Solid Foundations for International Graduates

In November 2016, the federal government announced changes to the Express Entry system to make it easier for international graduates to become permanent residents of Canada. The changes, which became effective on November 19, 2016, greatly benefit Canada’s International Graduates.  Relevant changes include:

  1. Arranged Employment is now worth only 50 points in most cases (200 for senior managerial positions);
  2. Canadian post-secondary education now allocates an additional 15 points (for one or two-year diplomas) or 30 points (for Bachelor’s, Master’s or Ph.D. degrees).


Express Entry, launched in 2015, is a completely electronic process by which eligible applicants must first submit a digital profile and wait for a formal invitation to apply for permanent residence.  Candidates are ranked under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) and allocated points based on their professional and language background.  Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) regularly conducts rounds of invitations (ITA), in which several hundred, top-scoring candidates, are invited to apply for permanent residence.  


The downside to this system up until now is that International graduates lacked sufficient points in areas including Canadian work experience and arranged employment, supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).  Arranged Employment allowed candidate to have an additional 600 points in their profile, thereby guaranteeing an ITA to those applicants.  It has consistently been difficult for the average International Graduate to obtain a score higher than 400.  


Emphasis has now been placed on the quality of one’s human capital, instead of whether a candidate has a permanent offer of employment.  Therefore, International Graduates who had been struggling to compete with applicants with Arranged Employment are now being placed on equal footing with them.  In some cases, the latter candidates’ scores dropped by as much as 550, while many International Graduates’ scores go up by 30.  Provincial nominations remain unaffected, so International Graduates who were nominated by an Express Entry PNP program will still be allocated 600 points in their profile.  As such, we anticipate that the overall cut-off score during new rounds of invitations will also drop.  Ultimately, more International Graduates will be receiving Invitations to Apply than before.  


Just like the federal Express Entry system, the B.C. PNP’s digital Skills Immigration Registration System (SIRS) also moderates application intake by way of assigning points.  Applicants are also required to first submit a profile to B.C. PNP, and enter a waiting pool with thousands of other candidates to await an Invitation to Apply.  The application process has not changed much since the program’s re-opening:


  1. Once registered, the candidate will receive a score and is then entered into a selection pool for that category.  Periodically, the B.C. PNP will conduct their own rounds of invitations to select the top-scoring candidates to apply for nomination.  


  1. If a candidate receives an Invitation to Apply from the B.C. PNP, he/she will have 30 calendar days to submit an application (also online) for nomination.


  1. If nominated, the individual can then submit an application for permanent residence.


Applicants under B.C. PNP’s Express Entry streams must first meet the eligibility criteria of one of the federal economic classes (Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Worker Class, Federal Skilled Trades Class) prior to registering their profile with SIRS.  It’s important to note that the B.C. PNP will only assign points for directly related work experience. Previous work experience in a lower-skill NOC, or a completely different NOC, will not be counted as directly related and will therefore not be assigned points.


Scoring under the SIRS is still based on a maximum score of 200 under six sections that include both economic and human capital factors, as detailed in the below table.  


Scoring Section Maximum Points
Economic Factors Skill level of the job 60
Wage to be offered 50
Location of the job 10
Human Capital Factors Directly related work experience 25
Level of Education 25
Language proficiency
(based on the lowest mark obtained)
Total available 200


Since November 2016, the B.C. PNP’s cut-off score has dropped significantly, with the most current score being 70.  As a result, many more International Graduates have been invited to apply.  Furthermore, processing times have decreased to as short as 30 days.  All factors considered, the B.C. PNP should still be the first choice for International Graduates in BC who are eligible.


Nevertheless, it is still imperative that International students maximize the potential of the three-year period of their Post-Graduate Work Permits, either by improving their language scores or by continuing to gain relevant Canadian experience.  


An International Graduate with one year of experience in Canada may potentially score as follows under the SIRS:


Scoring Section Maximum Points
Economic Factors Skill level of the job

NOC B – Bookkeeper

Wage to be offered

$15.00/hour - $31,200/year

Location of the job

Greater Vancouver

Human Capital Factors Directly-related work experience

One year in Canada

Level of Education

Bachelor’s Degree – obtained in B.C.

