Several foreign students from Niagara College are appealing a decision to deny them post-graduate work permits. Citizenship and Immigration Canada rejected their applications because they took online courses which it considers to be “distance learning.”
A spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said that while all work permit applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis, foreign students who undertake study programs by distance learning do not qualify for a post-graduate work permit, even if the students are in Canada.
The decision comes as a blow to the more than 50 graduates of Niagara College’s general arts and sciences program, who are now facing an early return to their home countries. Around 30 students have had their applications rejected so far, with the remaining still waiting for a decision but expecting the worst.
Students who are granted a post-graduate work permit are allowed to work in Canada for up to three years. In the past, international students have received work permits after completing the same study program. This year, applications are being rejected because some of their coursework was done over the internet.
The foreign students, mostly from India, are distraught at the perceived inconsistency in the way regulations are being enforced. “Unfortunately, what we have is these students who are caught in the middle,” their legal counsel says. “The immigration department needs to think about updating their policy with regards to distance learning. They are not keeping pace with the changes in education in Ontario and across the country.”
Steven Hudson, a vice president of Niagara College, denied that the study programs were created to allow an easy route for international students to obtain work permits. He said he was surprised by CIC’s decision, as online courses are an integral part of study programs at universities and colleges all across Canada.
With their families having spent thousands of dollars on their post-graduate study, the students were expecting to be able to work in Canada to help recoup some of the costs, but now face having to return home with uncertainty.
For its part, CIC defends its decision, stating that their regulations and guidelines were constantly reviewed to ensure they serve Canada’s best interests.
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