Detour to Canada

Can’t Decide Between Express Entry vs Student Pathway? Read This

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A few months ago, a friend of mine arrived here in Canada as an international student. Along with her are her husband and two kids. They lodged their application sometime this year, and just after 4 months they finally made it here to Canada. Let’s call this friend Jane.

Another friend of mine submitted their PR application to Canada through Express Entry last year. It’s already October 2021. Almost a year had gone but they’re still waiting for approval. Until now, they still haven’t made it here to Canada. Let’s call this friend Joe.

Jane is taking the Student Pathway to become a PR in Canada. Joe is taking the Express Entry. Jane’s finally here in Canada, while Joe is still waiting. 

So, some of our common friends are asking, 

“Is taking the Student Pathway better than Express Entry?”

I’ll answer this pressing question in this post.

DISCLAIMER: This article is not meant to substitute professional advice. Information were gathered from both the author’s actual immigration experience and  from official websites. To verify the most-up-to-date information, check www.canada.ca.

Express Entry vs Student Pathway

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Express Entry vs Student Pathway

In case you’re not familiar with these two pathways I’m talking about, I suggest you read these articles:

This post is for you if you are eligible for Express Entry but you’re confused about whether to take the Student Pathway instead. Maybe you’re like my friend Joe who’s all set to take the Express Entry. But then, you realize it’s more challenging than you thought. So, you’re looking for an easier alternative. 

You’ve heard about Jane who’s taking the Student Pathway. It took her only 4 months to get her visa approved. So, you’re starting to ask yourself, “is the Student Pathway a better option than Express Entry?”

But you’re confused and you’re stuck with your question.

In this post, I wish to help you get unstuck. I’m not an immigration expert, so I won’t give any professional advice. But I’m going to show you the pros and cons of each pathway based on everything I know. Then, I’ll leave you with some questions to answer to help you choose between the two.

Since this is a long post, you may want to sit down on your favorite couch, grab some Doritos, and be comfortable. You can also bookmark this page so you can always get back. 

Are you ready?

Is the Student Pathway Actually Better than Express Entry?

For me, the first way to answer this question is by asking questions, too. Because the truth is, it could be better or worse depending on your situation, plans, and goals. 

But before anything else, let me just clear something. The Student Pathway is NOT an official immigration pathway. Express Entry, and its three programs, is the official one. And if you take the Student Pathway to come to Canada, you still need to take the Express Entry later on (or other immigration programs) to apply for PR. 

So in other words, Student Pathway and Express Entry are not like Sheikh Zayed and Emirates Roads respectively. Meaning, they’re not parallel roads that end in the same destination.

Sheikh Zayed Road: Is student pathway better than Express Entry
Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. Sorry guys, can't help mentioning it because I already miss it.

The Student Pathway is just an inner road that eventually takes you back to the Express Entry highway. Or towards other pathways to permanent residency.

Therefore, I don’t actually see it as a question of whether the Student Pathway is better than Express Entry. But rather, a question of whether you should take the Student Pathway or go straight to Express Entry.

Okay, now that I’ve let this one out, let’s go back to the questions.

So here’s the first question for you: 

Do you really need to be in Canada right away?

The reason I asked this is because of this reason: Student Pathway is not actually better but the faster way to come to Canada than Express Entry. 

Some of the reasons why you might need to be in Canada right now could be any of the following:

  • You have parents or siblings who are already here, and you can’t wait for another year or two to reunite with them. 
  • You’re an overseas worker with enough savings, and you can’t wait to start a new life in Canada.
  • You have kids and you want to take advantage of the free elementary and high school education that they’ll get here.

There are other reasons but these are just the ones I can think of. 

If you have no reason to be in Canada right away, and you’re willing to wait for about a year or more, then stick to Express Entry. 

Now here’s another question for you.

What’s your long-term plan and goals?

If you want to actually go back to study and get a Canadian diploma, there should be no debate. Take the Student Pathway. This actually is an excellent career move.

But if you’re only taking this route knowing it’s a faster alternative to come to Canada, better think twice. 

If you hate studying, then this could be a challenge for you. Can you imagine yourself going back to school for 12 months or even 2 years? 

And if you plan to take your kids with you, that’s more challenging. 

Remember my friend Jane? Right now, she’s often stressed out as she tries to juggle household chores, looking after her 2 kids, and doing her assignments for her 6 subjects. And she’s going to do this for the next 2 years.

So, take this possible scenario in mind. 

If you have a long-term goal and studying here in Canada supports that, I’m sure you’ll get over whatever challenges you face. 

Now, what’re your answers to the above questions?

If you answered “yes” to the first one, and then you’re able to come up with a long-term goal that justifies why you need to study in Canada, take the Student Pathway.

But wait, there’s more! Before you take any further action, read first the pros and cons of both pathways. This might help you decide whether or not it is better to take the Student Pathway than go straight to Express Entry.

What are the pros and cons of going straight to Express Entry?

