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How to Study in Canada

The following are the steps you need to take if you wish to study in Canada and transition to permanent residence:

Step 1 – Select a program: Conduct research and find the education program you want to pursue in Canada.

Step 2 – Apply to a Canadian designated learning institution: Once you have determined which education program to apply to, submit your application to the Canadian designated learning institution (DLI) of your choice.

Step 3 – Apply for a study permit: Upon obtaining a letter of acceptance, and a provincial attestation letter from the province or territory where your school is located, Cohen Immigration Law can help you submit an application to the Government of Canada for a study permit. The study permit is a document that most people need so they can legally remain in Canada as a student.

Step 4 (Optional) – Explore your immigration optionsAfter completing your studies, Cohen Immigration Law can help you remain in Canada to gain more professional work experience and pursue permanent residence.

What are the Benefits of Studying in Canada?

Canada is now one of the world’s leading destinations for international students with over 800,000 students from all over the world. Research shows that international students are attracted to Canada for the following reasons:

  • High quality of education offered by Canadian schools
  • Canada offers international students with opportunities to work during and after their studies, and transition to permanent residence
  • Opportunities to study in English and/or French
  • Safety and security
  • Multicultural society
  • Canada welcomes immigrants and international students from nearly 200 different countries each year
  • Canada is affordable compared with other popular international student destinations. Consider also that the Canadian dollar is weaker than major currencies such as the USD, GBP, and EUR

About Canada’s Universities and Colleges

There are over 1,500 universities, colleges, and other educational institutions that are authorized by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to welcome international students. These educational institutions are called Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) and they exist to help international students learn in Canada and stay in the country after graduation. The list of DLIs that are authorized by IRCC is constantly growing. Please verify that the university, college, or other institution you wish to enroll in is authorized by IRCC by visiting the Canadian government’s official website.

Ontario and Quebec are Canada’s largest provinces by population, and hence, they host the most number of DLIs in the country (nearly 1,000 combined).

Given the large number of DLIs across Canada, you are very likely to find an educational program that meets your needs.

Generally speaking, universities across Canada offer comparable levels of high-quality education. The reason for this is that Canada promotes equity within its education system, meaning that it strives to ensure all students get the best possible education possible, irrespective of which institution that they go to.

Canada also has some 150 community colleges which also offer good quality education. Whereas universities specialize in providing theoretical knowledge and career training in certain professions (e.g., medicine, engineering, law), community colleges offer more applied training to help students quickly integrate into the labour market. College programs are more practical, with the knowledge provided to students meant to help them find work within their area of study.

Just like universities, colleges across Canada tend to offer similar levels of education. International students should take comfort at studying at a Canadian college, since the credential that they gain will support their professional and immigration ambitions upon graduation.

New changes to Canada’s study permit allocations

In 2024, IRCC announced that it will begin limiting the number of study permits issued in that year to 360,000—which would be divided through specific allocations for provinces and territories based on their student populations. Provinces and territories are expected to establish a process for issuing provincial attestation letters to students by no later than March 31st, 2024.

This cap does not impact masters or doctoral students, nor those in elementary or secondary levels of schooling. In addition study permit renewals will not be impacted by this policy either.

IRCC has implemented these changes to help promote sustainable levels of international students, safeguard stakeholders from abuses of the international student program, and ensure adequate housing for accepted students in Canada. Per these new changes, IRCC will allocate a portion of the overall study permit cap to provincial and territorial governments, who will then distribute this allocation among DLIs in their jurisdiction.

To implement this cap, all study permit applications made after January 22nd, 2024 will now need a provincial attestation letter from a province or territory, in support of the applicant’s approval to study in Canada.

IRCC currently expects that the current measures will be in place for two years. The department will re-assess the number of study permit allocations in 2025 at the end of 2024.

Study Pathways to Permanent Residence (PR)

International students who complete post-secondary education in Canada have many opportunities to extend their stay and ultimately transition to permanent residence.

Your education in Canada may put you at an advantage when it comes to pursuing Canadian permanent residence. Many federal and provincial immigration programs value candidates with Canadian education and work experience.

After completing your education in Canada, you can gain Canadian work experience by obtaining a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) which, depending on your Canadian academic program, may enable you to work in Canada for up to three years.

While holding a PGWP, you can then go ahead and pursue a number of federal and provincial permanent residence avenues, such as:

Express Entry

One of the most prominent ways of pursuing permanent residence is by submitting an Express Entry profile. Express Entry is the main way that Canada manages economic class immigration applications.

Express Entry candidates are assessed through the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The CRS rewards candidates who are young, have Canadian education and work experience, and strong English and/or French proficiency. These are characteristics that many of Canada’s international students possess.

Through Express Entry, former international students may be well-placed to be eligible for the popular Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program, which enables tens of thousands of former international students and temporary foreign workers to become permanent residents each year.

Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)

The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) allows provinces and territories across Canada to identify immigration candidates who meet their local economic needs. Many PNP streams reward candidates who are former international students or are specifically dedicated to international students.


Quebec is Canada’s second largest province and the city of Montreal is a very popular destination for international students. The province operates its own immigration system with programs that are different from those offered by the federal government and under the PNP. Quebec also encourages former international students to transition to permanent residence. One of the notable ways it seeks to do this is through the Quebec Experience Program.

Other Federal Programs

In addition to the three programs it manages under Express Entry, the federal government operates additional economic class immigration programs. The programs offer special streams to international students and/or exemptions from Canadian work experience requirements. These include the Atlantic Immigration Program and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) Why should I study in Canada?

Canada offers high quality education at a relatively affordable cost in a safe, stable, and multicultural society. Canada enables you to work during your studies and obtain a work permit after your studies as long as you meet the Canadian government’s criteria. Gaining work experience in Canada after your studies provides you with more opportunities to settle in Canada as a permanent resident. Due to its attractiveness, Canada hosts international students from around 200 different countries.

2) How many international students are in Canada?

3) Which countries are Canada’s international students coming from?

4) How can I study in Canada?

5) Can I bring my family to Canada?

6) Which Canadian city is best for international students?

7) Can I stay in Canada after my studies?

8) How can I stay in Quebec after my studies?

9) Can I become a permanent resident after my studies in Canada?

10) Can I become a Canadian Citizen after my studies in Canada?

10) What is a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)?

11) How do I qualify for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)?

12) Can international students work while studying in Canada?

13) How many hours can I work while on a study permit?

14) Can I get a scholarship in Canada?

15) How much money do I need to study in Canada?

16) What is the Student Direct Stream (SDS)?

17) How do I become eligible for the Student Direct Stream (SDS)?

18) What is the age limit to study in Canada?

19) Do I need to take a language test to study in Canada?

20) What are my responsibilities as an international student in Canada?

21) How long does it take to get a study permit?

22) What are the differences in study levels, and between colleges, universities, and other designated learning institutions in Canada?

23) What is the application deadline for DLIs in Canada?

24) What is the Nigeria Student Express Program?

25) How many international students gain Canadian permanent residence (PR) each year?

26) How can I convince my parents to study in Canada?

Contact the Cohen Immigration Law Firm for Assistance

Do you need assistance studying in Canada? The Cohen Immigration Law Firm can help. Cohen Immigration Law offers over 45 years of Canadian immigration expertise.

Please contact us to schedule a free telephone consultation with one of our lawyers.

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