Canadian Study Permits – Video 2: What to Study and Where to Study
Hi, I’m Russ Weninger. I’m an immigration lawyer in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Today I’m going to talk to you about what to study and where to study, from an immigration perspective. For this video, the focus is going to be on post-secondary studies leading to educational credentials rather than on high school or ESL studies, although many of the considerations will also apply to high school and ESL studies. Let’s start off by considering what to study. My plan for this video is to look at the different immigration considerations in choosing what to study. There may be any number of reasons why someone may want to pursue studies in one area rather than another. Everyone has personal preferences, talents, and aptitudes. We all come from different educational and employment backgrounds. What may make sense for you as a program of study may not make sense for me. I’m not here to suggest to you that pursuing a professional degree is preferable to pursuing a non-professional degree, or that taking a so-called STEM program (that is a program focusing on science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) is better than taking a liberal arts program, or that working towards a university degree is better than working towards a college diploma program. The suggestions I’ll be offering are based on immigration considerations and not on more holistic considerations of what you may enjoy or be good at, or what may provide benefit to society as a whole. That being said, these latter considerations will also be important to you in deciding what to study. When you’re watching this video, please remember that the requirements for obtaining a study permit are different from the requirements for obtaining acceptance into a post-secondary program. Being accepted into a post-secondary program is, in most cases, necessary, but not sufficient to obtain a study permit. In other words, while you must first, in most cases, get accepted into a program before obtaining a study permit, being accepted into a post-secondary program does not guarantee that you will be approved for a study permit. From an immigration point of view, there are a number of factors to consider in determining what to study. Some important factors are the cost of studying, the time required to complete studies, your educational and employment background, your employability in Canada or in your home country after studies are completed, and what kind of work permit is available after studies are complete. Some of these factors are important considerations when a person is applying for a study permit. Other factors may be important considerations if a person wishes to work in Canada after graduation or wishes to eventually immigrate to Canada. Factors that may affect a study permit application are: the cost of studying, the time required to complete studies, your educational and employment background, and your employability in Canada or in your home country after studies are complete. Factors that may affect future work in Canada or your ability to immigrate to Canada are: your employability in Canada or in your home country after studies are complete, and what kind of work permit is available after studies are complete. Though this list is not necessarily complete, when choosing a program to study certain considerations may affect the likelihood of success on your study permit application. You should be thinking about the cost of your planned studies, the time required to complete your studies, your current educational and employment background, and your likely employability after your studies have been completed. One of the main reasons a study permit may be rejected is the perception of a lack of funds. The onus is on the person applying for a study permit to convince a visa officer that they have the necessary funds to complete their studies. If a visa officer is of the opinion that a study permit applicant is unable to complete their studies with the funds they currently have access to, then the application will almost certainly be denied. When considering the funds necessary to complete a program, you should be considering not only the cost of tuition and books, but the likely living expenses during your studies. Three main factors will impact upon the cost of studies: the cost of tuition, the length of the program, and the cost of living in the city where you will be studying. If you can afford an expensive degree program from start to finish in a pricey city such as Toronto or Vancouver, then the cost of the program may not be a significant issue for you. However, if your financial resources are somewhat limited, you may wish to opt for a shorter or otherwise cheaper post-secondary program in a region of Canada with a lower cost of living. Here are some resources to help you estimate the cost of your study. As mentioned earlier, the time required to complete studies is a factor that affects the overall cost of studies and therefore can affect a study permit application’s likelihood of success. Another thing to consider in relation to the duration of studies is what economists call opportunity costs. Opportunity costs are essentially missed opportunities. If you are attending school full-time for a year, you will miss the opportunity of working full-time during that year. While many international students are allowed to work part-time up to 20 hours a week during their studies in Canada, the time commitment involved in pursuing education often means that working even 20 hours a week is too much for a student to manage. For people who already have lucrative careers, taking time off work to pursue a degree or diploma may represent a significant opportunity cost. A visa officer is likely aware of this. If you are taking a year or two off from your successful career to pursue a Master’s, that is one thing. But taking on a four-year undergraduate degree later on in life while you leave behind an apparently successful career may cause a visa officer to question the motivation behind your studies. If a visa officer is of the opinion that your intention to study in Canada is not genuine, or that you are unlikely to comply with Canada’s immigration laws upon entry into Canada, your application will be denied. If a visa officer believes that a study permit application is being done simply to grant you entry into Canada, your application will be denied. People in their late teens and early 20s to some degree have a blank slate when it comes to