A recent survey released this month shows Canada ranks fourth as a global destination for international students after the United States, Britain and Australia. But recent changes to the immigration system have made it much harder for foreign students who graduate from Canadian universities to immigrate here.
In January 2015, the federal government introduced the Express Entry immigration system. Prior to that, most foreign students who graduated from Canadian universities and colleges qualified to immigrate after working here for a year after graduation under the Canadian Experience Class. A government-approved job offer was not required.
Under the new rules, immigration applications are prioritized on the basis of a point system. Individuals with government-approved job offers are processed first. While many foreign students despite having years of Canadian work experience, do not receive the government’s approval.
Individuals with government-approved job offers have been identified as needed by Canadian employers and, in order to receive government approval, their employers prove there are no Canadians or Canadian permanent residents willing and able for these jobs.
Prior to the introduction of the new system, Canada opened its immigration doors to foreign graduates. The government recognized that encouraging immigration from a group of young, Canadian graduates, who speak university level English or French, and have lived, worked, studied, and paid taxes in Canada was good long term immigration policy.
Unfortunately, the Express Entry immigration system does not award enough points for Canadian education and Canadian work experience. Individuals with foreign education credentials that are “equivalent” to Canadian credentials can score the same number of points as those with Canadian degrees or diplomas.The problem with this approach is that Express Entry does not recognize that Canadian credentials are more valued by Canadian employers than “equivalent” foreign credentials.
By freezing out foreign students Canada risks ruining all the hard work that has gone into attracting them to Canada in the first place. Over the last few years, Canadian universities and colleges have made efforts to attract foreign students. Since they pay higher fees than Canadian students, this is a good source of revenue for most educational institutions.
In its election platform, the Liberal party proposed to decrease the time it would take a foreign student to become a Canadian citizen. Unless changes are made to the system, foreign students will be less and less likely to become permanent residents and this will likely harm Canada as a choice place of study for foreign students.
Foreign students are some of Canada’s best prospects for immigrants to Canada. Repairing the current system to provide foreign students a pathway to permanent residence is essential. The Liberal government must act accordingly.
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