Pro: Express Entry is the fastest pathway to permanent residency

Express Entry is said to be the fastest pathway to become a permanent resident here in Canada. It also doesn’t require you to have a job offer. As long as you have a high CRS score, this is your fast track to becoming a permanent resident. No need to go back to being a student, especially if studying is something you hate.

Pre-pandemic days, you can get approval for your PR application in 6 months or less.

Con: But it’s NOT the fastest way to COME to Canada. 

Coming to Canada as a permanent resident through Express Entry takes time. Sure, the PR processing takes 6 months or less (pre-pandemic days). But if you count everything from the time you create your Express Entry profile until you finally get your PR visa, it might take a year or longer. For me and my husband, we waited for a total of two years.

So if you want to come to Canada right away, Express Entry isn’t your best option. You can’t come and move to Canada until you have your PR visa. 

It is better that you take the Student Pathway than go straight to Express Entry if your priority is coming here right away.

Pro: Express Entry leads you directly to your final destination

Whether it’s Express Entry or Student Pathway, we know that eventually, your final destination is to become a Canadian permanent resident. When you take the Express Entry, there’s no stopover. Once you have your PR visa, you can come to Canada and finally call this your home.

So it is better for you to go straight to Express Entry than take the Student Pathway if your priority is coming to Canada as a full-pledged permanent resident.

Con: Express Entry is full of obstacle courses

Taking the IELTS, getting a PNP, saving up for the proof of funds, obtaining employment certificates–these are just among what I consider the roadblocks when you take the Express Entry route. 

During our 2-year waiting time for our PR visa, my husband and I had our fair share of our own challenges. The waiting itself can be agonizing. 

READ: Our Express Entry Journey 

But this isn’t to say that the Student Pathway is a smooth course. There are still roadblocks to face which we’ll talk about next.

What are the pros and cons of taking the Student Pathway?

Pro: It’s the faster way to come to Canada

Sure, Express Entry is the fastest pathway to become a Canadian permanent resident. But it’s not the fastest route to coming here. The Student Pathway is the shortcut if you want to come to Canada right away. As I already said, if your priority is to come here urgently, it is better to take the Student Pathway than go straight to Express Entry.

Con: Your stay in Canada is temporary

When you come here as an international student, you can only live here as long as your study permit and PGWP is still valid.

If you take the Student Pathway, your stay in Canada is at the mercy of your post-graduate work permit (PGWP). If your PGWP is valid for 3 years (which you get after you graduate from a 2-year program), you need to leave Canada once it expires. Unless you’ve been granted an extension, or you’re already a permanent resident by then. 

However, this isn’t a huge con especially if you’re an overseas worker. If you work in the UAE, your stay there is anyway temporary, too. But you’re forever just a temporary resident. 

Here in Canada, if you come as an international student, in 3 years more or less you’ll hopefully become a permanent resident. 

Pro: As an international student, you can bring your family with you 

Now, if you’re married and you don’t want to be on an LDR (or long-distance relationship) with your husband or wife, then he can come with you and work here in Canada. That’s possible through the Student Pathway. Your partner can get an open work permit which means he can legally work anywhere in Canada.

And if you have kids, they can go to public elementary and high schools for free. That’s right. You don’t need to worry about their tuition fees. Public education here is free even for temporary residents like kids of international students. 

Con: You’re not entitled to any government benefits 

In general, international students are not entitled to government benefits like the Canada child benefit. This benefit is a government-issued monthly allowance for kids under 18. So, you should be financially prepared.

But the good news is after 18 months, your kids may be eligible to receive the Canada child benefit. And that’s even if you’re not on PR status yet. 

For you to qualify, you should be a resident of Canada for tax purposes and has lived here for 18 months with a valid permit on your 19th month. Being a resident of Canada for tax purposes simply means you or your partner is working legally and is paying income tax. You can read here for more details on how to qualify for the Canada child benefit.

Here in Ontario, you and your family may also qualify for the public health insurance plan (aka OHIP). If your partner holds an open work permit and is employed full-time in Ontario for a minimum of 6 months, your family may be eligible for OHIP. Here’s more information about this.

Pro: More chances of winning (or becoming a permanent resident)

If becoming a permanent resident through Express Entry is like trying to win the Olympic Weightlifting, then taking the Student Pathway is like gaining more muscle strength. 

We know that Express Entry is a point-based system that uses the CRS or Comprehensive Ranking System. Both Canadian college education and work experience are “muscle builders”, or CRS score boosters.

A job offer and a provincial nomination (PNP) are also muscle builders or CRS score boosters. Especially PNP which weighs a whopping 600 points. When you’re an international student graduate, you’re a few steps closer to getting these two.

And lastly, you’re not limited to Express Entry or PNPs. There are other immigration programs in Canada specifically for international student graduates. You can look it up and see for yourself.

So if you want to actually have more points in your Express Entry CRS score, it is better for you to take the Student Pathway.

