A think-tank says Canada is refusing too many international students’ study permit applications to attend colleges and universities in Quebec and limiting immigration out of a misplaced fear these foreign nationals will not return to their countries of origin after their studies.
International students from African countries hoping to study in the francophone province suffer from a particularly high level of refusal of study permit applications; 72 per cent of them are turned down.
In a report released this month, the Institut du Québec’s Emma Braham and Daye Diallo argue that these international students represent a valuable pool of potential immigrants to Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) should let more of them into the country to pursue their studies.
“In Quebec, the integration of immigrants into the labour force has greatly improved over the past few years. This has been partly due to a tight labour market but also due to their previous experience in Quebec,” said Braham, the institute’s executive director.
“Given that, international students offer great potential to help alleviate the labour shortage in Quebec. Upon completion of their studies, they have not only their degrees which meet provincial standards but by then also networks which greatly facilitate their integration.”
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In 2021, almost half of international students accepted by Quebec universities were refused study permits by the federal government, notes the think-tank’s report, A Portrait of Temporary Immigration/Attraction and Retention of International Students in Quebec (Portrait de l’immigration temporaire Attraction et rétention des étudiants étrangers au Québec).
“An analysis of the reasons given by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to refuse study permits indicates that one of the main reasons provided to justify these refusals was that there was a risk the student would not return to his or her country of origin upon the completion of those studies,” said Diallo, the think-tank’s chief economist.
“There is no reason for this criteria – and it demonstrates a certain incoherence – in the context of the efforts by both levels of government to encourage international graduates to settle in Quebec.”
Throughout Canada, including Quebec, many immigrants get their permanency through a two-step process, first arriving in the country and gaining work experience as temporary workers or international students and then applying for permanent residency.
Quebec Poised To Relax PEQ Work Experience Criteria
In Quebec, the provincial government is hoping to relax the conditions or its Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ) – or Quebec Experience Class – immigration program.
The PEQ is an accelerated immigration program for international students and temporary workers, a pathway for them to get their permanent residency in Canada’s only francophone province.
When now-Premier François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) first formed the government after a landslide victory in 2018, the Quebec government undertook a controversial reform of the PEQ after deciding the immigration program was letting in too many immigrants.
The PEQ is similar to the federal Canadian Experience Class (CEC) pathway to permanent residence but offers an even more simplified process.
In the wake of the reforms to the PEQ which started as soon as the CAQ formed the government, Quebec added a requirement that international students and temporary workers needed to have 12 to 18 months of work experience before being able to apply.
In a news report, Radio-Canada, the French-language network of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, claimed last month to have obtained information that this work experience criteria will be softened for international students, meaning those foreign nationals will soon be able to apply to the PEQ with less work experience provided they are studying in French-language program.
In its report, the Institut du Québec notes this work experience requirement is partly to blame for the slowness of the process to immigrate to Quebec. The think-tank, though, also spreads the blame around, including onto the IRCC for its slower processing time for applications to Quebec than to the rest of the country.
Applications for permanent residency to Quebec currently take 21 months compared to as little as four months and as long as 19 months for those to the rest of Canada, notes the think tank.