International students are calling on Canada to continue allowing them to work more than 20 hours per week so they can earn enough money to pay their tuitions and living expenses.
Last year, then-Immigration Minister Sean Fraser lifted a 20-hour-per-week cap on the number of hours that eligible post-secondary students are allowed to work off-campus while classes are in session.
Since Nov. 15, 2022, international students have been able to work and earn money in Canada without having to worry about that 20-hour-per-week rule.
“With the economy growing at a faster rate than employers can hire new workers, Canada needs to look at every option so that we have the skills and workforce needed to fuel our growth,” said Fraser last year.
“Immigration will be crucial to addressing our labour shortage. By allowing international students to work more while they study, we can help ease pressing needs in many sectors across the country, while providing more opportunities for international students to gain valuable Canadian work experience and continue contributing to our short-term recovery and long-term prosperity.”
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But temporary lifting of the 2-hour rule is scheduled to come to an end on Dec. 31.
And international students are hoping Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will change its mind and make the temporary lifting of that work requirement a permanent feature of the international study program.
In an interview with the CBC, James Casey, a policy and research analyst at the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), claimed international students are disproportionately experiencing the effects of rising rents and other costs of living because they are not given any federal or provincial loans or grants or housing vouchers.
At least some international students are turning to food banks.
“It’s a very dire situation that speaks to the huge gap between what life is for an international student in this country versus the average Canadian student,” Casey has reportedly said.
According to Casey, many international students are sharing beds and single rooms and even wind up homeless.
Without an IRCC extension of the 20-hour work rule, the plight of international students in Canada will only get worse, he maintains.
“It’s going to put international students in very difficult positions to choose between whether to break this policy or afford housing,” he reportedly said.
“If this decision is not made permanent, we’re going to have mass amounts of international students being caught up in human trafficking and exploitative labour practices.”
The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) advocacy group agrees. It has been lobbying to have the 20-hour limit for international students scrapped for years.
On its website, the MWAC cites the following four reasons why the 20 hour work limit should be removed:
The average structure of work
An average work shift is eight hours. Migrant student workers who take a third shift are effectively working irregularly for four out of 24 hours. Two shifts add up to 16 hours, which are simply not sufficient, and part-time work is generally considered three days a week. The 20-hour work limit effectively forces workers to engage in irregular work, outside of labour law protections.
Migrant students are already working past 20 hours already, just without rights
International tuition rises each year, and particularly in the context of global inflation, migrant students must work to survive. Many are forced to work more than 20 hours, which increases their vulnerability to labour exploitation, and makes it harder for them to pay taxes.
There is already precedent
In 2020, international students in Canada in essential industries were allowed to work an unlimited number of hours. As of February 2022, Australia has removed the 20-hour restriction on study permit holders.
Self-determination and flexibility
The academic cycle has ups and downs. Migrant students want to have the ability to work more during periods of lower intensity, and not at all during exam season. Removing the limit allows students the flexibility and freedom to make their own decisions.
International Students Can Work In Canada Under Certain Conditions
International students are able to work on campus without a work permit while completing their studies if:
- they have a valid study permit;
- are full-time students at a post-secondary public school (college or university, or CEGEP in Quebec), or at a private college-level school in Quebec that operates under the same rules as public schools and is at least 50 per cent funded by government grants, or at a Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law, and;
- have a Social Insurance Number.
International students are also usually able to work off-campus without a work permit while completing their studies – when the current liftin of the 20-hour rule is not in effect – if:
- they have a valid study permit;
- are full-time students in a designated learning institution (a post-secondary program, or in Quebec at a vocational program at the secondary level as well);
- their study program is academic, vocational or professional, it lasts at least six months and leads to a degree, diploma or certificate;
- they are only working up to a maximum of 20 hours per week during regular academic sessions, and full time during scheduled breaks (for example, winter and summer holidays or spring break).
Certain study programs include work requirements such as co-op or internships. In such cases, a work permit is required in order for the foreign student to be able to complete the work.
International students are able to travel and work in Canada for up to one year through the International Experience Canada if:
- they are between the ages of 18 and 35 and;
- their country of origin has an agreement with Canada.