Detour to Canada

What You Need to Know About the Student Pathway to PR in Canada (And How to Get Started)


Have you heard about the so-called Student Pathway to permanent residency (PR) in Canada? 

If not yet, this is one of the many other pathways to becoming a Canadian permanent resident. 

I’m more familiar with Express Entry, but I have friends and relatives here in Canada who are taking the Student Pathway to PR. So in the last months, I’ve learned so much about this specific pathway.

In this post, I’m sharing everything I know about the Student Pathway to PR in Canada. I’ll also show you a step-by-step guide on how to get started.

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

What you Need to Know About the Student Pathway to PR in Canada

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Preview of the Steps to Get Started on Student Pathway to PR in Canada

  1. Choose your program of study, school, and province
  2. Apply for admissions in your top choices
  3. Wait for your letter of acceptance and enroll once accepted
  4. Prepare your documents for your Study Permit application 
  5.  Apply for a study permit through IRCC
  6. Give your biometrics
  7. Wait for your study permit approval and visitor visa

How does the Student Pathway to PR in Canada work? 

First of all, the Student Pathway to PR in Canada is NOT an official immigration program. Rather, it’s a route that some aspiring immigrants take for a better chance of becoming a Canadian PR. 

As I’ve explained in my free guidebook, this pathway has two stop-overs.

First stop-over: You come to Canada as an international student. You should take programs that are eligible for Post-Graduate Work Permits (PGWP) in any of the Designated Learning Institutions (DLI). 

Second stop-over: Work in Canada and gain at least one year of skilled work experience (if you don’t have one yet). 

Once eligible, you can start applying for permanent residency either through Express Entry or other immigration programs for international student graduates. 

Why Should I take the Student Pathway to PR in Canada? 

There are many reasons why many aspiring immigrants take this route. 

For example, if you’re not eligible to immigrate here in Canada through Express Entry, then you might consider the Student Pathway. Perhaps you don’t have enough experience as a skilled worker. 

Other reasons why you might consider this route are if:

  • You’re eligible for Express Entry but your CRS score is low (the ideal score is 501 and above). 
  • You don’t qualify for any provincial nominee programs that could boost your CRS score. 
  • You’re qualified for other immigration programs that require job offers first, but you can’t find a job in your field (or any job). 
  • You want to move to Canada immediately even as a temporary resident (which means you can’t get any government benefits yet). 
  • You have the academic qualification but you don’t have any work experience yet.

There are probably other reasons out there, but these are the common ones I often hear. 

But another good reason is that studying in Canada gives you an edge when you apply for permanent residency. According to IRCC, Canadian school graduates have advantages because they usually have:

  • Canadian diplomas, degrees, and certificates
  • English or French language skills, and
  • Canadian work experience.

So, if you think the Student Pathway to PR in Canada is for you, then read on to know how to get started.

YOU MAY ALSO READ: Can’t Decide Between Express Entry vs Student Pathway? Read This

What are the steps that I need to do under the Student Pathway to PR in Canada?

First of all, there are two things you must consider:

  1. Are you eligible to study in Canada as a college or university international student?
  2. Are you financially prepared to study in Canada?

Let’s talk about these two things one by one.

Are you eligible to study in Canada as an international student in colleges or universities? 

This depends on the school you plan to attend. Each college or university has its own admission requirements, so as long as you qualify, then you’re good to go. Most likely, if you have a Canadian education equivalent to a secondary or high school diploma, you’ll be accepted in colleges or universities. Or if you graduated in the Philippines from the existing K-12 program.

Are you financially prepared? 

Because you must. Tuition fees of international students are usually twice or more compared to how much Canadian citizens or permanent residents pay. For example, in Centennial College, the tuition fee for Applied IT – Honours Degree Program for two semesters is CA$ 7,146.50. For International Students, the same program for 2 semesters would cost CA$ 19,484.50.

Sample tuition fee for students at Centennial College
Screenshot from Centennial College's website

Aside from school tuition, you also need to pay for your other expenses like study permit application fee, plane ticket/s to Canada, medical insurance, boarding house, monthly allowances, and so on. Later in this post, I’m going to tell you how much you expect to spend to get a study permit in Canada.

