This 23 old Chartered Accountant Decided to Move to Canada on a Study Visa (and not PR Visa). Here's Why.

  • Have you ever considered moving to Canada on a study visa (and not PR Visa)? Is it worth it? 
  • In this article, Harsh Shah shares with us the reason why he chose a study visa and not a PR visa when moving to Canada. He also tells us how he settled in Canada and got his first job.
  • Harsh is born and raised in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
  • He is a qualified Chartered Accountant from India and a CPA Canada Aspirant.
  • Here is his story.

Humble beginnings and pursuing CA

Since I was 9 years old, I wanted to be a cricketer...however when in class 10 I had to decide what I wanted to focus on - my studies or Cricket.

Due to a lot of competition in cricket, my family preferred education over Cricket...most Indian families choose education over anything else!

Though my school friend went on to become the Best Bowler in the world Jasprit Bumrah.This taught me a lesson - Do what your heart says, work hard on it and someday you will be able to achieve your dreams.

Also, when I was 14 - years old school, our family met with a major accident in which my 3-year-old brother lost his right leg and my father had to undergo 9 major surgeries. So for me, the struggle started as a kid.

One of my neighbors was a Chartered Accountant and seeing the respect she got in society, I also decided to be a Chartered Accountant.

Even though I cleared all my CA exams in the first attempt I still faced a lot of difficulties to find a good job opportunity.

I applied to all the Big 4 firms and almost got through EY and PwC but was rejected in the final was very disheartening!

Luckily, after 4 interviews, I finally got a job offer from TCS (a leading Information technology company in India) as a SAP analyst.

Deciding to move to Canada on a Study Visa (and not a PR Visa!)

After working for nearly 2 years at TCS, I wanted to do something in the field of Personal and Corporate finance!

I got opportunities to work with my Australian and Middle Eastern was great learning new cultures, different styles of working, etc.

I guess somewhere this interaction with different nationalities created the desire to move and live in another country.

I wanted to pursue new opportunities and move to a new country.

My friend and I researched for almost 3 to 4 months about the various countries we could move to study further.

That is when we decided to move to Canada on a study visa.

Honestly, I did consider moving to Canada on a PR Visa however, I did not have enough Indian work experience to get the points required for a PR Visa...I was only 23 years old with 2 years of work experience when I decided to move to Canada!

I applied for my study visa to Canada in May'17 and got it within 30 days. So everything went very fast.

Once I got my visa, I resigned from my workplace and served a 3 months notice period.

Quitting my job also meant - NO FLOW OF INCOME. After getting used to a particular lifestyle and getting financially independent, starting all over again was a challenge.

Moving to another country also meant – Additional expenses and a life full of struggles. I now had to manage everything by myself from food to laundry to various household chores along with studying full time and working part-time in the extreme Canadian weather.

The process of admission to various colleges also took around 3 months as I had to apply to 4 to 5 colleges just as a backup...I finally got admission to Mohawk College, Ontario!

"Why I decided to join Mohawk College (Ontario)?

In Canada, education at College and University is different. Colleges mostly offer PG Diplomas or Certificate courses and in some cases a Bachelor’s degree.

While universities offer proper degrees.

In comparison to college, Universities in Canada are pretty costly $50k to $100k. I would only recommend them if you have a decent amount of work experience (5 years at least) and thinking of embarking on an executive journey.

Universities help in getting jobs easily and also in getting a permanent residency (PR) status as they have higher points in the ranking system. However, you have an alternative - Pursuing Professional certifications such as CPA, CFP, and CFA along with college courses. These certifications help you get more points.

Hence I decided to pursue a course from a College (and not University) along with a professional certification like CPA Canada.

And finally, I decided to take up a diploma course in Financial Services at Mohawk College. It seemed to be the right fit for me as Mohawk College had a 2-year course with a 3-year work permit. I also had a lot of friends in Toronto so I wanted to consider colleges in Ontario only.

"What are the visas to apply to Canada?"

Mostly from my research, you can apply in 2 categories: PR Visa and Study Visa. They also have a sponsored work visa but that is not very easy to get.

Express Entry System

  • Express Entry system in which you can show your international education as well as work experience and the certifications you have obtained such as CA, CS, CPA, etc.
  • This will help you in scoring high points as the Canada immigration policy follows a Comprehensive Ranking System and the cut off generally ranges between 440 to 470 depending on the month because the immigration department holds a draw every month.
  • Once you get a PR status, the fees for colleges and universities are less as compared to the fees paid by international students. Also, certain colleges offer continuing education courses in which you can pursue the courses online at your convenience.

