Current legislation restricts the ability to attract international students and creates barriers for those who have been trained in Alberta to obtain permanent residency. Adjustments to provincial and federal immigration programs can improve the retention of domestically trained international students which will help to overcome the gaps in labour and skills availability to meet Alberta’s labour needs.


Businesses across Canada are struggling to find skilled employees to meet their labour needs, and it is costing the economy billions. International students represent a significant and currently underutilized opportunity for meeting the needs of the Albertan economy as they are proficient in at least one Canadian official language, have Canadian credentials, and have in-demand labour skills. They also contribute an estimated $21 billion to the Canadian economy each year.There are currently 24,636 international students studying in Alberta that could join the labour force after graduation.

Our Recommendations

That the Government of Alberta: 

  1. Change the employment requirement under the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program from six months of full-time work to allow for a one-year offer of employment.
  2. Reduce the barriers for graduates applying to the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program.

That the Government of Canada: 

  1. Expedite processing times for potential international students to receive study visas to mitigate the issue of not receiving them in time for fall semester.
  2. Allowing work-integrated learning under a study permit without application for a work permit to allow access to the labour market without requiring that work-integrated learning opportunities be a mandatory program requirement.
  3. Expand eligibility requirements of federal work-integrated learning programs to allow international student access so they have increased opportunities to work while studying.
  4. Cease limits on the number of hours that an international student can work so they may support themselves through school and be eligible for immigration following their schooling. International students should be subject to the same employment standards as Canadians in each jurisdiction.
  5. Change the length of time for which a post-graduation work permit can be valid, from the current status of valid for no longer than three years, to five years regardless of the program of study, so long as obtained from a recognized Canadian institution.

That the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada: 

    1. Work together with post-secondary institutions to strengthen Canada’s global brand as a study destination to attract international students to Alberta’s post-secondary system, especially in the fields that particularly suffer from the insufficiency of qualified labour force.
    2. Prioritize applications for permanent residency based on in-demand occupations to get much needed roles filled more quickly.
    3. When considering applications for permanent residency, consider the experience that an international student gains through entrepreneurship, working off campus, working on campus, co-op and internship programs, and volunteer opportunities.
    4. Work with post-secondary institutions and the business community to support programming that helps international students integrate into their new communities and set them up for long-term career success.
Download The Policy Brief



If you have any questions, contact Dana Severson at or (780) 425-4180 ext. 2.