If you plan to take along your family, then there’s one more concern. Who will take care of your kids? What will be your arrangement with your partner? How are you going to pay for your family’s monthly expenses? 

At this point, yes, you can bring your family with you, but your kids won’t receive the Canada child benefit (CCB) yet (not until you reach your 18th month here and your child becomes eligible). CCB is the tax-free monthly allowance paid by the government to families with kids below 18 years

So, that’s one thing to consider. 

You also won’t get any health benefits from the government. Although you would usually get medical insurance as part of the fees you’ll pay to your school. If your partner is going to work, he might be eligible for public health insurance (like OHIP) and would also get one from his employer. 

One of our friends from church is coming here as an international student. She’s coming along with her husband and two kids. But they’re lucky because first, they have lots of relatives here. So someone can look after their kids from time to time. Second, her husband was retained in his job and can work remotely here. So he doesn’t have to worry about looking for a job.

So, this is another thing you must think about. 

Let’s now go to the step-by-step guide to getting started in the Student Pathway to PR here in Canada.

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Step 1: Choose your program of study, school, and province

There are three things you need to decide first and they are the following:

  • What program of study do you want to take? 
  • Which college or university do you want to study?
  • And in which province do you want to live?

Your decisions here are important and here’s why. 

Not all schools offer programs that are eligible for a post-graduate work permit (PGWP).

“What’s a PGWP?”, you ask.

PGWP is an open work permit that allows you to work for almost any employer in Canada after you graduate. Having a PGWP gives you the chance to work in your target field. Also, it allows you to gain work experience that is required in some of Canada’s immigration programs. 

“How do I choose my program of study?”

It depends on the career path you want to follow. If you’ve already been working in the past years and you want to continue working in the same field, then you can choose a program in line with that. 

Or perhaps you want to shift your career. Well, this is your chance. 

Again, just make sure that the program you want is PGWP-eligible. Most DLIs or designated learning institutions offer PGWP-eligible programs. So, that’s a good start. Go here to check the list of DLIs. To know if a school offers PGWP-eligible programs, the last column must show “Yes”.

Sample list of DLI: Student Pathway to PR in Canada
Screenshot from

One thing to help you decide on this is to check which professions are in demand in your target province. However, I don’t suggest that you take up a program that you don’t like just because there’s a demand for graduates of that program.  Being an international student could be stressful enough. So, make sure that you’re taking a program that you’re passionate about. 

Which province do you want to live in while you study? 

If you have relatives who are willing to provide any help (like lodging), then ideally, you might want to stay in the city or province where they live. Having a support system is crucial especially during your first few months here.

Remember, this is a foreign land. The culture is different. The weather probably isn’t the same as in your home country. Everyone is a stranger. So having a community to seek support is a great help. 

But if you don’t have any friends or relatives, just consider other factors like the following:

  • Cost of living in that province
  • Opportunities to get a provincial nomination
  • Labor demand on the profession you plan to pursue based on your program of study

I’ve had a chat with our Church of Christ fellow member who lives in St. Thomas, a town situated next to the city of London (yes, there’s also a city of London in Canada). According to them, there are lots of students in London because the cost of living there is lower compared to other cities. London is situated in the province of Ontario by the way (it’s about a 2-hour drive from Toronto). So, that’s something you may want to consider.

Also, if you’re aiming for Express Entry, you need to ideally target a 12-month or 2-year program. Why?

Because your PGWP’s validity is based on the length of your study in Canada. So if you plan to apply for Express Entry, and you don’t have valid work experience yet, then you need to work at least one year under the required NOC. This means you need a PGWP that’s valid for 1 year or more (the longer, the better).

To get a PGWP that’s valid for 1 year, you need to get a 12-month program of study. If you want a longer validity, take a 2-year program which gives you a PGWP validity of 3 years. 

Even if you already have skilled work experience, it’s still an advantage to have a PGWP that’s valid for a longer period. This way, you can stay and work in Canada while you apply for your PR application. 

