New data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) shows Canada welcomed a record 551,405 international students from 184 countries, in 2022.
In addition, as of December 31st, 2022, there are 807,750 international students holding valid study permits, another all-time high number.
The number of study permits issued has considerably increased in recent years.
In 2021, a total of 444,260 new study permits took effect, an increase from the 400,600 in 2019 (with 2020 seeing a decrease due to the COVID-19 pandemic). This means 107,145 more study permits took effect in 2022 compared with 2021.
As a result, the number of students in Canada has noticeably increased, as well. In 2019, there were 637,860 international students in Canada. This number decreased in 2020, due to pandemic pressures—rebounding in 2021 to a total 617,315 international students in the country. With a relative return to normalcy last year, Canada now has nearly 170,000 more international students at the end of 2022, than in 2019.
The top 10 source countries of new international students entering Canada in 2022, were:
- India (226,450 students);
- People’s Republic of China (52,165 students);
- Philippines (23,380 students);
- France (16,725 students)
- Nigeria (16,195 students);
- Iran (13,525 students);
- Republic of Korea (11,535 students);
- Japan (10,955 students);
- Mexico (10,405 students); and
- Brazil (10,405 students).
Additionally, the top 10 source countries of international students already living and studying in Canada as of December 31st, 2022 were:
- India (319,130 students);
- People’s Republic of China (100,075 students);
- Philippines (32,455 students);
- France (27,135 students);
- Nigeria (21,660 students);
- Iran (21,115 students);
- Republic of Korea (16,505 students);
- Vietnam (16,140 students);
- Mexico (14,930 students); and the
- United States (14,485 students).
Within Canada international students attended Designated Learning Institutions in the following provinces, in 2022:
- Ontario (411,000 students);
- British Columbia (164,000 students);
- Quebec (93,000 students);
- Alberta (43,000 students);
- Manitoba (22,000 students);
- Nova Scotia (20,850 students);
- Saskatchewan (13,135 students);
- New Brunswick (11,140 students);
- Newfoundland and Labrador (6,175 students); and
- Prince Edward Island (4,485 students).
Why is Canada so popular among international students?
There are several reasons why Canada remains a top destination for international students—including the standard of education, lower costs, obtaining work, and immigration opportunities post-graduation.
In fact, a recent report by IDP—an international education agency that specializes in student placement around the world—showed that Canada was overwhelmingly the top destination of choice for international students globally.
Quality of education
Contributing to this strong standing, is the excellent quality of education that can be had in Canada. Many Canadian institutions rank among the most prestigious schools internationally (especially when considering specific programs and faculties). Canadian schools therefore receive recognition globally, a key feature in attracting international students.
The more favorable exchange rate of the Canadian dollar, yields better conversions with international currency than its counterparts. This means international students can obtain post-secondary schooling at a lower price than in many other countries with a comparable level of education, like the U.S. or the U.K. The average cost of an undergraduate education in Canada (depending on province, institution, and program of study) is between $20,000 and $40,000 CAD. Additionally, Canada offers multiple financial aid programs for international students, easing financial stresses further.
The ability to work within the country has also increased Canada’s popularity among foreign students. International graduates in Canada are eligible to receive a Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) upon completion of their studies. This is an open work permit that allows students to reside and work full-time in the country after graduation, a key step in the immigration process for international graduates in Canada (more on this later). International graduates in Canada also have a high employment rate, averaging 73% among graduates at all levels of education. Last year 132,650 full-time students transitioned to workers through the PGWP program, with consistent growth seen in the number of PGWP holders entering the workforce, every year.
Additionally, international students holding a valid study permit can now work an unlimited number of hours during school semesters, until the end of 2023. This policy change allows students to support themselves (under their current status), with more freedom than is granted in other countries; additionally enabling them to gain footholds in the Canadian labour market during their educational years.
Post-graduation immigration possibilities
Canada is one of the few countries that provides international students with options to settle permanently in the country. Moreover, pursuing a Canadian education is one of the best ways to increase one’s eligibility for immigration.
The path from student to immigrant usually involves obtaining a PGWP and acquiring the minimum necessary eligible full-time work experience (one year). From here, students can apply for permanent residence through one Canada’s immigration programs. A specific stream has even been created within the Express Entry managed programs with these individuals in mind—the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).
Last year alone saw some 53,725 people transition from PGWP to permanent residence—speaking to both the popularity and attainability of immigration for international students who want to transition from their current status to permanent residents of Canada.