The international students’ guide to studying in Canada

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Prodigy Finance - November, 22 2021

8 min read

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Ranked as one of the best places to live in the world, it’s no wonder that thousands of international students come to study in Canada every year. If you’re wondering how many international students were in Canada in 2020, the exact number is 530,540 students!

Not only is it an ideal destination for quality education, it’s also a country where international students can make the most of postgraduate job opportunities and gain residency more easily.

“Canada is a diverse country with people coming from all parts of the world,” says Vishal Devgan, an MBA graduate from India, who studied at Schulich School of Business in Toronto.

Vishal says that international exposure and experience working with diverse teams is something that businesses look for in candidates when hiring, and “such traits will only become more important in the future”. And this is only one of the many benefits of studying in Canada.

What are the benefits of studying abroad?

Apart from getting a world class degree that ultimately leads to a career boost, studying abroad comes with opportunities to learn social skills that go beyond your career - plus you’ll have some of the most memorable experiences in your life.

You’ll get the opportunity to travel to different cities (or even neighbouring countries!) and explore the culture, food, and people in places that are completely different from your home country. With this you’ll get to learn new languages, experience new ways of living, and gain independence. You’ll also get to experience all of this with new international friends!

“For me studying abroad was important to get new opportunities. Studying abroad helps you to learn new languages, appreciate other cultures, work with people of diverse backgrounds, gain different perspectives and understanding of the world,” says Vishal.

What is life like for international students in Canada?

When you’re not attending classes, doing research or studying, you can make the most of on-campus, part-time jobs for international students - such as a role as a teaching, research or lab assistant.

Vishal says that as an international student in Canada, one of the best parts was networking with students, alumni, and people working in the industry. “The networking opportunities helped me to learn more about the country, culture, and key factors required to succeed.”

And when you’re not connecting with colleagues about classes and work, then you can join them for one of many social activities - from exploring the local pubs and clubs, to travelling around the country.

“I love travelling and Canada is one of the best places to travel with secluded lakes, forests, and mountains. The cities are clean, safe, friendly, and multicultural.”

While French and English are the 2 official languages in Canada, more than 7 million people in the country are foreign-born and speak Chinese languages, Punjabi, Spanish, Italian, German, Tagalog, Arabic, Portuguese, Polish and Urdu. In a country this diverse, it’s no wonder that international students in Canada find it a little overwhelming when they move into a new multicultural environment for the first time.

“Initially, one of the hardest things about being an international student in Canada was adapting to the new culture. Although I am comfortable with English, at first, getting out of my shell and interacting with people took some time - it was difficult to pick the non-verbal cues and humour. Now the strangers that were hard to interact with initially are some of my best friends!” says Vishal.

Want to speak to international students and graduates for first-hand advice on their study abroad journey? Then chat one-on-one with our Ambassadors to learn from the experiences of someone who’s been in your shoes.

Best international universities in Canada

If you’re craving new career opportunities, ready to take your education and skills to the next level, and keen to follow in Vishal’s footsteps in pursuing a masters in Canada, then your first step is to find a school and course to suit your goals.

To give you a head start in researching the best international universities in Canada, here are the top 10 international universities by Times Higher Education:

University of British Columbia (supported by Prodigy Finance)
McGill University (supported by Prodigy Finance)
Concordia University Montreal
Simon Fraser University
University of Alberta
University of Windsor
Dalhousie University
York University (supported by Prodigy Finance)
University of Regina
University of Toronto (supported by Prodigy Finance)
You can explore your university options as an international student in Canada. Then, once you find the school you want to study at, check if we support the school and can provide funding.

How to get a student visa in Canada

Once you’ve chosen your school and programme to study, your next step is to start preparing how to get to campus - including applying for your student visa for Canada. The student visa is also known as a Canadian study permit.

Take note that this study permit is not the same as a regular visa that allows you to enter or travel to Canada. For that, you’ll need a travel visa or an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) for international students.

Application process for the Canadian student visa / study permit

Once you get your acceptance letter to study at a Canadian university, you’ll need to gather the documents required for a student visa and start your application:

  • Apply online for your Canadian student visa
  • Send the visa application documents by post if you cannot submit the documents online
  • Provide your acceptance letter from university
  • Show proof of sufficient funding for your studies in Canada (such as your Prodigy Finance loan confirmation letter)
  • Show proof of no criminal record
  • Submit records that state you are in good health.

