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Studying in Canada vs the USA: Six Big Reasons to Choose Canada

Published on: October 6th, 2017
Last updated: January 11th, 2022

Speedy processing times for study permits, top-quality educational institutions, and an open and welcoming society are just some of the factors that influence international students when choosing whether to study in Canada vs the USA.

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Prospective students interested in moving abroad may be weighing the pros and cons of studying in Canada vs the USA. Though the USA is a popular destination, Canada currently holds the title as the number one country for foreign students.

In recent years, USA’s position as a leading country for international students has plummeted while Canada has soared to the top. So, why are more students studying in Canada vs the USA?

1. Difficult U.S. Visa Policy

One answer might be the problematic visa policy in the United States.

The Department of Homeland security has put forward a proposal that would require international students to reapply for their visa every year that they are in school in the United States. In contrast, the Canadian government encourages its students to stay in the country for as long as possible.

The U.S. visa application system is also a lengthy and complicated process, requiring intense scrutiny, questioning and plenty of waiting. The Canadian visa process is simpler and shorter, making it easier for international students to get a study permit.

A Canadian study permit can be processed in as little as 3 weeks.

2. Cost

Not only is studying in the United States more expensive than the cost of studying in Canada, but financial aid is a lot harder to get as an international student in the United States. Canadian universities are more likely to offer financial aid or scholarships to international students, something that is very rare in the United States.

Additionally, on average, Canadian university tuition fees are 27% more economical than tuition fees at US universities.

However, tuition fees are not the only factor to consider. The cost of living is also a lot lower in Canada. International students may be choosing to study in Canada because it’s more affordable.

3. Healthcare

When you think about the biggest differences between Canada and the United States, Canada’s universal healthcare may come to mind.

Since Canadian healthcare is managed by individual provinces, there are differences in the coverage that they offer. Not all provinces offer coverage for temporary residents like international students. That said, students in provinces that don’t include international students can usually opt-in to their school’s insurance plan or use one of many affordable private insurance providers.

In the United States, many schools require international students to apply for health insurance. As a result, these students often have to pay high premiums for private healthcare.

Read more about the different types of healthcare for international students in Canada.

4. Welcoming Attitude

According to Gallup’s Migrant Acceptance Index (MAI), Canada ranks as the world’s number one most accepting country for migrants. A recent study has also shown that Canadians are more welcoming to newcomers than ever since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In stark contrast to what some see as hostile U.S. policy towards foreigners, Canada aims to embrace international students.

The data also confirms Canada’s welcoming attitude toward international students. The number of international students in Canada increased from 122,700 in 2000 to 642,500 in 2019. A recent report from Statistics Canada revealed six in ten international students who were employed after their studies became landed immigrants within 10 years of receiving their study permit.

In contrast, the number of international students in the USA grew at the slowest rate since 2009. These figures make it clear that international students are increasingly choosing Canada over the United States, which could be due to the policies the Canadian government has adopted to attract international students.

5. Employment Opportunities

International students can work in Canada for up to three years after they graduate on a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), which helps them find employment and provides a gateway to permanent residence and, eventually, citizenship. This is not the case in the United States where no employment after graduation is allowed unless you have been sponsored.

The general perception among international students is that foreigners are not welcome in the U.S., and this will undoubtedly affect their employability in the local market.

6. Canada Wants You to Stay

For students interested in transitioning to permanent resident status after graduation, Canada is by far your best option. Canada increasingly views international students as the ideal immigrant. As the number of international students coming to Canada steadily grows, so do Canada’s efforts to retain them permanently.

Both the provincial and federal governments offer numerous options for international graduates to transition to permanent residency in Canada. In April 2021, Canada announced a temporary public policy that allowed international graduates working in Canada to apply for permanent residence status. Immigration minister at the time, Marco Mendicino, made Canada’s message to international students clear: “your status may be temporary, but your contributions are lasting—and we want you to stay”.

The U.S. offers limited opportunities for international students to transition to permanent status. Unlike Canada, the U.S. doesn’t offer any special immigration options specific to international graduates. Without family connections or a sponsoring employer, it is incredibly challenging to obtain an American permanent residency or green card.

 

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