Last Updated on November 11, 2016
Canada’s federal government could make it easier for international students to stay in the country after graduation as early as before the end of November.
Immigration Minister John McCallum has been talking for some time about the need to make it easier for foreign students who have graduated from Canadian universities to begin their working lives here.
This will be done by giving more points under the Express Entry system to applicants for permanent residence who have completed post-graduate education in Canada.
There could also be a move to eliminate the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) where a job is to be taken by a former international student.
McCallum has described the group as blue chip new permanent residents of Canada, given that they have language skills, knowledge of the Canadian way of life and possess recognised Canadian qualifications.
Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
When Express Entry was launched, thousands of applications for permanent residence from former international students were left languishing without the required number of points to gain access to Canada, despite the above strengths.
There are many examples of international students graduating, staying in Canada on a post-graduation work permit, starting what looked like successful careers only to be told they had to go home when their PGWP expired, normally after two years.
Now the federal government plans to do something about it, and the timing could not be better.
In recent history, Canada has benefitted from a surge in international student numbers due to events affecting its competitors for these sought-after young people.
After 9/11 there was a surge in numbers as Canada was seen as a safer option over the U.S., while policy changes in Australia and New Zealand during the mid-2000s also pushed more students this way.
Now, with America attempting to quell a rising tide of anti-immigration sentiment and Britain discussing ways it can limit numbers of international students following the Brexit vote, Canada could again reap the benefits.
And if Canada gives international students a clear option of staying here after they graduate, it will only make the country more attractive when young people are deciding where to study.
Universities are particularly keen to grow their international student populations because it makes sound business sense.
Tuition fees for international students can be more than double what Canadians pay, and with enrollment figures beginning to fall – another impact of Canada’s aging population – recruiting from overseas will become more and more important.
There have been several indications recently of the move towards welcoming more international students.
A ruling has been made on the issue of how courses completed via distance learning are treated when it comes to applications for a PGWP.
Previously, students who applied having completed their most recent studies via distance learning had their applications for a PGWP turned down.
But a Federal Court decision and subsequent change in Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) guidelines means those denied permits between September 1, 2014 and March 15, 2016 on these grounds can submit new applications and have courses previously completed in Canada considered.
Provided a sufficient proportion of a graduate’s education took place in class, in Canada, there is a strong chance of success in the new application and it should be processed in 40 days.
The provinces have also started targeting international students.
A recent round of Invitations to Apply issued under the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program was dominated by foreign graduates.
Meanwhile, Nova Scotia issued an ambitious plan to target international students to boost immigration numbers in the Atlantic province.
Alberta has seen numbers jump 40 per cent to 18,203 for the 2015-2016 academic year from 13,145 in 2011-2012.
In Manitoba, the numbers have almost doubled in the time between 2011-2012 and 2015-2016, from 4,700 to more than 9,000. Saskatchewan, meanwhile, saw a 24 per cent rise.
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