Con: Student Pathway has its own obstacle courses

Express Entry is full of obstacle courses, but it doesn’t mean that the Student Pathway is free from them. In fact, it has its own set of challenges, too. Especially if you’re bringing your kids with you.

We’re talking here about the financial, physical, mental, and emotional challenges. I won’t list down these challenges one by one here. But the most crucial one you need to be prepared of is how you’ll juggle your studies and your responsibilities at home. 

Household chores, kids, assignments– this would surely exhaust you to the point of insanity. And remember that there’s no one to take over babysitting duties from time to time. Unless you can afford to hire someone, which in your case, I’m not sure how.

And lastly, even though you have a higher chance of becoming a PR through Student Pathway, there’s still no 100% guarantee. 

So you have to be prepared to face these challenges despite not knowing if you’re actually going to be a permanent resident later on.

So… which one is better than the other: Express Entry or Student Pathway?

From what we’ve already talked about, going straight to Express Entry vs taking the Student Pathway have their own pros and cons.

And your choice will depend on your situation and long-term goals, and what challenges you’re more willing to face. 

But don’t forget that Express Entry and Student Pathway are not parallel roads that lead to the final toll gate (which is the entry point to becoming a Canadian permanent resident). Unlike Express Entry, the Student Pathway is NOT an official immigration pathway. It’s also NOT an alternative route from Express Entry.  

Rather, the Student Pathway is just a detour. You take it, and then in the end you still need to exit the “Express Entry” highway to become a permanent resident. But, unlike driving straight to Express Entry, in the Student Pathway you can take another exit to eventually become a PR.

Since Canada has other immigration programs for international student graduates, plus your chance of getting a job offer, you’re not stuck with the uber-competitive Express Entry. You can still become a permanent resident through other immigration programs.

So, to summarize, here are the pros and cons of each:

Express Entry

Pros:

  • The fastest way to become a permanent resident and it doesn’t require a job offer
  • Compared to Student Pathway, it leads directly to becoming a permanent resident

Cons:

  • It’s not the fastest route if your goal is to come to Canada right away
  • It’s full of obstacle courses like taking the IELTS, getting a PNP, saving up for the proof of funds, etc.

Student Pathway

Pros: 

  • It’s the faster way if you want to come to Canada right away
  • You can bring your partner and he can work legally
  • You can bring your kids and they can study for free in public elementary and high schools
  • Your chances and options to become a permanent resident are higher (higher CRS score in Express Entry, more chances of getting a job offer and a PNP, and more immigration pathways to choose from)

Cons: 

  • Your stay in Canada is temporary as long as you’re still on a study and work permit
  • You don’t get any government benefits like health insurance and monthly allowances (although you still get private health insurance from your school and from your partner’s employer)
  • It also has its own set of obstacle courses like how you can manage your studies and responsibilities at home without going nuts, among others

Parting words… or questions, rather

Now that I have shared everything I know so far, I leave you with questions to ask yourself. Hopefully, your answers will lead you to decide for yourself if going straight to Express Entry is actually better than taking the Student Pathway.

  1. Is your potential or actual CRS score low? If your CRS score is below 500 points, you can either boost it by applying for a PNP or taking the Student Pathway instead.
  2. Do you qualify for any provincial nominee programs? If you qualify, you have a chance of getting an additional 600 points and a guarantee of receiving an ITA. If you don’t qualify, or your chance of getting a PNP is low, then consider the Student Pathway.
  3. Are you eligible for immigration programs or PNPs that require job offers, but can’t find a job? You can keep trying (maybe try to improve your CV), or you can consider the Student Pathway instead.
  4. Do you want to come to Canada right away? It can be because your parents or siblings are here, or you want to take advantage of the free education for your kids. Then consider the Student Pathway.
  5. Is studying or going back to school not going to be an issue for you? Because taking the Student Pathway means you go back to being a college student again–you know, attend classes, read tons of books, write essays, take quizzes and exams, and so on. If you’re up to it, then consider the Student Pathway.
  6. If you’re bringing along your family with you, what would be your set-up? Who’s going to look after your kids? How do you plan to pay for your tuition fees and monthly expenses? Do you think you can handle the mental and emotional stress? If you can plan this ahead, then you may consider the Student Pathway.

Again, don’t take this post as a piece of expert advice. But I hope that this somehow got you closer towards deciding if taking the Student Pathway is better than going straight to Express Entry.

This post has been checked by Grammarly

If you think Student Pathway is your better option, check out this post on how to get started.

Or if you want to stick to Express Entry, sign-up for our Roadmap to Express Entry Series to receive a step-by-step guide and practical tips straight to your inbox.

Roadmap to Express Entry: Dubai to Canada
Kevin and Kris

About the author:

JK Legaspi is a permanent resident of Canada since 2018. She and her family lives in the beautiful Niagara Region. As the founder of Detour To Canada, she aims to help aspiring and future immigrants reach their Canadian dreams by sharing her family’s own immigration and newcomer story. 

Do you have some questions about immigrating to Canada? Ask them in the comments section.

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