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Immigration Pathways for International Graduates

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The Government of Canada recently opened six new immigration pathways for workers and international graduates. The English-speaking International Graduates pathway was the most popular of the six and the 40,000 allotted application spaces filled up within hours of the May 6 opening date. However, this does not mean that there is no possibility for international graduates to become permanent residents of Canada. There is the potential for some of the International Graduate applications to be refused, and the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) department may, at a later date, accept more applications to fill these spaces. As there are more international graduates than foreign workers in Canada, allowances may be made to accommodate for this.

There are concrete steps that international graduates interested in permanent residency can take even during the current pandemic. One important step is to complete a recognized language test to prove proficiency in English and/or French. One option for testing is the International English Language Testing System, or IELTS. It is an international standardized test of English language aptitude for non-native English speakers. The IELTS is recognized by the Canadian immigration system and is a requirement for many federal and provincial immigration programs.  Its website, http://ielts.org, contains more information about the test, including practice questions and instructions on how to complete it. Details specific to Canada can be found here: https://www.ielts.org/about-ielts/ielts-for-migration/canada

Another widely recognized language test is the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program, or CELPIP. The CELPIP test is similar to the IELTS test, in that it measures four components of language aptitude: writing, listening, speaking, and reading. It is accepted in the federal Express Entry system and its three programs (Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades, and Canadian Experience Class), as well as many Provincial Nomination Programs (PNPs). More information can be found on the CELPIP website: http://celpip.ca Regardless of which test is taken, it needs to be done before or soon after applying for any immigration programs. As well, a test that is more than two years old may need to be redone, depending on the specific Canadian immigration program. Older tests may no longer be accepted, so candidates need to make sure their language test is up to date.

Graduates with Canadian credentials and Canadian work experience obtained through a Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) are in good standing to apply to an immigration program for permanent residency. The PGWP allows permit holders to work anywhere in Canada for up to three years. If it expires after a candidate makes an application, there is the option to remain in Canada using the Bridging Open Work Permit. The BOWP covers candidates for economic immigration programs if their PGWP is due to expire within four months. This allows a candidate to continue to work in Canada until a decision is made on their immigration status.

Many Provincial Nomination Programs (PNPs) have streams or categories specifically for international graduates with Canadian credentials and PGWPs. Some of these require valid job offers from eligible employers, but others only require that candidates complete their studies at a recognized Canadian post-secondary institution. Some require a master’s degree or Ph.D., while others require a bachelor’s degree or college diploma. Other programs require candidates to have completed their studies in one of a specific group of subjects. In terms of federal immigration, the Canadian Experience Class program (CEC) handled by the Express Entry system asks for one year of skilled work experience in the last three years, which can be done with either full- or part-time work as long as the hours are sufficient. It also awards points in the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) for Canadian educational experience. Higher CRS scores make a candidate more likely to be chosen in a federal Express Entry draw.

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