Thousands of foreign students were unable to apply for permanent residence under the Canada Experience Class (CEC) last year after the 2014 limit on the program was exceeded. The students had tried to file their applications prior to the introduction of the Express Entry system which makes it more difficult for them to get permanent residency.
Foreign students made up to 40% of eligible candidates under the CEC, a program which was also used by highly skilled temporary foreign workers. The CEC was hugely popular among international students as it almost guaranteed permanent residence to them if they had relevant Canadian work experience.
Figures show that about 8,000 applications filed under CEC last year were not accepted. These applicants will now have to apply under the new Express Entry system, which is not a favorable option for students.
“Students now have to engage in this kind of lottery. When someone is coming here and paying international tuition fees and getting work experience, why should they be judged like someone applying from abroad,” says immigration expert Lev Abramovich.
Until recently, candidates who possessed a positive LMIA (labor market impact assessment) were more likely to receive invitations to apply for permanent residence under the Express Entry system. However, the latest group of Express Entry invitees included many applicants without an LMIA, increasing the chance for foreign students to receive invitations.
But most international students still feel that the new system makes it tougher for them to get jobs in Canada. “Under the old system, you could tell your manager legitimately that you are applying for permanent residency. It created more of a trusting relationship. Under the new system, you are waiting to be invited. … there’s now a risk that is involved,” says a recent foreign graduate.
The federal government insists that Express Entry will benefit foreign students even more once it is fully implemented by 2017, as the students then would not have to get their credentials assessed for Canadian equivalency.
But immigration experts have warned that countries that have implemented work restrictions on international students have seen a huge decline in their numbers, and that the same could happen in Canada as well. For instance, the UK saw an alarming 50% decline in students from India and Pakistan after it imposed restrictions on their right to work there after graduation. With foreign students paying more than double the tuition fees compared to local students, their declining numbers would mean losses in revenues that Canadian universities want to avoid.
In 2014, Canadian universities had about 133,000 undergraduate and graduate foreign students in attendance, with a total of 120,000 study permits granted to international students at colleges and universities. Surveys show that more than half of these students intend to stay on in Canada after graduation.