New limits placed on Canadian universities’ ability to offer immigration advice

Canada student visa

Recent legislative changes mean that Canada’s universities will now be limited in the amount of advice they can offer to international students and faculty members.

Changes to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) places limits on third parties’ abilities to provide—or even offer—advice or representation at all stages of the immigration application, unless they are certified to do so. In the case of international students and faculty at Canada’s universities, the restricted ‘third parties’ would be the universities themselves.

Many major universities across Canada have provided both direction, and assistance, to international students and faculty in their immigration to Canada. However, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has confirmed that the new IRPA regulations means that university employees are prohibited from offering immigration advice to both international faculty and students.

The hiring of academic faculty from abroad is considered by the government of Canada to be a form of hiring ‘temporary foreign workers’.

In the case of academia, Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC)—working with the country’s universities—has established special criteria to assist Canadian universities in their recruitment efforts of foreign academics; still, certain academic foreign workers are exempt from government requirements, including academic consultants and examiners, graduate assistants, and self-funded researchers.

In all other cases, before academic immigrant workers can be hired, the ESDC reviews the wages offered by universities to foreign academics and compares them to those offered Canadian academics under existing collective bargaining agreements.

The usual hiring procedure of foreign workers for academia typically includes all the other steps required in hiring temporary foreign workers, including advertising vacant positions, an attempt to first hire Canadian citizens, and receipt of a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) in pursuit of final approval by CIC of a temporary work permit.

While most major Canadian universities can still offer publicly available immigration information for their international students and faculty, the new IRPA rules mean that previously available specific case advice cannot be provided.