Back to a direct path to PR for foreign students in Canada?

Feb 10 2016

Back to a direct path to PR for foreign students in Canada?

It’s no secret that foreign students, and their much higher tuition fees, are a gold mine for colleges and universities. Canadian universities have benefited from this, and Canada’s immigration policy made it easy for them to do so. Since about the mid-2000s, one of the easiest way to get permanent residence (PR) in Canada was to study here. The tacit arrangement was that your high tuition fees were your ticket to PR: the time spent studying here would entitle you to a post-graduation work permit, and if you worked in a sufficiently skilled occupation (an easy enough condition for graduates to fulfill) for a year, you could apply for PR under the Canadian Experience Class. I suspect that one of the reasons many foreign students chose to study at a Canadian institution was because it was a path to permanent residence in a safe and prosperous country.


And then came along Express Entry and threw a wrench into the works. All of a sudden, people who had been counting on getting permanent residence in Canada because they studied here were competing with every other applicant, worldwide. Through Express Entry applicants are given points for various adaptability criteria. Every two months, the candidates in the pool are ranked from highest to lowest based on their score. Approximately every two weeks, about 1500 of the top-ranking candidates are invited to apply to for PR.


The problem is, someone who studied in Canada and worked here does not, based on that alone, have enough points to be invited to apply. Even if they are currently employed in Canada and their employer wishes to keep them indefinitely, they will not automatically have enough points to apply. The only alternatives are to rely on one of the provincial nominee programs, or for their employer to pursue the uncertain and expensive path of requesting a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) opinion to be allowed to hire a foreign worker.


Ironic then that a system which was allegedly designed to select those most likely to integrate into Canadian society and labour market does not favour those who have studied here, managed to find skilled work, and whose employers want to keep them.


In their series of immigration reform promises the Liberals have remained silent on this point. I doubt that the government is unaware of the problem that Express Entry has created. Students who chose to study here expecting to have a fair shot at PR, especially those who did so before the new system was implemented have been left completely in the lurch. It is also a hit to the competitiveness of Canadian educational institutions vying for foreign students.


The simplest way to fix the problem is to modify the Express Entry criteria. Those who are already participating in the Canadian labour market legally (based on a post-grad or even “working holiday” work permit), and who have a permanent job offer from their employer should be granted a substantial number of points without having to rely on a positive LMIA. The question remains, will the Liberal government make it easier for this very adaptable group of people to attain permanent residence in Canada?

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