what studies they may reasonably pursue. An eighteen year old may want to become a chef, or a musician, or an engineer, or any other imaginable occupation. Such a person may wish to pursue any post-secondary program he or she is interested in. However, a visa officer will be more suspicious of someone in their 30s, 40s, or 50s who wants to go back to school, especially if the proposed field of study doesn’t relate to that person’s previous work experience and education. A holder of a PhD who has worked as an engineer for twenty years may have trouble convincing a visa officer that their intention to go back to school to study Medieval French poetry at a Bachelor’s degree level is genuine. That’s not to say that a 20 year engineer with a PhD can’t successfully obtain a study permit to pursue a BA in Medieval French poetry. However, such a person will have to go to considerable lengths to convince a visa officer that they have a genuine intention to study Medieval French poetry and that they are not simply using a study permit application as a means of gaining entry to Canada. In general, if there has been a significant period of time since you studied anything at the secondary or post-secondary level, then you’ll have to do more to show how your proposed studies relate to your current employment or realistic future employment, or you’ll have to otherwise show how the proposed studies will enhance your life in some significant way. You’ll also have to do more to explain yourself if you’re planning on pursuing studies that don’t obviously relate to anything you have done in the past. For example, a medical doctor wishing to take an early childhood education certificate program would likely have to explain the shift in focus. As well, if you’re pursuing a lower level of education after having already obtained a high level, you will have to do more to persuade the visa officer that your intentions are genuine. Typically, it wouldn’t make much sense for someone with a Master’s in Business Administration from a well-regarded university to pursue a college diploma program in Business Administration. That being said, if you’re pursuing a lower level of education in a different field in a deliberate attempt to change careers, your choice may make some sense. Someone with a Master’s degree in Philosophy may wish to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science to pursue a career in the tech industry, for example. Post-secondary programs that appear to be building upon or enhancing prior education and work experience will in general be looked upon more favorably by visa officers. Up until this point, we’ve been considering what to study from the point of view of how easy it will be to qualify for a study permit. However, many people applying for Canadian study permits don’t just want to study in Canada; they want to live in Canada permanently. Now we’ll begin to ship focus and look at what to study from the point of view of whether it will enhance a future application for permanent residence. Future employability is a factor that can affect both the likelihood of a study permit being approved and the likelihood of permanent residence being granted down the road. If a visa officer believes that a program of studies will enhance a person’s employability, whether in some other country or in Canada, the study permit application is more likely to be approved. While people may pursue studies for a number of reasons, top of the list for many is to have the education lead to better career prospects down the road. If a visa officer believes that your proposed education will enhance your future employment prospects, then that officer is more likely to believe that your wish to study is genuine. Also running in the back of any visa officer’s mind is whether proposed studies will make a person a better candidate for permanent residence in the future. A visa officer will consider this because they are required to deny any application when it seems reasonably likely that the applicant will stay without authorization if their status expires. People who will have better job prospects both in Canada and outside of Canada are less likely to stay illegally in Canada because they are more likely to either qualify for Canadian permanent residence or to return home to good jobs at the end of their studies. Future employability in Canada is an important consideration in choosing an educational program because most Canadian immigration streams give preference to applicants with Canadian work experience in skilled occupations. Many, but not all, Canadian post-secondary programs will allow international students to qualify for special open work permits called post-graduate work permits upon graduation. This is important because Canadian skilled work experience acquired after graduation can help a person qualify for permanent residence under a number of federal immigration streams and provincial nominee programs. Post-graduate work permits are typically issued for periods of between one year and three years. Having a postgraduate work permit for one year means that a person can work in Canada in almost any occupation for which they are qualified, for any employer willing to hire them, anywhere in Canada for up to one year. Having a post-graduate work permit for three years means that a person can work in Canada in almost any occupation for which they’re qualified, for any employer willing to hire them, anywhere in Canada for up to three years. Completion of university degree programs as opposed to college certificate or diploma programs typically lead to postgraduate work permits being issued for longer periods of time, since degree programs tend to require longer periods of study. if your program of study lasts between eight months and two years, upon graduation, you may be eligible for a post-graduate work permit that matches the length of your period of study. If your program of study lasts two years or longer, you may be eligible for a three-year post-graduate work permit. It should be noted that not all post-secondary programs lead to post-graduate work permits. If you have already received a postgraduate work permit in the past, you will not be eligible for a new postgraduate work in the future. Also, only graduates of certain Canadian educational institutions are eligible for post-graduate work permits. I’ll discuss this further a little later in this video. Many Canadian post-secondary educational credentials will assist a person in later obtaining permanent residence. The most common way of applying