Thousands of Middle Eastern students complete their studies in Canada every year. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can be one of them.

Canada welcomes the third highest number of study visa holders in the world, right after the United States and Australia. In fact, there are currently over 640,000 international students in Canada.

Many of these students come to Canada from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Of the total number of international students in Canada, there are over 36,000 from the following MENA countries:

  • Algeria
  • Bahrain
  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Oman
  • Palestine (Gaza and the West Bank)
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Tunisia
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Yemen

Canada has become an increasingly popular destination for international students. In fact, the international student population in Canada has more than tripled in the last 10 years.

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In the majority of the aforementioned MENA countries, there has been a clear indication of a growing interest in pursuing education in Canada.

An advantage MENA students may have over some of the other international students is their language ability, since English is taught in most MENA countries. In addition, many North African students are fluent in French, placing them in the ideal position to study at French-speaking institutions in Quebec.

Canada has become an attractive option for when MENA students consider completing their education abroad. There are many factors which may affect a student’s decision to study in Canada.

Why Canada is a great option for MENA students

Receive a quality education

Canada boasts some of the best universities in the world, with three in the top 100: The University of Toronto, McGill University and the University of British Columbia. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that many MENA students choose Canada.

Pay affordable tuition

Unlike in the United States and other popular study destinations, you don’t have to break the bank to study in Canada. You do pay a little more than Canadians as an international student but the international fees are still much lower than in other countries.

Work and stay in Canada after you graduate

Unlike other countries, you can stay in Canada after you graduate, if you apply for the Post-Graduation Work Permit. With the permit, you will be able to work full time for any employer and smoothly transition from student to professional. After you work for at least one year, you may be eligible for popular permanent residence pathways such as the Canadian Experience Class and the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). Having Canadian study and work experience will result in a higher Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score under Express Entry.

Enjoy a high quality of life

Canada ranks very well in most aspects of living standards compared to other countries, especially in housing, income, jobs, community, life satisfaction and education.

Study and work

Not only is tuition affordable, you can also work while you study. Typically, you’ll be allowed to work for up to 20 hours a week during the semester, and full time during scheduled breaks.

Embrace diversity and culture

It is important to remember that Canada is bilingual. If you speak English or French, you’ll settle in easily. Canada famously welcomes thousands of immigrants every year from all over the world. Because of this, Canada is very diverse and you’ll be exposed to many different cultures. In fact, it is estimated that 51% of the population of Toronto were born outside Canada.

Find people from your country or region

You will likely find Middle Eastern, Persian, Arab or North African student societies in the university or college you will join. For example, the University of Toronto has a Middle Eastern Students’ Association and Ryerson University has an Arab Students’ Association.

In addition, in many of Canada’s cities, you may be able to find expats from your country.

Montreal has the local Quebec Islamic Centre. Toronto has the Arab Community Centre of Toronto. The city also boasts a large Iranian diaspora, often referred to as ‘Tehranto’.

Canada has eased immigration rules amid the coronavirus pandemic

Studying from abroad: If travel restrictions or other coronavirus-related interruptions are making it difficult to come to Canada, students will be able to complete up to 50% of their program from abroad and still be eligible to apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP).

This means that students unable to arrive to Canada in time for the fall 2020 semester can begin their Canadian educational program online, and not have time deducted from the length of their PGWP as long as they arrive to Canada by December 31, 2020.

They will still be eligible for the PGWP even if they arrive to Canada in 2021, although their time outside of Canada in 2021 will result in a shorter PGWP length. A longer PGWP duration is preferable since it gives MENA students more time to obtain the Canadian work experience that they need to become eligible for more of Canada’s immigration programs, which sometimes require that an immigration candidate have such work experience to be eligible for the given program.

More time to submit immigration applications: Incomplete applications will not be refused.

Implied status: Students and graduates who are already in Canada with expired visas may continue to work provided they have applied for an extension.

Canada is helping international students during the coronavirus pandemic

Canada understands the importance of international students to its society and economy, and has therefore decided to help students impacted by COVID-19. The following are a number of ways the Canadian government are supporting international students:

Working hours: Students may be able to work for up to 40 hours per week in certain sectors.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB): The CERB offers $500 per week for 16 weeks to eligible international students

Step-by-step guide to study in Canada if you’re from the MENA region

MENA students are able to obtain a study permit and study in Canada.

Step 1: Select a program at a university or other learning institution.

Step 2: Apply to your selected Canadian designated learning institution.

Once you are successful in your application, you will receive a letter of acceptance.

Step 3: Apply for a study permit.

A study permit is a document that allows MENA students to legally study in Canada. You must apply with your letter of acceptance from the designated learning institution, and prove that you have enough funds to cover the first year of tuition. You must also be admissible to Canada, and you may be required to submit a police background check or a medical.

If you are from Morocco, you may be eligible for a fast-track option.

Canada embraces international students from some 200 different countries, and MENA students can find a home in Canada. There are many benefits to study in Canada from the MENA region, and Canada is doing its part to welcome international students from the MENA region and all corners of the globe in time for the fall 2020 semester.

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