PGWP validity: Student Pathway to PR in Canada
Screenshot from

IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure that your passport is valid for the entire length of time you should be eligible for. According to IRCC, if your passport expires earlier

  • They’ll only issue you a PGWP that’s valid until your passport expires, or 
  • They’ll tell you if you need to extend it to get the full validity

You can only extend a PGWP if IRCC tells you to. If this happens, you have to apply on paper to extend your PGWP so that it’ll be valid for the full length that it should be.

Step 2: Apply for admissions in your top choices

Once you’ve decided on your program, your next step is to apply for admission to the school where you plan to study. 

Ideally, you should have more than one option. That’s because some schools might put you on a waitlist. Like what happened to my brother-in-law. He applied to both Seneca College and Centennial College. He got waitlisted in Seneca but got accepted in Centennial. 

To check your school’s admission requirements, go to their website or contact their admissions office. You should check the admission requirements for international students. 

The requirements vary for every school, but most likely, you’ll be asked for the following:

  • Your secondary school records (some schools might require you to submit an Education Credential Assessment especially if you graduated outside Canada)
  • Proof of English proficiency (such as IELTS Academic)
  • Application fee

Depending on your program, you might also be asked for additional documents like essays or portfolios.

Step 3: Wait for your letter of acceptance and enroll once accepted

Once you’ve submitted your admission application, you need to wait to get accepted. 

Most schools review applications from international students based on the following:

  • Slot availability of the program of study
  • Completeness of admission documents
  • Academic performance and English proficiency

The waiting time varies between schools. In some colleges and universities, you need to wait for one month. Others might take longer. 

Once you’ve been accepted, you need to follow the instructions provided by the school. And once you received your Letter of Acceptance and have finished the enrollment procedures, you can proceed and apply for your Study Permit.

Step 4: Prepare your documents for your Study Permit application 

According to IRCC, the documents you need to submit to apply for a Study Permit fall under these three categories:

  • Proof of acceptance
  • Proof of identity, and
  • Proof of financial support 

Let’s go through each of these three categories one by one.

Proof of acceptance

This is the Letter of Acceptance from the school where you plan to study. After you’ve applied for admission, you would get this letter once the school has reviewed your application and decided to admit you as their student.

Proof of identity 

This includes your valid passport and two recent passport-sized photos. If your family is coming with you, you should also include their passports and photos. 

If you’re currently living outside your home country (in the UAE for example), you also need to submit a document of your residency status. For example, you may need to submit a copy of your residency visa and Emirates ID. 

Proof of financial support

This is an important factor when you apply for a student permit. You need to prove that you can financially support your studies and expenses while studying. In most cases, you should send proof that you paid your tuition fees (such as an official receipt from the school) as well as bank statements in the past 4 months. 

You should be able to prove that you have the minimum funds to support yourself and your family who will come with you to Canada. The amount will depend on these two things:

  1. Number of family members
  2. Duration of your study

You can check here for the amount required.

Proof of Funds: Student Pathway to PR in Canada
Screenshot from

If you have other sources of funds, you need to show documents to prove this. These are the other ways to prove your funds according to IRCC:

  • proof of a Canadian bank account in your name, if you’ve transferred money to Canada
  • Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) from a participating Canadian financial institution
  • proof of a student or education loan from a bank
  • your bank statements for the past 4 months
  • a bank draft that can be converted to Canadian dollars
  • proof you paid tuition and housing fees
  • a letter from the person or school giving you money, or
  • proof of funding paid from within Canada, if you have a scholarship or are in a Canadian-funded educational program.

On top of these documents, you might also need to submit a letter of explanation of why you want to study in Canada (they call it SOP or Statement of Purpose), and that you understand your responsibilities as a student.

If you’re not sure how to make your SOP, there’s this Facebook group called #PinoyCanada – Student Pathway where you can ask around other aspiring Canadian students for sample SOPs, or for tips and advice about the Student Pathway.

Step 5: Apply for a study permit through IRCC

You have two options on how to apply for a study permit. You can either do it by paper or online. In this post, I’m going to focus on online applications. This is also the one recommended by IRCC. 

