canada pnp
Graduates have a number of PNP options that offer pathways into permanent residency in Canada. Source: Geoff Robins / AFP

Are you a soon-to-be graduate thinking of immigrating to Canada? Or a high school graduate considering Canada as your top study destination? 

If so, you’re not alone. Research shows that Canada is the most preferred destination for international students, with many choosing the country over other locations such as the US and the UK. In fact, more than one-third of students (39%) reported in a survey last year that Canada was their first choice, followed by the US and the UK (both 17%) and Australia (16%). 

What is it, then, that sets Canada apart? Students have a number of answers, but one stands out among the rest: Canada’s multitude of career opportunities and future migration prospects. 

This is particularly due to an ageing population across the country’s landscape, opening up a need for a younger, more agile, and skilled workforce. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is putting this into effect: this year, the nation has set a target to welcome 411,000 new permanent residents as part of its Immigration Levels Plan.

Several programmes have been introduced to welcome immigrants, including Express Entry and the Canada PNP (Provincial Nominee Programme). Students can apply for both, but the PNP offers more flexibility in terms of choosing where in Canada one might prefer to relocate to. 

Here’s everything international students need to know about the Canada PNP, including where it’s being offered and the options available. 

What is PNP? 

The PNP is a specialised route for the immigration of skilled workers and graduates into Canada. 

First launched in 1998, it’s the second leading method to immigrate to Canada after the Express Entry. It allows eleven out of Canada’s thirteen provinces and territories to nominate international candidates with job offers for permanent residency. These are specifically designed to meet their economic and demographic needs. 

The PNP is very popular among employers across Canada. Almost every province and territory across the country welcomes skilled workers and graduates through the Canada PNP route, all of whom make significant contributions to their individual economies and communities. 

Each province has its own set criteria, with its own immigration regulations. This means that if you are interested in migrating to a particular province, you’ll have to check which in-demand occupations you would qualify for in advance to win a spot there. 

Different provinces across Canada have their own regulations on immigration. Source: Don Emmert/AFP

Which provinces and territories offer Canada PNP?

You can search for Canada PNP programmes across a number of provinces and territories, including Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, and Yukon. 

PNP options for graduates

When it comes to the Canada PNP, graduates are not without choice. Remember that these Canada PNP options are geared towards retaining graduates within a particular province, so you must show an intention to permanently reside in the area of your choosing. This usually takes the form of a job offer, but other factors such as previous work experience in the area may increase your chances, as well. 

Here are some popular PNP programmes for international students:

British Columbia International Post-Graduate Category

This option is open for students with a masters or PhD in the sciences from an eligible British Columbia institution. Subject areas include agriculture; biological and biomedical sciences; computer and information sciences and support services; engineering; engineering technology; health professions and related clinical sciences; mathematics and statistics; natural resources conservation and research; or physical sciences. 

Eligible graduates will not need a job offer to qualify for the scheme. 

OINP Masters Graduate stream or OINP PhD Graduate stream

Ontario is offering masters and PhD students the opportunity to permanently live and work in the province. There are no definite subject areas that you need to have studied, but both schemes require that you have graduated from an eligible university in Ontario. Master’s students need to have completed at least one academic year of full-time study, whereas PhD candidates require two. 

Quotas for these streams are quite strict, so be sure to monitor updates closely as they are released to give yourself the best possible chance to apply. 

Atlantic Provinces in Canada

Atlantic Canada covers a large expanse of the country’s map, spanning across New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, or Newfoundland and Labrador. With this, the region offers plenty of different PNP options for graduates, opening up a multitude of different opportunities for you to choose from. 

An important thing to keep in mind is that most Canada PNP routes here are employer-driven, which means that you’ll need to have received a job offer to work in the area before you qualify. You’ll also need to have studied a programme that took at least two years, and is from a recognised university in one of the four Atlantic provinces. 

Is there a ‘best’ province for international graduates to migrate to?

There is no ‘best’ province to migrate to, but you should make your decision based on your interests and inclinations. Source: Spencer Platt/AFP

The short answer to this question is a simple “no”. No one province stands out from the rest — rather, you should do your own research to determine which is the right fit for you. That being said, here are some pointers you should consider:

  • The most expensive cities to live in Canada are in British Columbia (Vancouver) and Ontario (Toronto). Living in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Quebec are relatively pricey, too. 
  • Canada is notorious for its cold weather. Nunavut is the coldest territory in the winter, with temperatures dropping to as low as –34°C over the winter period, while Nova Scotia is the “warmest”, only reaching an average of -8.9°C during winters. 
  • Newfoundland and Labrador have the oldest population in Canada, with a median age of 47.8. Nunavut has the youngest population, with a median age of 26.5 years old.