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Mar 1, 2024
Study PermitGuide to Canada

Post-Study Permit Changes: Your Alternative Immigration Paths

Canada's updated study permit policy limits pathways to residency. We emphasized alternatives like the ICT, SUV, Master's, and targeted job searches.

Post-Study Permit Changes: Your Alternative Immigration Paths

In the ever-evolving landscape of global migration, Canada has long stood as a beacon of hope for those looking to start anew. The country's policies and welcoming culture have made it a top destination for immigrants worldwide.

Traditionally, many have viewed studying in Canada as a golden pathway to permanent residency, especially for individuals who may not initially qualify for direct immigration programs such as Express Entry or Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP). This group often includes those over 30 years old and non-native speakers of English or French.

However, recent changes announced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) signal a significant shift in this pathway, urging prospective immigrants to explore alternative routes to Canadian residency.

The Changing Tide of Study Permits

In a move that took many by surprise, the IRCC has declared a forthcoming reduction in the issuance of study permits. This policy adjustment places a pronounced emphasis on higher education—specifically targeting Master's and Ph.D. programs—and introduces an upper limit of permits available for each province.

The updated policy provisions are as follows:

  • Starting from 1 September 2024, students participating in programs offered through public-private partnerships will not qualify for Post-Graduate Work Permits (PGWPs).
  • There will be introduced caps on the work permits for spouses of foreign students.
  • Applications for study permits must now include a "provincial attestation letter." Provinces and territories are required to establish systems to issue these letters by 31 March 2024 at the latest.
  • Graduates from Master's degree programs will soon have the opportunity to apply for a work permit valid for three years. Presently, the duration of a post-graduation work permit is determined exclusively by the length of the study program, which restricts master’s graduates by reducing the time available for them to acquire work experience and possibly progress to permanent residency.

This pivot aims to streamline the quality of education and post-graduation opportunities but inevitably restricts the previously broad avenue for immigration through study.

Canada's immigration pathway via education has been a popular route for many aspiring immigrants. This pathway typically involves coming to Canada as an international student, gaining Canadian work experience post-graduation, and eventually applying for permanent residency. This sequence leverages the Canadian educational system's global reputation, work opportunities post-study, and immigration policies favoring candidates with Canadian credentials and work experience.

However, this well-trodden path is set to encounter significant changes due to the updated policy on study permits. According to the policy, Canada aims to "stabilize growth and decrease the number of new international student permits issued to approximately 360,000 for 2024." This represents a strategic shift in managing the influx of international students to ensure sustainable growth and integration capacity.

The implications of this policy change are multifaceted:

  • Admission Competition: With a cap on the number of student permits, competition for admissions into Canadian educational institutions may increase. This could raise the academic and financial thresholds required for prospective students.
  • Work and Immigration Opportunities: A reduction in the number of international students might impact the pool of candidates eligible for PGWPs and, subsequently, those who transition to permanent residency. This could potentially make the pathway to immigration via study, work, and then immigration more challenging for future applicants.
  • Policy and Program Adjustments: The Canadian government may adjust related immigration policies and programs to align with this new direction. This could involve changes in criteria or quotas for programs like the CEC, PNP, or FSWP that favor international students and graduates.

Exploring Alternative Immigration Avenues

As Canada adjusts its immigration policies, understanding the full spectrum of alternative pathways is crucial for those aspiring to make Canada their new home. Beyond the previously mentioned programs, let’s delve deeper and expand on the options available, providing a clearer roadmap for successful immigration.

  1. Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) Program

    The ICT program not only opens doors for key employees but also fosters international business expansion into Canada. It's an excellent strategy for businesses looking to establish a footprint in the Canadian market while ensuring their core team members can lead operations on the ground.

    Eligibility Expansion: Besides managers and executives, employees with specialized knowledge of the company's products, services, research, systems, or management can be considered for this program, making it a versatile option for businesses across various sectors. The foreign can establish a new office in Canada - they should have at least CAD$200,000 in annual revenue and CAD$200,000 in available funds to operate their foreign business and start their Canadian counterpart.

    Strategic Benefits: Transferees under the ICT program can bring their families, and spouses may be eligible for an open work permit, enhancing the appeal of this pathway for personal and professional reasons.

    Long-term Considerations: While initially granted for a one-year period, ICT permits can be extended, allowing individuals to work towards permanent residency under Canadian experience class criteria, provided they meet the eligibility requirements during their stay.

    Learn more about the process and requirements of the ICT program.


    • Application Preparation: 1-2 months. This includes gathering necessary documents, such as proof of employment, company support documents, and preparing the application.
    • Processing Time: Approximately 3-4 months, but this can vary depending on the visa office and specific circumstances.
    • Extension and Transition to Permanent Residency: ICT permits can initially be granted for up to 1 year and can be extended. For those looking to transition to permanent residency, considering the Canadian Experience Class or other relevant programs after gaining Canadian work experience is advisable, which could take several years of planning and preparation.

