International Students Flock To Canadian Schools As Study Permits Boom To Over 550,000

Canada issued a record number of 551,405 study permits in 2022, as international students flocked to universities and colleges. The figure was a 24.1 per cent increase over the number issued in 2021
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Canada issued a record number of 551,405 study permits in 2022, as international students flocked to universities and colleges. The figure was a 24.1 per cent increase over the number issued in 2021

Most startling is that last year’s surge in study permits in Canada came on the heels of another record year. 

In 2021, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) had issued 444,260 study permits, then a record number, and 73.7 per cent more than in 2020.

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In the seven years since 2015, the number of study permits handed to international students coming to Canadian colleges and universities has grown by 151.7 per cent, from 219,035 such permits. 

In the years since then, Canada has become an increasingly-popular destination for international students and more study permits have been issued almost every year with the notable exception of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In 2016, there were 264,285 study permits, an increase of 20.7 per cent over the previous year. Then, in 2017, Canada issued 19.2 per cent, or 50,710, more study permits to hit 314,995. 


In 2018, the number of study permits grew somewhat more slowly, by 12.5 per cent, to hit 354,290 and that performance was repeated in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, as Ottawa issued 13.1 per cent, or 46,370, more study permits for a total of 400,660.

As public health and travel restrictions kicked in during the pandemic, overall immigration to Canada plummeted and so, too, did the number of study permits issued.

Study Permits Plummeted By 36.2% During The First Year Of The Pandemic

These fell by 36.2 per cent, or 144,965, in 2020 with a mere 255,695 study permits issued that year.   

The growth in the number of study permits issued – a boon to Canadian colleges and universities that depend heavily on international student enrolment – is at least in part due to the faster processing times at the IRCC.

Last year, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser made it clear boosting the processing speed for study permits was a priority for Canada.

“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 last year.

Those measures which Ottawa implemented to speed up the processing of applications included the hiring of 500 new processing staff and also the digitizing of applications.

The current processing time for a study permit application made outside of Canada is 10 weeks.

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

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.

International Students Can Work In Canada With A Study Permit

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.

Upon graduation, a foreign student may apply for a work permit under the PGWP 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 PGWP 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 that result in a higher chance of the applicant becoming employed (skill transferability).
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