guarantees permanent residence.
In a warning issued by Senators Ratna Omidvar, Hassan Yussuf, Sabi Marwah and Yuen Pau Woo in their report about the federal international student program, it was noted that there are not enough PR spots to cater to the ever-expanding number of international students coming to Canada.
This is particularly put into context when consideration is given to the fact that 550,000 new international students were let into Canada in 2022, with over 800,000 study permit holders in the country at the end of that year.
The Senator report – titled “Strengthening the Integrity of Canada’s International Student Program” – advised Ottawa of making sure that the PR process remains competitive so as to filter through only the best international students.
Moreover, it warned of education consultants in foreign countries who mislead potential international students looking to come to Canada regarding their chances of gaining PR and subsequently citizenship.
For example, many students are denied permits because the colleges they are attending are not designated learning institutions (or DLIs) and thus do not qualify for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP).
“Programs offered by public institutions must meet certain requirements for international students to be eligible for a PGWP, while programs solely offered by private institutions are ineligible for PGWPs altogether,” further wrote the report.
“International students who rely on agents are often not aware of such intricacies and discover the bad news when it is too late.”
The report additionally points a finger at the federal government for “perpetuating an inflated sense of hope” among international students.
It reads that “while the Canadian government is being honest in highlighting the immigration advantages of studying in Canada, it can perhaps do more to be forthright about the highly competitive nature of the permanent residence application process.”
As per Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) projections, the number of foreign students applying to come to Canada each year will go up to 1.4 million by 2027, as per an internal policy document.
In 2023, 900,000 students will study in Canada.