Before you apply online, you need to have a valid credit or debit card. It’s because IRCC only accepts payment for the processing fees and biometrics (if required) through credit or debit cards. 

Here’s IRCC’s instruction guide that you should read before you begin your application. 

Once you have your documents ready, create your online account. Then, submit all the required application forms and supporting documents. 

Tip: You can use the same IRCC account when you apply for Express Entry.

If you live in the Philippines as a legal resident and you’ll apply for a study permit outside Canada, you may be eligible for faster processing through the Student Direct Stream (SDS).  Most SDS applications are processed by IRCC within 20 calendar days (or longer in some cases, but still faster compared if you don’t apply through SDS).  You can read more here about the SDS and how to apply under this stream.

Step 6: Give your biometrics

In most cases, you will be asked to give your biometrics. These include your fingerprints and photo. After you submit your application and pay the processing and biometric fees, you will receive a letter from IRCC about your biometrics.

You should make an appointment first to the local visa application center (VAC) in your country. In Dubai, VFS Global is the authorized VAC. You can check here to find VACs in your country

Once you have an appointment, just follow the instructions on the biometrics letter on what documents to bring.

Step 7: Wait for your study permit approval and visitor visa

After you’ve given your biometrics, IRCC will process your application. As long as you’ve made sure that it’s complete, you just have to wait for their approval.

Otherwise, they will return your application to you. 

In some cases, you might be asked for an interview, additional documents, a medical exam, or police certificates. 

Just be prepared for whatever IRCC might request from you. 

Once your study permit is approved, IRCC will contact you and you will receive the following:

  • A visitor visa that allows you to enter Canada as a temporary resident
  • Port of Entry Letter of Introduction

The letter of introduction confirms that your study permit is approved, but this is NOT your study permit. Although it has your permit reference number which IRCC uses to issue your study permit. 

When you arrive in Canada, you should present this letter to the border services officer, along with other required documents. 

If your family is coming with you, they will also get visitor visas. Your spouse or partner can also get an open work permit (which you can apply for along with your study permit, or after you’ve arrived in Canada).

What happens next? 

While you are studying, your spouse or partner can work on or off-campus. You can also work on a part-time basis during school term (maximum of 20 hours per week) and full-time during breaks (maximum of 40 hours per week). But you need to check the conditions in your study permit before you get any job. 

Just make sure to file your tax returns yearly if you’re going to work while studying because even students need to do this (so you can get refunds in case you’re entitled). 

If your children are coming with you, they can attend public schools for free from kindergarten to high school. But they won’t get the Canada child benefit (the monthly allowance) until after 18 months, and government-issued health cards except when your spouse becomes eligible (you can check here how to qualify for OHIP if you’re in Ontario).

After you graduate, you’ll get a Post Graduation Work Permit which allows you to work anywhere in Canada. If you already have prior skilled work experience, you can apply for permanent residency through Express Entry. But if not yet, just work in jobs under NOC 0, A, or B to gain the required one-year minimum experience. 

But aside from Express Entry, you can explore other immigration programs that are mainly for international student graduates. Depending on which province you studied, you may be eligible to apply for Provincial Nominee Programs under international student graduate streams. Some programs don’t even require prior work experience or a job offer. Visit the website of the province you’re targeting to learn more about their programs for international student graduates. 


Here are again the steps to get started with the Student Pathway to PR here in Canada: 

  1. Choose your program of study, school, and province
  2. Apply for admissions in your top choices
  3. Wait for your letter of acceptance and enroll once accepted
  4. Prepare your documents for your Study Permit application 
  5.  Apply for a study permit through IRCC
  6. Give your biometrics
  7. Wait for your study permit approval and visitor visa

After you graduate, you can either apply for PR through Express Entry if you already meet the work experience requirement. Or work for at least a year under the required NOC. 

There are also other immigration programs for international student graduates that you can explore later on. 

If you think that the Student Pathway to PR in Canada is for you, I hope this post helps you get started. Subscribe to our blog to receive more friendly advice and tips on immigrating to Canada.

This post has been checked by Grammarly
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. 

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on August 27, 2021, and has been updated since then to contain the most up-to-date information and change of opinions by the author.

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