Getting PR after graduating from a master’s or PhD program as an international student

Getting PR after graduating from a master’s or PhD program as an international student

It may now be easier for students who come to Canada for a master’s or Ph.D. program to obtain permanent residence (PR).

On February 15, 2024, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) enacted a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) policy that was first announced on January 22 as one of many changes coming to Canada’s international student system.

This policy now means that international student graduates of master’s degree programs at Canadian Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) – the only post-secondary institutions authorized by IRCC to accept international students – are eligible for a three-year PGWP. This is true even for students studying in master’s programs that are two years or less in length.

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Note: Before February 15, the validity period of a PGWP for master’s students was directly correlated to the length of the program of study.

How does this make it easier to obtain PR in Canada?

The value of a PGWP lies in that it allows international student graduates to work in Canada once they complete a PGWP-eligible program at a DLI.

This Canadian work experience is valuable to those who later intend to pursue PR because many of Canada’s immigration pathways either require or reward such experience.

For example, Canada’s popular Express Entry application management system, which prioritizes a candidate’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score, rewards candidates with a minimum of 80* additional CRS points for work experience acquired in Canada before they apply for PR.

*This point value is for Express Entry candidates without a spouse or common-law partner under the Core/Human Capital Factors section of the Express Entry system. Candidates in other circumstances, such as those applying alongside their spouse/partner, may receive a different number of CRS points.

Therefore, this expanded PGWP policy will make it easier for eligible students to obtain PR because it allows them more time to acquire valuable Canadian work experience, which they can then use on their immigration application.

Other ways IRCC makes it easier for master’s and PhD students to immigrate to Canada

Express Entry’s CRS system rewards higher education

Further to the value of a master’s or Ph.D. for Canadian immigration, the Express Entry CRS system rewards higher levels of education.

Specifically, students with master’s and Ph.D. degrees are rewarded with the two highest CRS scores under “level of education” by the Express Entry system.

  • Master’s students: 126 points with a spouse/common-law partner; 135 points without
  • Ph.D. students: 140 points with a spouse/common-law partner; 150 points without

Simply, more CRS points gives candidates a better chance of receiving an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for Canadian PR.

Many provinces/territories have dedicated Provincial Nominee Program streams for Masters/PhD students

Students who obtain either a master’s or Ph.D. degree in Canada also open themselves up to various additional Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) streams.

Note: 11 of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories, excluding Quebec and Nunavut, operate a PNP

This is because many of Canada’s top newcomer destination provinces, including Ontario and British Columbia, operate specific streams for students who graduate from these programs. More information on some of these PNP streams is available at the links below.

Ontario: Ontario Masters Graduate Stream and Ontario Ph.D. Graduate Stream

British Columbia: International Post-Graduate Category

Manitoba: Graduate Internship Pathway

More information on Canada’s PNPs can be found here.

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