Concern is growing among foreign students studying in Canada that recent changes to Canada’s immigration laws may make it more difficult for them to obtain permanent residency in the country.
New Canadian immigration laws that took effect on January 1st mean that foreign students who have obtained work experience in Canada will no longer be given special consideration when applying for permanent residency. As a result, concern is growing among both students and universities that one of the most attractive reasons for international students to study in Canada no longer exists—and that fact may negatively impact the number of foreign students choosing to study in Canada.
In 2014, there was an estimated 300,000 foreign students studying in Canadian universities.
Prior to the changes to the country’s immigration law, foreign students in Canada with work experience were in a separate classification from other immigrants applying for permanent residency. However, under the new law—titled Express Entry—foreign students will be added to the general ‘pool’ of skilled foreign workers seeking to obtain permanent residency in Canada.
Under the Express Entry program, the federal government claims that the foreign workers accepted into Canada will be better suited for the current employment openings available within the country. Points are awarded for things such as an applicant’s education, age and a positive Labor Market Impact Assessment, which is seen as proof that no Canadian is available to fill that position.
Concerns are being raised that foreign students in Canada will not be selected under the new point system as it will be difficult for someone just graduating to prove that he or she should be selected.
With a federal election almost certain to take place this year, the governing Conservative Party has made immigration a top priority; the new Express Entry program was part of a much broader revision of Canada’s immigration laws in 2014 that tightened many immigration rules, and is seen by many as being the Conservative’s attempt to strengthen the party’s political image heading into this year’s election.
Toronto-based immigration lawyer Robin Seligman said the new Express Entry system will prove to be “devastating to international students that relied on policies that were put into place by this government to help post-graduate international students transition to permanent residence.”
Many foreign students in Canada—who recently graduated—attempted to beat the new law by submitting their permanent residency applications last fall, prior to the beginning of the Express Entry system. However, thousands of foreign students received notices in January from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) informing them that the Canadian Experience Class program for which they were applying had reached its capacity back in October.
Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has said the government expects the Express Entry program to meet the country’s employment needs, but that he remains open to making some revisions to ensure that the new immigration rules brought in last year address Canada’s changing employment market.