Language proficiency


Total available 87

It is now more evident than ever that the new federal government recognizes the value of International Graduates and their contributions to Canada’s economy.  With these new changes in place, International Graduates, through hard work, will now have a solid foundation of pathways to pursue permanent residence in Canada.

Changes to regulations related to International Students and Study Permits

Canada has long been recognized as one of the top destinations for international students pursing higher education.  Indeed, the federal government issues thousands of Study Permits every year to Foreign Nationals who are intending to study in Canada.  However, with its growth, the International Student Program has experienced an increasing number of problems in recent years.  In many cases, unlicensed and unscrupulous agents have provided fraudulent documents to facilitate Study Permit applications.  In other cases, students who had enrolled in and paid tuition fees to unregulated institutions became victims when these institutions suddenly went out of business.  As a result of this exploitation of prospective students, the federal government has introduced changes to current regulations.  In doing so, they aim to reduce the potential for abuse of the Program, and to improve services for genuine students.  

On February 14, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced a number of changes to the current International Student Program, which took effect on June 1, 2014.  At the forefront of the changes to the Program is the introduction of a designated learning institutions list, which limits prospective students to a selection of “pre-approved” schools that are qualified to host international students.  All such schools have now been issued designated learning institution numbers, which must be provided as part of the applications for Study Permits.  In essence, only students who have been accepted into one of the designated learning institutions will be eligible to apply for Study Permits.  (Institutions at the primary- and secondary-school level are automatically considered designated institutions.)  A full list of designated learning institutions in each province has now been published on the CIC website.  

Other reforms to the International Student Program include:

Proof of actively pursuing studies.  Students must demonstrate their enrollment in and continued intention to pursue their studies in Canada.  Twice a year, all designated learning institutions are required to submit reports to CIC on their international students’ registration status.  To that end, students may also face routine checks from CIC to provide proof of their academic status.  Failure to maintain their enrollment or registration in classes can result in the international student being issued an Exclusion Order by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and removed from Canada for a period of up to two years.

Permission to work off-campus.  Students no longer need to apply separately for an Off-Campus Work Permit.  They are now automatically authorized to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week during the school year, and full-time during scheduled breaks.  However, only students registered in a degree, diploma, or certificate-granting programs are eligible to work off-campus under this change.

Limiting the issuance of Co-Op Work Permits.  Under this particular change, only international students who are pursuing studies at a secondary school or a designated learning institution may apply for a Co-Op Work Permit.  Students must continue to demonstrate that the co-op placement is an integral part of their course of study.

Allowing certain types of visitors to apply for a study permit from within Canada.  Visitors who are at the pre-school, primary, or secondary level will now be eligible to apply for a Study Permit from within Canada.  In addition, students who are on an academic exchange or are visiting students at a designated learning institution, or have completed a course or program of study that is a pre-requisite for admission at a designation learning institution may also submit applications from within Canada.  Applications for Study Permits can be submitted either online or by mail, to the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville, Alberta.

Scheduled expiration of Study Permits.  Study Permits will automatically expire and become invalid 90 days following the completion of studies.  Therefore, post-secondary graduates are advised to apply for Post-Graduate Work Permits immediately following completion of their program, in order to ensure they have authorization to remain in Canada.  Secondary school graduates are also advised to apply for a new Study Permit (or another status document) immediately following completion of their secondary school studies.

Permission to work full-time following completion of studies.  Eligible international student graduates, who have already submitted applications for Post-Graduate Work Permits, are now authorized to begin working full-time upon completion of their studies.  This form of “implied status” will allow them to work until they receive a decision from CIC on their Work Permit applications.

Despite the numerous changes the federal government has introduced to the International Student Program, many existing regulations remain unaffected.  For example, Study Permits are still not required for a program of less than six months in duration, and accompanying family members of Study Permit holders may still be eligible to apply for open Work Permits.  Furthermore, CIC has announced a “grace period” for International Students who enrolled in a non-designated institution prior to June 1, 2014.  Students who are currently studying at a non-designated institution can still complete their studies for up to three additional years (until 2017).  Similarly, international students currently holding Off-Campus and Co-Op Work Permits issued by non-designated institutions may continue working under these authorizations until the completion of their studies, also for a period of up to three additional years.

