Government must update international student program: Jeffery
By Paul Russell, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor
The federal government is on the right track in launching a new strategy to attract international students to Canada, but a fundamental change needs to be made to the study-permit screening process for it to be successful, says Toronto immigration lawyer Matthew Jeffery.
“This new strategy is real recognition of the huge economic benefits international students bring to Canada,” says Jeffery, who operates the immigration-focused Matthew Jeffery Barrister & Solicitor office in Toronto. “Since they are paying three to four times the tuition rate than their Canadian peers, international students give colleges and universities vital funding to improve their courses and services, which benefits everyone.”
According to a statement from Ahmed Hussen, minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, more than 721,000 international students studied in Canada in 2018, “sparking new ideas, strengthening innovation and building people-to-people ties that are crucial to international trade and the global economy.”
Since most of the students are young and are obtaining Canadian educational qualifications and in-demand labour skills, “they are often ideal candidates for permanent residency,” Hussen states. “In fact, nearly 54,000 former students became permanent residents in Canada in 2018.”
While agreeing that international students are ideal prospects for citizenship, Jeffery questions why a federal pre-screening test tries to weed out those who want to stay here after they graduate.
He points to s. 216, 1B, of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, which states that a visa officer shall only “issue a study permit to a foreign national if, following an examination, it is established that the foreign national … will leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for their stay.”
“The onus is on someone applying for a study permit to show that they are going to leave Canada at the end of their studies despite the fact there are programs in place to encourage students to remain in Canada, obtain a post-graduate work permit and then apply for permanent residence in Canada through the Canadian Experience Class or the skilled worker category,” ” Jeffery says.
Because of this clause, numerous qualified people who apply to study in Canada are refused entry, he tells AdvocateDaily.com.
“These regulations were drawn up at a time when there was no Canadian Experience Class, there were no post-graduate work permits issued, and the understanding of an international student was someone who would come here to study and then leave,” Jeffery says.
“But in the last few decades, the tremendous benefit of allowing foreign students to transition to permanent residence in Canada has been recognized,” he says. “So now’s time to get rid of this contradictory clause in the screening application, and encourage foreign students to find work here after they finish their studies.”
If people want to come to Canada to study, Jeffery explains, the application process is straightforward; they must show they have been offered admission to a designated Canadian college or university and they must have sufficient funds to cover their tuition fees and living expenses.
“It shouldn’t be too difficult to assess who’s qualified to come here, but this requirement to show they’re going to leave Canada at the end of their studies creates an impossible evidentiary burden on the applicant and allows for arbitrary refusals,” he says.
Jeffery says the Canadian economy directly benefits from international students, who not only pay higher tuition rates to our public universities but also contribute to the economy by spending money to live here.
“This type of person — who comes to Canada at a young age, learns a Canadian education, obtains a work permit and then attains permanent residency by being a skilled worker — is truly the ideal immigrant,” he says. “They are already fully integrated into Canadian society by the time they obtain permanent residence, and their long-term prospects are excellent because they’ve already got all the background they need to flourish in Canada.”
According to the federal statement on the new education strategy, one of its goals is to diversify where Canada gets its international students. Currently, 50 per cent arrive from India or China.
While agreeing the government should welcome eligible students from all countries, Jeffery says it is easy to understand why these two nations — each with populations exceeding 1.3 billion — dominate Canada’s international student population.
“Certain cultures, such as India and China, value education more than others, with children there highly encouraged to continue their schooling as far as possible, and many of those will view Canada as a great place to study and start a career,” he says.