Warning Was Issued To Immigration Officials About Letting International Students Work More Hours

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Newfoundland & Labrador Says Canada’s Study Permit Cap Ambiguous
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A memo obtained by Canadian Press indicates that then Immigration Minister Sean Fraser was warned during the COVID-19 pandemic that allowing international students to work more hours could undermine the integrity of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

“While a temporary increase in the number of hours international students can work off-campus could help address these shortages, this could detract from the primary study goal of international students to a greater emphasis on work, circumvent the temporary foreign worker programs and give rise to further program integrity concerns with the international student program,” that memo reportedly states.

During the pandemic, Ottawa struggled with the severe labour shortages in the country and so Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) removed the 20-hour weekly restriction on work hours for international students, allowing them to work up to 40 hours every week.

That temporary measure was initially intended to be in place until the end of last year but the current immigration minister, Marc Miller, has extended that deadline to the end of April this year.

The memo obtained by Canadian Press, though, reportedly indicated the reservations immigration staff had about such a move.


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Removing the limit for off-campus work would fly in the fact of the TFWP through which employers must prove they need a foreign national to fill a job because no Canadian or permanent resident is available to do it.

Obtained under an access to information request by the news agency, the memo’s warnings cast new light on Immigration Minister Marc Miller’s intention to cut back the number of hours international students will be allowed to work off campus.

“We have gotten addicted to temporary foreign workers,” Miller has reportedly told Bloomberg News

“Any large industry trying to make ends meet will look at the ability to drive down wages. There is an incentive to drive labour costs down. It’s something that’ll require a larger discussion.”

The proposed move to cut back on the work hours of international students comes in the wake of the IRCC having processed more than one million study permit applications last year.


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“We finalized 1,089,600 study permit applications (including extensions) in 2023, up from 917,900 in 2022,” notes the IRCC website.

Last month, the immigration minister limited study permits to be handed out to international students in the coming year by the IRCC would only accept 606,250 study permit applications in 2024.

“The intent of these Instructions is to ensure the number of study permit applications accepted into processing by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration … within the scope of the instructions does not exceed 606,250 study permit applications for one year beginning on the date of signature,” the Canada Gazette reported on Feb. 3.

Number Of Study Permits Could Drop By A Third

The cap on study permit applications is expected to reduce the number of study permits by more than a third, The Globe and Mail has reported.

“The cap is expected to result in approximately 364,000 approved study permits, a decrease of 35 per cent from 2023,” the immigration minister has reportedly said. “In the spirit of fairness, we are also allocating the cap space by province, based on population.”

Under the cap on study permits, it is expected the provinces and territories will each have a limit on their ability to welcome new international students. The national newspaper reports those proposed limits will allow some provinces to increase their international student population while dramatically cutting it in other provinces, including Ontario.

The cap on study permits and proposed reductions in the hours international students will be allowed to work off campus and other, suggested tweaks to TFWP to reduce the number of low-wage workers, though, have some business leaders worried.

At the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), president Dan Kelly has openly wondered whether the government is now operating in panic mode as it attempts to deflect from criticism that record immigration has fuelled inflation and caused much of the housing crisis.

He is hoping the government will properly think through the ramifications of changes to the TFWP, particularly for smaller and rural communities, as many businesses have come to rely on immigrants.

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Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of immigration.ca featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.