It is important to note that these changes do not otherwise impact a Visa Officer’s assessment of a Study Permit application.  When assessing an application, Visa Officers are still taking into consideration all determining factors, including evidence of financial support, credibility of the applicant and his or her supporting documents.  Therefore, students who have been accepted into designated learning institutions may still be refused a Study Permit if a Visa Officer is not satisfied with any other part of the application.  It is imperative that students continue to make every effort to demonstrate their genuine intent to study in Canada.

In introducing the above changes, CIC’s ultimate goal is two-fold: to ensure that genuine students are given every benefit of Canada’s excellent higher-education programs, and to regulate educational institutions so that only reliable and reputable establishments are conducting business in the industry.  This can be viewed as part of CIC’s continued effort to crack down on immigration fraud at every level.

For more information on the changes to the International Student Program, visit, or call J. Kenney Consulting Ltd. at 604-568-4200 or 604-649-2627 to schedule a free consultation.  You can also view our website at:

Routes to permanent residence for International Students

In previous articles I have talked in the past about various routes to permanent residence for International Students residing in British Columbia and other parts of Canada.  For those in BC, the BC Provincial Nominee Program’s International Graduates category remains an excellent option.  And graduate students in BC should be aware that the International Post-Graduate Pilot Project has recently been extended until July 31, 2013.  

Recently, we have seen some important changes introduced to the federal government’s most popular immigration categories.  At the beginning of 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) revised the relatively new Canadian Experience Class (CEC).  When it was first introduced, it consisted of two streams, the Post-Graduate Stream and the Temporary Foreign Worker Stream, each with its own set of selection criteria.  Now, there is simply one set of criteria that apply to all applicants.  Simply put, you need to meet an English or French language standard -- which is set based on the skill level of your occupation -- and have completed at least one year of full-time, skilled work experience Canada (work experience gained while studying in Canada on, for example, a Co-Op or Off-Campus Work Permit doesn’t count under the CEC).  Thus, although completing a college of university program in Canada is still required to qualify for the all-important Post-Graduate Open Work Permit, this Canadian education is no longer relevant to the assessment of a CEC permanent residence application.

In mid-April, the federal government also announced the final details of the new Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program.  Starting on May 4, 2013, a new set of criteria will apply to applicants under this category, which now emphasize age, language ability, and Canadian experience.  To qualify you still need to score 67 out of a possible 100 points.  But the weighting of the six factors has changed somewhat so that younger applicants with higher levels of English or French ability are advantaged.  For the first time, a minimum threshold for language ability must be meet.  This translates to a score of at least 6.0 across the board on the IELTS test.  Also, applicants with non-Canadian educational credentials are being required to have their programs assessed by a designated third-party organization before submitting an FSW application.  Most importantly, before even being able to submit an application under this category, you must determine if you are eligible.  As of May 4th, that will mean you either have at least one year of experience in an occupation on a relatively short list of 24 occupations dominated by the engineering, IT and health fields, you have arranged employment in Canada (that is, a permanent offer of employment from a Canadian employer that typically must be vetted by Service Canada) or be studying in or recently graduated from a Canadian PhD program.

All told, CIC is only accepting 5000 FSW applications for those applying based on the occupations list (with an individual cap of 300 on each specific occupation).  

As you can see, the emphasis for those seeking permanent residence remains on those with strong existing ties to Canada:  In the case of the BC PNP, post-secondary education and a permanent job offer; in the case of the federal programs, previous skilled work experience or a permanent job offer in Canada.  As a result, the ability of international students to obtain a Post-Graduate Work Permit, which gives them the time and the legal ability to work in Canada after graduation, has never been more valuable.

Future International Students may have fewer post-secondary institutions to choose from once the federal government completes its reform of the International Student program.  As announced last December, the federal government is working with the provinces to develop a system in which only educational institutions designated by a province or territory will be able to host international students.  This change is designed to ensure that all schools seeking international students are reputable and reliable and ultimately protects students from fraud or ending up at an institution that goes out of business.   Another change would allow Study Permit holders to work part-time off campus without having to obtain a Work Permit, as is now the case.  It is expected that these changes will be implemented sometime this year but no implementation date has been announced to date.

For more information, visit or call J. Kenney Consulting at 604-306-6375 to schedule a free consultation.