Language schools say foreign students are less likely to come to Canada as a result of a new visa requirement imposed by the federal government.
New rules mean students who need to complete a language course before beginning their main studies now require two visas.
According to language school representatives, this contradicts Immigration Minister John McCallum`s insistence that international graduates from Canadian universities are Canada`s ideal new permanent residents.
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In a competitive field, experts say high-calibre students are likely to be put off by the extra layer of red tape created by the new rule.
With other countries including the UK, US and Australia all competing for the same international students, it means they could look elsewhere instead of coming to Canada.
McCallum says the move closes a loophole that allowed students to remain and work in Canada whether or not they successfully completed the language class.
Under the new rules, an initial visa is awarded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for the duration of the prerequisite class.
Once the class has been completed and the required standard achieve, a further visa is awarded for the student’s chosen course.
Previously a single visa was awarded covering the duration of both courses.
“A concern has been raised by officers that the student may not successfully complete their prerequisite program, but will continue to hold a valid study permit allowing them to work,” an IRCC statement said in July.
The statement added: “Once the prerequisite program has been completed, the student can apply for a new study permit and demonstrate that the requirements of the first program have been met.”
Educators are also worried the IRCC has inserted another administrative layer which could mean delays and processing problems.
For example, if a student completed a summer language course, the IRCC would need to issue a second visa in a matter of weeks for a university course that started in September.
Schools are worried over whether the immigration department has the resources to do this, saying the move feels like a backwards step.
With between 10,000 and 11,000 students needing to complete a prerequisite course each year, it creates a pile of new paperwork for students, schools and immigration officers.
There is also a feeling that the change was made without adequate consultation.
The Canadian government is planning to make it easier for international students to remain in the country and begin their careers after graduation.
Completing a post-secondary degree in Canada is expected to be given more weight under the Express Entry system, through which candidates are invited to apply for permanent residency.
Currently, international students will most likely have to return to their original countries following graduation. However it is this market that can fill Canada’s much needed managed immigration levels.
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