Can I Apply for PR Before Graduation?

If you are wondering if you can apply for permanent residence (PR) in Canada before graduation, the answer is yes, and this article will explain how to achieve this. 

Many students stay in Canada permanently after finishing their studies. Because there are numerous options for international students seeking permanent residency in Canada.

Many of Canada’s permanent residency immigration programs prefer applicants with ties to a specific province, Canadian work experience, or Canadian educational credentials. 

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Read on to see how you can apply for PR before graduation. 

How to Apply for PR Before Graduation

Students can apply for Canadian permanent resident status while studying or after completing their studies as long as they meet the requirements of the Canadian immigration program to which they apply.

Applying for a Canada study permit and permanent resident status simultaneously is known as “dual intent.” This is when a foreign national applies for permanent residence in Canada, but they are also in Canada temporarily as a visitor, student, or worker.  

Many of Canada’s immigration programs require a certain level of skilled work experience, which may disadvantage international students without any experience.  

So, the best thing is to gain work experience while studying. This is possible through work-study permits. There are five categories under this permit which include: 

  • On-campus student work permits 
  • Off-campus student work permits 
  • Co-op student or intern work permits
  • The Post Graduate Work Permit Program (PGWPP)  

However, Post Graduate Work Permit Program (PGWPP) is the only work experience recognized towards getting a PR. 

Permits to Work After Graduation

If you graduate from a designated learning institution (DLI) and want to work in Canada temporarily, you may be eligible for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP).

This means you can work and gain valuable experience in Canada using this work permit. However, you must graduate from some specific institution to qualify for a PGWP. You can check the list of eligible designated institutions on the Canadian website to see if your school is listed there. 

There are also other requirements that you must meet before you can get  PGWP. For example, a DLI diploma does not automatically qualify you for a PGWP, and the length of your study program determines the duration of your PGWP. You can apply here for a postgraduate work permit.

Requirements for Post-Graduate Work Permits

If you meet all of the following requirements, you can work off-campus without a work permit:

  • you are a full-time student at a recognized educational institution (DLI)
  • you are enrolled in a postsecondary academic, vocational, or professional training program, or you are enrolled in a secondary-level vocational training program (Quebec only)
  • your study program lasts at least six months and leads to a degree, diploma, or certificate 
  • you have begun studying 
  • you have a Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  • Your program’s duration is more than eight months 

Once students are equipped with work experience, students can apply for PR before graduation through a variety of immigration programs. 

While each program is unique and has requirements in addition to completing Canadian studies, the programs listed below may provide international student graduates with accelerated pathways to becoming Canadian permanent residents:

1. Federal Skilled Worker Program 

This program is designed for skilled workers with foreign work experience who want to relocate permanently to Canada.

You can use work experience gained while studying to meet the minimum requirements for having valid work experience. 

Also, this program demands a minimum Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) score in writing, reading, listening and speaking in French or English. Applicants can apply here for FSWP.

2. Provincial Nominee Program

Many provinces have provincial nominee programs that provide Canadian immigration programs for international students. 

Applicants must have completed a postsecondary education program in Canada. Requirements vary by province; work experience and a job offer are sometimes required. 

PNPs are a popular Canadian immigration option because applications for permanent residency in Canada are typically processed faster than through other immigration programs. Applicants can apply here for PNP.

3. Canadian Experience Class

The CEC is a permanent residence category for Canadians with skilled work experience. It was designed for temporary foreign workers and foreign graduates with qualifying work experience in Canada.

To be eligible for the Canadian Experience Class, student applicants must have the following: 

  • at least 12 months of work experience in a skilled occupation in Canada
  • candidates must apply within three years of obtaining one year of qualifying experience

Work experience obtained through the Post-Graduation Work Permit is admissible in this program. 

However, part-time work experience obtained while studying or as part of a study program (such as internships and co-ops) does not count towards the Canadian work experience requirement. Applicants can apply here for CEC.

4. Quebec Experience Class (QEC)

Graduates who have completed a recognized program in Quebec and have an intermediate level of French proficiency may be eligible for this Canadian immigration program. 

This Quebec immigration program does not require any prior Canadian work experience. However, the applicant must be 18 years old and intend to live in Quebec permanently to be eligible for this program.

All Immigration Quebec programs require two steps for processing. An applicant must first apply for an Immigration Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ) and then apply to the Federal government for a Canadian immigration visa. The federal government will consider only security, criminal, and medical background checks.

This program is among the quickest processing times of any Canadian immigration program.  Applicants can apply here for QEC. 

5. Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP)

The AIP is an economic program for foreign nationals with job offers in the Atlantic region (Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick). Applicants can apply here for AIP. 

Candidates must meet minimum education, work experience, and language proficiency requirements.

Requirements for AIP

  • Complete your studies at an Atlantic Canada publicly funded post-secondary institution. 
  • The program had to have been at least two years long. 
  • You must have graduated from this institution within 24 months before submitting your PR application.
  • You must have been a full-time student throughout your entire academic career.
  • You must have spent at least 16 months in an Atlantic province in the two years preceding your degree, diploma, or credential.
  • Take a recognized test to demonstrate your language ability in either English or French.
  • A full-time job offer from an Atlantic Canada-designated employer 
  • This offer must be non-seasonal and last at least one year from the date PR is granted.
  • Show proof of funds to support yourself and your family 
  • You have the necessary work or study permit


You can apply for PR before graduation with the necessary preparations while studying, such as gaining work experience or choosing courses to help you meet the requirements for QEC. 

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