The number of international students in Canada exceeds 620,000 in 2021

Canada Immigration News: Many more international students came to Canada last year than during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with massive increases in the number of Canadian study permits issued in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

Data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) shows that 621,565 study permits were issued last year, up nearly 17.7% from 528,190 in 2020.


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Last year’s rebound in study permits places Canada a hair’s breadth away – just 2.6 percentage points – from reaching its all-time high of 638,280 study permits issued in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic.

Processing study permits back to standard: IRCC

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

“We will be putting additional resources into bringing study permit processing times back to our service standard this year in hopes that we can get as many students here in the time they need to complete their programs. academics,” Fraser promised earlier this year.

Measures Ottawa is implementing to speed up application processing include hiring 500 new processing staff and digitizing applications.


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With the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war at the end of February, Canada also decided to extend study permits for all Ukrainians in Canada free of charge for up to three years.

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

In 2021, 292,240 study permits were issued in Ontario, a jump of 49,540, or 20.4%, from the 242,700 issued the previous year. In the last full year before the pandemic began, 306,055 study permits were issued in Ontario.

Alberta saw 32,645 study permits issued last year, an increase of 4,940 study permits, or 17.8%, from the 27,705 issued in 2020. With this increase in study permits studies last year, the Prairie Province came close to 300 study permits of the level set in 2019.

British Columbia saw a 13.8% increase in study permits

On the west coast, British Columbia saw a peak of 16,350 study permits last year to reach 134,860, an increase of nearly 13.8% from the 118,510 issued the previous year. But British Columbia was still down about 6.6% at the end of last year from 144,340 study permits in 2019 before the pandemic temporarily slowed international travel to a trickle.

Under a Study permitinternational students can come to Canada and then apply for a post-graduation work permit. This then puts them in 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, living expenses, and round-trip transportation;
  • are law-abiding citizens with no criminal record;
  • are in good health and willing to undergo a medical examination, and;
  • can convince an immigration officer that they will leave Canada at the end of their authorized stay.

Once their study permit has been issued, these students can work in Canada in 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 enables new graduates to gain work experience

After graduation, an international student can apply for a work permit under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program. Under this program, the work permit can be issued for the duration of the study program, up to a maximum of three years.

The valuable work experience gained while an international graduate works in Canada under a post-graduation work permit can count towards an application for permanent residence through the Canada Express Entry system.

Under the Comprehensive filing system (CRS) used by programs in the Express Entry system, prospective immigrants are awarded points based on:

  • Skills;
  • Professional experience;
  • Language ability;
  • Language skills and education of the applicant’s spouse or common-law partner;
  • Possession of a job offer supported by a positive Labor Market Impact Assessment;
  • Possession of a provincial government nomination for permanent residence, and;
  • Certain combinations of language skills, education and work experience increase the candidate’s chances of getting a job (skills transferability).