Photo by Jane Lytvynenko
HALIFAX (CUP) — New Government of Canada regulations make it easier for international students to work while in school, but do little to help with employment after graduation.
Under the new rules implemented this year, students can work 20 hours per week off campus while enrolled in classes during the academic school year, and in the summer they can work full time using their regular study permit.
The new rules mean international students can work without an extra off-campus work permit, which had been the case since 2006. Study permits now expire automatically 90 days after graduation, not on the renewal date that could be as much as a year away, as was the case with the old. This means those who come to Canada as students have to switch to a new immigration category once they have graduated.
The government’s worry is that under old regulations, foreign nationals could say they want to study simply to get the permit and remain in Canada until its expiry, says the regulatory impact analysis statement from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Despite the new, shorter time limit, Minister of International Trade Ed Fast said in Canada’s International Education Strategy, the government wants more international students to spend money in Canada and fill empty skilled labour jobs with “highly qualified professional and skilled trades that sustain a technologically driven modern economy.” While in school, international students collectively spend about $8 billion annually.
Changes come on the heels of a controversy at the University of Regina three years ago.
Two students on full scholarship at the university received deportation notices after unknowingly working at Walmart illegally, the Sheaf reported in 2012.
They spent 16 months hiding in churches in Regina before agreeing to leave Canada. Both women returned to Saskatchewan this June, when new rules came into effect.
Mario Mazraany, an international student in his second year of engineering at Dalhousie University in Halifax, says he’s worried about the new regulations. He previously completed a bachelor of science at Saint Mary’s University, taking a gap year to work and save money. He recently attended sessions about work permits through his school’s international student advising centre, something he says not many students take advantage of.
“If you’re a shy international student with bad English, you’re not going to know stuff and you’re not going to understand what’s going on,” said Mazraany.
More one-on-one sessions with university student advisors would be helpful, he said.
Mazraany would like to stay in Canada to work and gain experience after he graduates as a chemical engineer next May.
He said the new 90-day time limit after graduation would restrict the window to find a job. Luckily, he said, he’s covered under the old rules, so he can stay to apply for jobs until his study permit expires almost a full year after graduating. He could also try to find a company to sponsor him—possibly a tricky task with the restricted time limit and current job market.
As of September, Statistics Canada numbers show youth employment sits at 13.5 per cent, unchanged from the previous year. Overall, there are 6.2 unemployed workers per job vacancy, according to numbers ending in July.
The government’s education strategy says its goal is to increase international student enrolment, to encourage more to stay long term, and to double student spending over the next eight years. According to Statistics Canada, international students currently pay more than three times the average tuition of Canadian students.