  2. Start-Up Visa (SUV) Program

    The SUV program is not just about launching a business; it's about contributing to the Canadian economy by bringing innovative ideas and creating employment opportunities for Canadians.

    Requirements: Securing a commitment from a designated organization is a critical step. Engaging with potential investors early on, presenting a solid business plan, and demonstrating the viability and innovation of the idea are pivotal to success. Though there’s English/French language requirement, basic-to-intermediate level is sufficient.

    Community and Ecosystem: Canada's start-up ecosystem is robust, offering numerous resources, networks, and communities for entrepreneurs. Leveraging these resources can provide invaluable support in establishing and growing your business in Canada.

    Direct Permanent Residence: The SUV provides a direct route to permanent residency, a unique advantage over other work-based immigration options. Once the business is operational and meeting the conditions of the investment, entrepreneurs can apply for permanent residency, providing a stable future in Canada for themselves and their families.

    Learn more about the process and requirements of the SUV program.

    Check out the SUV designated organizations that we partner with.


    • Securing a Commitment Certificate: The process of securing a commitment from a designated organization (angel investor group, venture capital fund, or business incubator) can take several months, depending on the negotiation and the business plan's approval.
    • Application Processing Time: After submitting the application with the commitment certificate, processing times can range from 12 to 16 months.
    • Establishment and Permanent Residency Application: Once in Canada, the time to establish the business and meet the conditions of the investment varies. Applicants should plan for at least 1 to 2 years before applying for permanent residency based on the business's success.

  3. Master's Degree Application

    For many, pursuing higher education in Canada is not just about academic advancement but also about enhancing employability and pathways to immigration.

    Selection of Program and Institution: Choosing the right program and institution is crucial. Programs with co-op or internship components offer practical experience and networking opportunities, significantly enhancing post-graduation employment prospects in Canada.

    Scholarships and Financial Aid: Many Canadian institutions offer scholarships, bursaries, and financial aid options for international students, which can help mitigate the financial burden of tuition and living expenses. Researching and applying for these opportunities is highly recommended.

    Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP): Graduates from eligible Canadian institutions can apply for the PGWP, allowing them to gain valuable Canadian work experience. This experience is advantageous for those applying for permanent residency, particularly through the Canadian Experience Class.


    • Application to Programs: Prospective students should begin their research and application process at least 12-18 months before the intended start date. This accounts for deadlines, preparation for necessary exams (GRE/GMAT), and gathering of documents.
    • Duration of Study: Most Master's programs in Canada last between 1 to 2 years.
    • Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP): After graduation, students have 180 days to apply for the PGWP, which can be issued for the length of the study program, up to a maximum of 3 years. This work experience is crucial for those aiming to apply for permanent residency.

  4. Securing a Job and Work Permit

    Finding a job in Canada requires more than just meeting the basic requirements; it requires a strategic approach to align with the Canadian labor market and immigration policies.

    Networking and Professional Development: Building a professional network and engaging in continuous professional development are key strategies. Platforms like LinkedIn, professional associations, and Canadian job fairs (even virtual ones) can provide significant opportunities for connection and employment.

    Understanding LMIA: For most work permit applications, employers must obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to hire a foreign worker. Understanding the LMIA process and targeting employers willing to undergo this process can increase the chances of securing a job offer.

    Priority Sectors: Certain sectors may have more streamlined pathways due to labor shortages in Canada. For example, healthcare, engineering, and technology fields often have expedited processes for work permits. Identifying and aligning qualifications with these sectors can significantly enhance the likelihood of success.

    Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP): Many provinces offer PNPs that target specific occupations in demand within the province. These programs can provide a more direct route to permanent residency for individuals with job offers in those sectors.


    • Job Search and Offer: The timeline for finding a job can vary significantly, often taking several months to over a year, depending on the industry, role, and level of expertise.
    • LMIA Process: If required, the LMIA application process by the employer can take about 2-3 months.
    • Work Permit Application: Once a job offer is secured, the work permit application process can take from 2 to 6 months, depending on whether it's processed outside or inside Canada, and the current processing times.
    • Transition to Permanent Residency: For those on a work permit seeking permanent residency, the timeline will depend on the specific immigration program. Programs like the Canadian Experience Class could require at least 1 year of Canadian work experience.


The landscape of Canadian immigration is rich with opportunities, but navigating it requires insight, preparation, and adaptability. By understanding the depth and breadth of alternative immigration pathways, prospective immigrants can better position themselves for success. Whether through business, innovation, education, or employment, the dream of Canadian residency is achievable with the right approach and resources.

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