Student Visa 

  • A study visa in Canada is quite expensive (I am on a study visa).
  • You need to study for one year to get a one-year work permit. And if you apply for a 2-year programme (like how I did), you get a 3-year work permit.
  • Students are generally confused between which course to take and for what duration - To be honest, I would recommend that if you have less work experience like 2 to 3 years or say you graduated recently, you should opt for a postgraduate diploma course in the top colleges of Canada.
  • The education system in the college is pretty much practical and one gets to learn many new things such as communication skills, presentation skills, etc. Canada has a lot to offer in terms of professionalism and work-related skills.
  • I took the help of an agent-based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat for my student visa. It might be a little complicated so I would advise students to take the support of a good agent. They do charge minimal fees around $150 and vary from state to state. Some agents do not even charge as the college pays them. Be very careful when dealing with agents!

Language requirements

Unless you come from an English-speaking country, Canadian universities will require you to submit proof of English language proficiency. For College or University, one needs to give Academic IELTS which takes around 1 to 1.5 months of preparation.

It requires at least 6 bands to get into the college program and at least 7 bands to get into the universities. If your score is more than 7.5 or 8 bands out of 9, some colleges do offer a small number of scholarships to international students.

I prepared for a month while working full time. I studied nearly an hour or 1.5 every day and scored 8 bands out of 9. Accepted language tests are:

  • Cambridge English: Advanced

Proof of your language skills is not included on the list of required documents for a Canadian student visa. But it is a good idea to have some proof of English ability, just in case.

As far as agents are concerned, for colleges agents charge somewhere from 10000 to 15000 INR ($200) depending upon the profile. Also, certain colleges waive off a $ 100 to $ 150 application fee. So remember to ask your agent about the same.

"How did I fund my education in Canada?"

To study in a College in Canada, the minimum investment required for a 2-year college course is CAD $30,000. 

You also need to have an additional $10k for a Guaranteed Investment Certificate in Canada which makes sure that the students have enough money to pay off their living expenses in the first year.

So, while working in India I had saved enough to fund my education for one full year.

For the second year, my parents supported me and funded my education. I was able to manage some of the expenses through Scholarships and Part-Time jobs.

The monthly expense is around $ 500 - $ 600. The part-time jobs help you earn an of approx $ 840 per month.

When I say part-time - we as students can work for a max of 20 hours a week. Thus with the help of a part-time job, one can survive and manage their daily expenses.

"How did I adjust after moving to Canada?"

As far as living is concerned, the most difficult thing after moving to Canada is adapting to the weather.

Generally, 5 months ranging from December to April, most parts of Canada witness snowfall and the temperature range from -20 C to 20 C in Ontario. However, there are few places where the temperature can go down to -40 C  such as Calgary (Alberta) and Saskatchewan.

Apart from that most of the things are accessible from nearby grocery stores to retail giants.

Life without a car is really difficult if you do not live in the city. This is because of the weather.

"How did I make arrangements for accommodation in Canada?"

I did not face any problems as far as the accommodation arrangements were concerned because a few of my friends were already here and they helped me a lot in transitioning to the new environment.

Also, the International Department of the college might help in finding the necessary accommodation.

I would suggest that the student should research accommodation beforehand from various websites such as Kijiji and Craigslist because hotels and Air BnB houses are pretty expensive even for a temporary stay.

There is this website known as - NewComers Canada. They have some amazing content about moving to Canada.

"Finding my First Job in Canada."

The job search in Canada is somewhat tough mainly because of 2 reasons – Solid Networking and Getting References.

Across all sectors, networking plays a much bigger role when it comes to finding a job in Canada.

In Canada more than half of all vacancies are not advertised online, so making contacts is vital.

As far as I have observed in a majority of cases, technical knowledge matters less at the initial stage of getting a job.

Having good communication and presentation skills really help in Canada. So, do not get demotivated if you don’t speak proper English or have a different accent than the others, just be you, try and improve from your mistakes and you will be good at everything you do in the long run.

If you are job searching in Canada, keep this mind:

  • Jobseekers should have their resumé on -LinkedIn, join industry groups online, go to conferences for their sector, and attend networking events.
  • Get comfortable telling people - what you do and how they can help you.
  • Your goal is to find a job, but don’t get lost in that. Your focus should be to build contacts and learn more about how you can improve your employability.

