IRCC Urged To Give International Students From Poor Countries Open Work Permits

Newfoundland & Labrador Says Canada’s Study Permit Cap Ambiguous
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Canada immigration news: A Canadian government standing committee says international students who do not have enough money to live and study in Canada should be given open work permits and be provided with sponsorship opportunities.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration quietly released its report, Differential Treatment in Recruitment and Acceptance Rates of Foreign Students in Quebec and the Rest of Canada, and its list of 35 recommendations to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in May.

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The committee had been tasked with examining the recruitment and acceptance rates of foreign students in Quebec and in the rest of Canada, including francophone students from African countries which have refusal rates of up to 80 per cent.

Those high refusal rates for African students, the majority of whom are Black, have led to allegations of systemic racism in Canada’s immigration system.

The high rate of refusal of international students is also a lost opportunity for Canada, experts in education told the committee during its hearings.

‘Personally Devastating’

“Because each rejection letter is not only personally devastating for the student who has successfully qualified for admission to a Canadian institution, each rejection also arguably represents a failure of process, a waste of resources for the student and the host institution, a loss of opportunity for the community where the student planned to study, and fewer chances to leverage the people-to-people ties,” said Larissa Bezo, president and CEO of the Canadian Bureau for International Education.

Refusal rates for international students were highest among those from French-speaking countries in Africa.

“Many witnesses highlighted high refusal rates for their institutions for students from African countries with significant French-speaking populations,” notes the report.

“Universities Canada indicated that undergraduate refusal rates for students from Morocco and Senegal were 45 per cent and 80 per cent in 2019. Addressing rates of students applying to CEGEPs, Francis Brown Mastropaolo reported that, between 2015 and 2020, ‘the highest refusal rates observable were for applications from 13 francophone African countries. For several of these countries, refusal rates reached 80 per cent. The regional average remained above 65%.’”

Poorer International Students Should Be Offered Sponsorship Opportunities

Many of the committee’s recommendations include increasing government transparency and intergovernmental cooperation within Canada. Several others suggested the government examine its software systems used to sort through applications for study permits to eliminate the possibility of systemic racism or sexism.

But there are also calls within that list of recommendations for concrete action to help poorer students financially, allowing them to come, live and study in Canada.

“[Prospective] students may not have the $10,000 on hand right away, but their extended family, the aunts and uncles, will chip in to fund the student who is going to study in Canada,” Denise Amyot, President and CEO, Colleges and Institutes Canada, told the committee. 

“Plus, the student can work while they study. People often forget that.”

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In its bid to try to make it easier for international students to earn enough money while studying in Canada, the committee recommended that IRCC automatically issue work permits at no extra cost at the same time as the study permits for students in co-op programs. 

It also said poor international students should be provided with open work permits while they study part-time and that they are eligible for the Post-Graduate Work Program (PGWP).

The committee also recommended IRCC fund tailored settlement services to international students seeking their permanent residency in Canada.

The Nigerian Student Express (NSE) pilot program, launched in 2019, came under particular scrutiny during the hearings for both its financial and language requirements.

Gideon Christian, president of the African Students Initiative, pointed out to the committee that the financial requirements of the NSE are three times those of the Student Direct Stream (SDS). The top exec of the African Students Initiative also noted that Nigeria is an English-speaking country and so should be exempt from the language-testing requirements.

The committee agreed and is urging the IRCC to review its criteria for the NSE, reconsider its financial requirements, and remove the English-language testing requirement.

The committee is also demanding the IRCC provide a comprehensive plan to reduce the high rates of refusal for a student visa to meet its francophone immigration targets and address the labour shortage in Canada, including Quebec.

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