for permanent residence as a worker or economic immigrant is by going through the online Express Entry system. Express Entry gives preference to people with Canadian post-secondary educational credentials. Another method of applying for permanent residence is through a provincial nominee program. Most provinces give some form of preferential treatment to graduates of Canadian institutions, but it should also be noted that many provinces give preferential treatment to graduates of institutions within their own province. For example, if you wanted to apply for permanent residence under the Manitoba Provincial Nominee program, it would be helpful to have completed a program of study in the Province of Manitoba. If you already have a Canadian educational credential, adding another Canadian educational credential to your resume may not improve your immigration prospects unless you are increasing your overall educational level. Taking a Canadian college diploma program will likely not be particularly helpful to you if you already have a Canadian Master’s degree. However, getting a Canadian Master’s degree after obtaining a Canadian Bachelor’s degree may be beneficial to you in that the Master’s degree will put you in a higher educational category, as far as immigration is concerned. Once you have determined what sort of educational program you wish to pursue, it is also important to consider where in Canada it would be best to pursue those studies. It’s beyond the scope of this video to discuss which post-secondary institutions are stronger in regards to particular programs of study, but there are resources that you may wish to consult, such as the Maclean’s University Rankings. I haven’t mentioned language training much in this video, but if you are wishing to study English as a second language, I typically recommend studying in a province other than Quebec, which is primarily French-speaking. On the other hand, if you’re hoping to study French, then Quebec and parts of New Brunswick would likely be preferable over the rest of Canada. That being said, Quebec has a world-class university, McGill University, where classes are taught primarily in English. In Edmonton, Alberta, the University of Alberta has a well-regarded French-language campus known as Campus Saint-Jean. I often encounter people who are not from Canada who underestimate the vast scale of Canadian geography. By landmass, Canada is the second largest country in the world. It can take seven hours or longer to travel from one end of Canada to the other by plane. For many people it may be less expensive to travel from your home country to a city in Canada than it will be to travel from one Canadian city to another. Canadian climates range from a very moderate so-called Mediterranean climate on the south part of the west coast of British Columbia to frigid arctic climates throughout much of the northern and interior parts of the country. Major cities, such as Edmonton and Winnipeg, are well below freezing for much of the year. Some parts of Canada get lots of sunlight and other parts get very little. Some parts are humid and other parts are dry. Some parts have breathtaking mountains and lakes and other parts have treeless prairie land that goes on for hundreds of kilometers. Canada has vast coastal regions, but it also has immense swaths of land that are nowhere near a major body of water. If you are thinking of studying in Canada, you likely want to spend some time outdoors enjoying the countryside. Wherever you are thinking of studying, I’d recommend researching the climate of that region and consider its proximity to places where you may want to travel. You should also consider the fact that each Canadian province has its own provincial nominee program. If you are planning on living permanently in a particular Canadian province, it may make sense to study in that province in order to get special consideration in that province’s immigration programs. As mentioned earlier in this video, a significant advantage of studying in Canada is the ability, in many cases, to qualify for post-graduate work permits upon graduation. However, only studies at certain educational institutions and certain educational programs allow for post-graduate work permits after graduation. The rules are a little different for the Province of Quebec, but for most of Canada, an international student will only be eligible for a post-graduate work permit if they graduated from a public post-secondary school or a Canadian private post-secondary school that can legally award degrees under provincial law at the Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctorate level. If studying at a private post-secondary school that can award degrees, you must have completed a degree program at that institution in order to be eligible for a post-graduate work permit. If you are interested in obtaining a post-graduate work permit, I’d recommend avoiding so-called career colleges that may offer short term courses in career areas such as massage therapy, private security, medical reception, naturopathic medicine, or office administration. In some cases, recruiting agents from these schools have mistakenly advised students that they will be eligible for post-graduate work permits upon graduation. While many of these career colleges are Designated Learning Institutions whose students are eligible to obtain Canadian study permits, such education will not qualify graduates for post-graduate work permits, and it will likely have little positive effect on a person’s chances of acquiring Canadian permanent residence. However, if you simply wish to study at these institutions, and you are not concerned about obtaining permanent residence, down the road then these institutions may offer viable study options for you. Please check out my upcoming video in which I will provide an overview of the Canadian immigration system as it applies to international students. If you enjoyed this video, please feel free to like it, or share it, or subscribe to my YouTube channel. If you have a question, please leave it in the comments section, and I will do my best to respond. While I don’t want to give specific legal advice in the comments section. I will try my best to answer general questions, provided it is understood that my responses to comments should not be taken as legal advice, that social media interactions are not considered lawyer-client interactions, and that your safest course of action is to consult directly with me or another immigration lawyer if you have an immigration issue.