World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and career goals in the United States and Canada. The weekly roundup includes research, stories, and events of interest to the Canadian immigration and settlement community. This content has been created by WES and is reproduced here with their permission, in partnership.
With Canada’s immigration backlog reaching 2.6 million, processing delays put thousands of highly skilled immigrants at risk of having to leave the country. Pre-pandemic, many individuals would apply for permanent residency after studying or working in Canada. However, due to immigration policy shifts throughout the pandemic, traditional immigration pathways are no longer a reliable avenue for permanency in Canada. The temporary to permanent resident (TR to PR) program, Express Entry program pause (Dec 2020 to July 2022), and the expansion of international student permits and working hours have all contributed to increased applications and processing backlogs for individuals. While some of these changes have been praised, critics also emphasize that these policy decisions have contradictory effects on the immigration system. Express Entry for example was developed to streamline processing and make the Canadian immigration system more efficient. Consequently, concerns are mounting on whether ideal immigrants will perceive Canada as an ideal country for immigration now and in the future.
Considering recent announcements to allow international students to access off-campus employment beyond the 20-hour limit, many post-secondary institutions caution the implementation of this new policy. International students arrive to Canada for educational pursuits and this policy could interfere with the balance between education and work. However, research from the Canadian Bureau on International Education highlights that a third of the 40,000 international student respondents depend on off campus employment to finance their education. Advocates argue that the removal of the co-op work permit requirement for students enrolled in programs with co-op, internships or other work-integrated learning component are steps that would significantly benefit international students. According to IRCC, the pilot is scheduled to end in December 2023, with additional hours eligible towards PGWP applications and the potential to extend beyond this timeframe.
Impacts on migration, labour market, and higher education were felt globally during the pandemic. While labor market outcomes for immigrants declined more strongly than those native born in 2020, they also had the strongest recovery rate OECD-wide. Analysis on 2021 levels indicate a significant rebound; where the population of residents born abroad stood at 138 million, 70 percent of immigrants were employed, returning to, or exceeding their pre-COVID level of employment in 2021. Canada for example, received 400,000 permanent residents (with many temporary residents transitioning), more than double the inflow of 2020: the third largest receiving country after the United States and Germany. Refugee migration crises have also significantly impacted international migration levels. Several OECD countries including Canada have taken measures to support Ukrainian nationals fleeing war, with advocates calling on governments to move towards sustained solutions as opposed to temporary programming to enable long-term support mechanisms. Additionally, in the OECD there are 4.4 million international students enrolled, accounting for nearly 10 percent of all post-secondary students. Among the top seven study destinations, Canada has seen the sharpest increase in its ‘popularity’ with nearly seven percent of all international students in the OECD studying in Canada as of 2020, compared to three percent in 2010.
International students are calling for greater ease of access to information that will support their transition into their new educational landscape, research shows. In a survey examining the needs of international students from 77 countries, student respondents demonstrated that “more complete” information is need in areas including finance, employment, and career development. This builds on findings from an earlier survey where international students said they require increased clarity on employment while in school policies when researching study abroad options; preferring institutions that are the most transparent with such information. Students also suggest that employability post-graduation is one of the most important factors they consider when choosing an institution and select institutions that provide programming that aids in their career development and statistics related to their impact.
Refugee and humanitarian advocates are calling on the government to amend a number of humanitarian polices including the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). In its inception, the STCA was meant to offer asylum to refugees seeking protection in the first country in which they arrive - Canada or the United States. This suggests that individuals who have arrived in the US cannot seek protection in Canada or vice versa. In 2020 however, many calls to action have been raised after a Canadian federal court decision that the current STCA does not entirely protect rights to life, liberty, and security of person in the charter, with many reports of abuse faced by asylum seekers and detainees. Canada must ensure that current policies reflect our obligations to provide safety to individuals fleeing persecution abroad and trusting Canada to welcome and protect them.