What is my personal experience in finding a job opportunity? As mentioned above as an International Student - I am allowed to work only 20 hours a week. When I was in my first semester, I applied for many on-campus jobs (nearly 10 jobs) but did not get any interview calls. The on-campus opportunities were for Peer-Tutor, Audit Assistant, Payroll Assistant etc.

It was then that I realized many colleges do not offer jobs to students in the first semester as the transition takes time and they are not used to the Canadian way. So then I applied for different jobs such as Cashier and Customer Service Representative at Walmart. Luckily I got a job as a Cashier at Walmart (Remember when in Canada no job is small or big).

Working at Walmart taught me a lot of things such as communication skills, understanding the Canadian accent, getting used to the Canadian way of working etc.

After working for 4 months at Walmart, in the next semester, I again applied for 9 to 10 jobs on campus and got selected in 4 of them. For the last 10 months, I work as an Audit and Research Assistant in the Office of the VP of Mohawk College.

So Don’t give up after applying to many jobs. Just keep on applying while improving your skillset. Eventually, you will succeed for sure. ­­­­­

"What you should consider when applying for jobs in Canada as an Immigrant or a Student?"

  • Applicants will be expected to have ‘Canadianised’ their CV, which can also be done using the examples and templates here.
  • Canadian employers are very particular about how a resumé is laid out.
  • Also, you are entering Canada as an immigrant, which means you need to work harder to impress employers as you are competing against candidates with local experience.
  • Work hard on your cover letter and resume.
  • Most of the interviews in Canada do not check your technical skills in detail if you have the required designations. However, they might ask you 2 or 3 small yet challenging questions testing your technical skills.

"Cost of living in Canada."

Toronto is a super expensive place to live in Canada. Rents are typically high in Downtown where you will find most of the companies and access to public transit.

The rent decreases as you go to distant areas. The monthly rent generally ranges from C$1500 to C$ 2000 for a 1 BHK house in Toronto which is the financial hub of Canada. So usually most students share the house with 3 to 4 other students during their college period.

As you move away from Toronto, the rent ranges from C$1000 to C$1200 for a 1BHK apartment. This area typically includes cities like Hamilton, Mississauga, Kitchener, Waterloo and so on.

Toronto requires a bus pass which costs C$120 a month and is valid only in Toronto. So to commute to other places you need to spend at least C$25 per trip. Some colleges in the other region offer free bus pass to students.

Groceries generally range from C$ 200 to C$ 300 depending upon the food requirements.

You can cut down on the groceries by getting them from retail giants such as Walmart as the prices are significantly cheaper than normal grocery stores. (Especially note this if you are a student as it can save you nearly 100 C$ a month).

Car installments and the insurance generally start from C$700 a month and can go up to C$1500 a month depending upon the car.

"Should you volunteer in Canada - Why it is important?"

Most of the organizations in Canada consider your volunteer hours as it is the most important thing on your resume.

You should be an active student in the college and the community which can increase your chances of getting jobs and also helps you in building a strong network in the community which can help you in the future.

Personally, I spent more than 200 hours in a span of 10 months, volunteering in different events across college and helped the international students in transitioning to the new environment in Canada, helping them in finding accommodation and part-time jobs.

"When did I start with CPA Canada?"

Studying at a University gets you more points for your PR visa than studying in college. So what you can do is?

In my opinion, you should opt for a college course along with a professional certification like - CPA, CFA as the points given are higher. So, instead of spending a hefty amount on University fees, one can opt for professional designations such as CPA and CFA.

I started my CPA studies around April'18 and it went on till September'18. I only worked a few shifts like 10 hours per week during this period as I had to make time for studies, online sessions and then had to do some household work too.

My college closed for 4 months in the summer session and so I had enough time to complete my work and studies.

Since I am already a Chartered Accountant from ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) I had to give only Capstone 1 and Capstone 2.

To Conclude...

To all those reading this article - Always be a lifelong student, no matter what.

You can learn from people younger than you, your peers as well as your mentors or seniors.

My parents and my brother motivated me to give my best at every stage in life. Whatever I am today, is because of their blessings and inspiration.

Now It's Your Turn...

Have you considered moving to Canada on a study visa? Do you know anyone who has moved to Canada on a study or PR Visa?

Or do you have any questions for Harsh? Comment and ask Harsh.

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