immigrate to Canada were required to return to
their home country to apply. Since the program’s
inception five years ago, more than 20,000 permanent residents have entered Canada through
The Conservative government eased CEC
requirements at the start of 2013. As of January,
foreign students may stay in the country for up
to three years following graduation, instead of
two, giving them more time to gain the Canadian
work experience needed to qualify for permanent residency. The government also reduced
the work requirement period to 12 months from
24. After three years, permanent residents may
apply for Canadian citizenship.
Dr. Bauder said the changes help get around
one of the major problems facing those admitted
under the points system. Although highly skilled,
these immigrants often have difficulty finding
work in their fields because employers don’t recognize foreign credentials and work experience,
or because they lack adequate language skills.
Foreign students who graduate with a Canadian
degree or diploma aren’t likely to face the same
challenges, he said.
“In a way [foreign students] are the ideal
immigrants if you assume the perspective that
you want immigrants who produce economic
benefits for Canada,” said Dr. Bauder. “They are
ready to enter the labour market and start paying taxes.” However, one question no one is
addressing is whether Canada is justified in
encouraging the exodus of highly trained workers from their home countries, he added.
Canada has set a target of accepting 10,000
permanent residents through the CEC program
this year. In 2011, the most recent year for which
figures are available, Canada admitted almost
4,000 principal applicants through the CEC
plus 2,000 spouses and dependents. About half
were former international students.
Almost 240,000 international students were
studying in Canada in 2011, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada data cited in a 2012
report by the Canadian Bureau for International
Education; about half of these were enrolled in
universities. The number of foreign students
studying in Canada at all levels of education has
been growing more quickly in recent years. The
year-over-year increase averaged 11. 5 percent
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from 2008 to 2011, up from an average of 4. 3
percent from 2001 to 2008, according to CIC.
CBIE, a non-profit agency, attributed the
growth partly to favourable policy changes that
have made Canada a more attractive destination
for foreign students. “For many years interna-
tional students and international graduates of
our institutions were somewhat ignored,” said
Jennifer Humphries, CBIE vice-president of
membership, public policy and communications.
“I think there just wasn’t a strong understanding
that they were golden, in a sense, because they
had Canadian credentials, they had already inte-
grated to some extent and they had shown adapt-
ability … I think there’s been a major shift.”
Postsecondary institutions include informa-
tion about immigration policies in their promo-
tional materials, although they take care to
emphasize that the primary reason students
should come to Canada is for their studies, she
added. “But it is a very important thing for many
students to know that there are potential oppor-
tunities that might lead to permanent residence
status or longer-term work experience after
graduation,” Ms. Humphries said.
The immigration changes help to make Canada more attractive to foreign students and “make
a positive contribution to our ability to attract
international students,” said Doug Weir, executive director of student programs and services at
University of Alberta International. “At the same
time, Canadian institutions like the University
of Alberta have really upped their game in attracting international students,” he said.
In addition to changes to the CEC, the federal
government has revised rules governing temporary work permits for international students. The
Post-Graduation Work Permit program allows
students to work for up to three years after completing their studies with no restriction on the
type of employment. The number of work permits issued under this program has doubled
since the government revised it in 2008. Off-campus work permits allow students to work up
to 20 hours a week during regular academic sessions. The government has proposed allowing
full-time international students with valid study
permits to automatically be eligible to work off
campus starting in 2014, eliminating the need
to apply for a separate work permit. If approved,
this will put Canada ahead of what other major
host countries offer, Ms. Humphries observed.
International students may also transition to
permanent residency through the PhD stream