Documents needed:

  • permit application form
  • original acceptance letter from the university
  • valid passport/travel document
  • 2 recent passport-size photograph (with specifications of name and date of birth on the back
  • proof of funding
  • a letter of intent
  • if you plan to study in Quebec, you’ll also need a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec
  • English and French translations of your document, a statement from the translator and a certified copy of the original documents
  • Proof that you paid the study permit fee ($150 CAD)

Note: unless you come from an English-speaking country, Canadian universities will require you to submit proof of English language proficiency. Accepted language tests include:

  • IELTS Academic
  • TOEFL iBT
  • PTE Academic
  • C1 Advanced

You’ll also need to schedule a biometrics appointment and interview. After applying for your Canadian study permit, the processing time may take up to 90 days. It’s usually faster, but also depends on the situation in your home country.

Cost of living in Canada

The cost of living depends on where your school is located in Canada - every university will give you the estimated fees and living expenses. The table below will help you understand the approximate monthly and annual costs to study in Canada.

Expenses

Monthly

Annual

Expenses

Tuition

Monthly

Annual

$18,907*

Expenses

Student Fees

Monthly

Annual

$400

Expenses

Health Insurance

Monthly

$70

Annual

$840

Expenses

Textbooks

Monthly

Annual

$600

Expenses

On-campus Rent

Monthly

$600

Annual

$7,200

Expenses

International student mobile phone plan (basic package)

Monthly

$30

Annual

$360

Expenses

Public Transit Pass

Monthly

$40

Annual

$480

Expenses

Groceries/Food

Monthly

$300

Annual

$3,600

Expenses

Entertainment/Clothes/Gifts

Monthly

$80

Annual

$960

Expenses

Car Insurance

Monthly

Annual

$1,500

Expenses

Car Fuel

Monthly

$200

Annual

$2,400

Expenses

Total Expenses

Monthly

$1,320

Annual

$37,247

*Average 1st-year tuition fees is based on 343 MS courses in Canada (source: studyabroad.shiksha.com)

Studying in Canada is affordable if you compare it to other popular study destinations. A student needs around C$30,000 and C$40,000, depending on the course/city to cover tuition, cost of food, and other living expenses. Some of the most expensive cities in Canada are Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, and Ottawa. If you’re eligible to work while studying, then a part-time job should be included in your plans to help ease the financial burden.

Permanent residency in Canada

What is permanent residency?

Permanent residents are citizens of other countries, who have been given permanent resident status by immigrating to Canada, but are not Canadian citizens.

International students in Canada are in the country temporarily, and are therefore not permanent residents.

How to get permanent residency

Getting permanent residency in Canada depends on the eligibility requirements met by the applicant.

These are some of the easiest ways to get permanent residency and immigrate to Canada:

  • Express Entry Programme (for professionals and trade workers)
  • Provincial Nomination Programme (for those who could not meet the Express Entry requirements)
  • Business Investor Programme
  • Work Permit
  • Study Visa (for undergrad or postgraduates)
  • Visitor Visa
  • Atlantic Immigration Nominee Program (AIPP)

Tips for international students in Canada

In addition to researching and completing your school admissions and visa application, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind when planning to study abroad.

International student health insurance

Each province in Canada offers different health insurance coverage for international students. According to International Student Insurance, if a province’s healthcare plans don’t cover international students, they’ll have to get private health insurance.

Provincial healthcare covers basic medical services and emergency care for international students with a valid study visa and a provincial health care card. You’ll need to apply for a provincial health insurance card when you get to Canada.

It’s important to remember that some medical services, such as dental care and some prescription medication, are not covered by the Canadian provincial health insurance. So if you think you’ll need full cover, or will be living in a province that doesn’t provide provincial health care, then you must buy private health insurance before you move to Canada.

Work permit: Can international students work off campus?

Yes, international students can work off campus, but there are restrictions on the number of hours worked.

While classes commence and if you’re eligible to work off campus, international students can work up to 20 hours per week. During school breaks, you’re allowed to work more than 20 hours while on a student visa in Canada. A student can expect to earn around C$10-15 an hour in Canada, but this could change depending on the city and job.

Once you complete your course, you may be able to work full-time if you’ve already applied for a work permit before your study permit expired, or if you’re starting a new course.

Do you aspire to work in Canada after completing your studies? Perhaps you’d prefer to study at a top school in Canada and head back to your home country after graduation? Either way, choosing Canada as the country to grow professionally and personally, is sure to come with many rewards.

Once you find the right school for you, you can start to get everything you need to secure your visa. Before heading to Canada, do your homework on permanent residency, internships and job opportunities, so that when class begins you’ll have more time to make the most of life on campus.

Need more advice and information to help you on your journey to becoming an international student in Canada? Browse our Study Centre for helpful resources.

Need funding for your masters in Canada?

Prodigy Finance can help you with that! We provide student loans for an international masters education.

Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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