Canada Eases Pathway to Citizenship for International Students

October 17, 2017
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As of October 11, permanent residents in Canada who were previously on a study permit will be able to count a portion of their time studying in the country towards their Canadian citizenship residency requirement.

This change, coupled with the reduction of the physical presence requirement from at least four to three years, means that international students and graduates who wish to settle in Canada can now enjoy a faster and easier way to obtaining Canadian citizenship.

The five amendments that came into effect today benefit not only international graduates, but permanent residents who held temporary resident or protected person status, such as individuals on a study permit, work permit and/or Post-Graduation Work Permit.

“We want all permanent residents in Canada to become citizens. That’s our wish, because we value Canadian citizenship, we understand we are a community that continues to welcome people from all over the world. And we understand the importance and the positive role that immigrants play in our economy, in our society, and in our cultural life,” said Federal Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen at a press conference in Brampton, Ontario last week.

How this benefits international students

Prior to these changes, the time students spent in Canada on temporary status did not count towards citizenship, meaning that students could only begin counting time towards the physical presence requirement for citizenship after obtaining permanent residence. Furthermore, to fulfill the physical presence requirements permanent residents had to be present in Canada for four out of six years in order to be considered eligible to apply for citizenship.

The new regulations give permanent residents the opportunity to count each day spent in Canada as an international student, or alternatively a post-graduation work permit holder, as a half-day for up to a maximum of 365 possible days. This new measure and the reduction of the physical presence days to three years could mean that international graduates and workers may be eligible to apply for citizenship after only two years of being permanent residents in Canada.

Additionally, the government no longer requires citizenship applicants to be physically present in Canada for 183 days or more in four out of the six years preceding their application, as was the case before.

Learn more about Canadian citizenship eligibility requirements.

International students as permanent residents

The number of students who choose Canada as a study destination is rapidly increasing. The percentage of international students enrolled in post-secondary studies increased roughly 16 percent in one year, between 2015 and 2016.

Canada encourages international students and graduates to stay, gain work experience, and contribute to Canada’s economy and culture.

The changes to the Citizenship Act and improvements to the federal Express Entry system demonstrate the government’s objective to retain more international students and graduates in Canada.

Canada recognizes the cultural and economic influence of students who have studied in Canada, and, as a result, the federal government and provinces have developed immigration programsto support international graduates’ pathway to permanent residence. At the federal level, additional points were introduced for candidates in the Express Entry pool with a Canadian education in order to address previous disproportions in the system.

Speaking in Vancouver last month, Minister Hussen stated, “International students who have so much promise, who have studied in our country, who speak one or both of our official languages, who are young, who are keen, and who are ready to work, are now obtaining more points under the Express Entry system, and so it’s reflected in the pool. And now, under the Express Entry system, more than half of the successful applicants are international students.”

This rapid increase of students, who choose to live in Canada for a number of years to complete their post-secondary studies — combined with Canadian immigration options available to international graduates — allude to a bigger cohort than ever before of potential new Canadians who have already settled in the country and developed attachments in their local communities, as well as to the labour market.

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