Recent changes to Canada’s immigration regulations that came into effect on January 1st, 2015 have placed international graduates from Canadian universities at a disadvantage. Many were seeking to qualify for Canadian permanent residence. In the past, foreign students with work experience in Canada enjoyed an advantage over other applicants when seeking permanent residence. The new rules will also make it tougher for Canadian universities to recruit foreign students. The open system of residence after graduation was one of the factors that attracted 200,000 foreign students to postsecondary institutions in Canada in 2014.
Under the new rules, foreign students who hold a degree or diploma from Canadian educational institutions will be treated on par with other groups of skilled workers. All economic class candidates will form part of the pool from which Citizenship and Immigration Canada will issue invitations offering permanent residence. In the past, students were not required to compete with other groups of skilled workers when seeking permanent residence.
The Express Entry Pool, which forms the core aspect of the Express Entry system, has been established to reduce application times, and to facilitate improved connections between Canadian employers and employees intending to apply for permanent residence.
Invitations are issued on the basis of a ranking system based on the number of points earned by an aspiring immigrant. The maximum score is 1200 points. A Labor Market Impact Assessment which indicates the absence of a Canadian worker available for the position will enable the applicant to score 600 additional points. Other factors like education and age count for 600 points. The first two cohorts invited by the Ministry to apply for permanent residence had a cutoff of 800 points. Since students don’t qualify for a LMIA, they cannot avail the 600 points.
Students are likely to be hurt the most by the new system as those with very little work experience will find it difficult to prove that there is no native Canadian who can perform the task in question.
While students can seek permanent residence through Provincial Nominee Programs, tens of thousands of students who have entered through the Federal program cannot get transferred to provinces without complicated negotiations.
Provincial programs accord higher priority to permanent residence applications made by international students holding credentials from a Canadian postsecondary institution along with professional work experience. Ontario’s 2500 spots under its PNP are filled primarily by international students.
The Express Entry Immigration system, announced in detail in early December, is expected to have a very negative effect on those students who had planned on relying on favourable policies designed to help post-graduate students obtain permanent residence. These policies had been framed on the basis of findings that indicated that such students were most likely to adapt to life in Canada.
Many recent graduates sought to bypass the new rules by submitting their applications early. In December, the CIC had indicated that thousands of spots under the old regulations were still available. However, many fall graduate applicants learned that their applications were rejected on the ground that the quotas for Canadian Experience Class, the category under which they previously qualified, had been reached in October 2014. Now, these students are required to apply under the new regulations. Most will unlikely qualify unless they can meet provincial nomination programs.
Interestingly, many students who were hopeful of applying under the old rules were devastated to learn that the authorities had committed a mistake by indicating the availability of thousands of spots under the old rules. With students spending in excess of $100,000 towards their education in Canada, the premise under which they made such decisions has been vacated.
There are hopes that criticism of the functioning of the Express Entry system may result in changes that could include a reduction in the score required for a graduate student to be invited to apply for permanent residence. Until then those who had opted for Canada over the US or the UK due to the relatively ease to acquire Canadian residence, will have to just wait and watch. Canadian education institutions will likely share in this process.
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
Canadian immigration policy analysts have worked closely with the education industry to build Canada’s international reputation. It is clear that the Immigration Ministry is causing substantial harm to the industry with the new Express Entry regime.