Ottawa makes it easier for international students to stay in Canada

Canada’s message to international students and graduates is simple. “We don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said.

Graduates at York University during the spring convocation on June 12, 2012. (Dominic Chan / The Canadian Press)

The federal government is relaxing work permits rules for tens of thousands of international students whose studies have been interrupted by the pandemic to allow them to obtain Canadian work experience and make it easier to apply for permanent residency in Canada.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Friday that international students who hold post-graduation work permits (PGWP) will have the opportunity to apply for open work permits.

These will be valid for 18 months and allow former international students to remain in Canada, continue to seek employment and build their future in this country, officials with the federal department of  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said.

Officials hope the measure will help the federal government attract nearly 52,000 qualified international students to settle permanently in Canada and help create jobs and fill labour shortages.

“Whether as nurses on the pandemic’s front lines, or as founders of some of the most promising start-ups, international students are giving back to communities across Canada as we continue the fight against the pandemic,” Mendocino said in a statement. 

“This new policy means that young students from abroad who have studied here can stay and find work, while ensuring that Canada meets the urgent needs of our economy for today and tomorrow.”

‘We want you to stay here’

Canada’s message to international students and graduates is simple, Mendocino added, “We don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here.”  

International students contribute over $21 billion annually to Canada’s economy and support the vitality of Canadian communities, the minister said.  

More than 58,000 foreign graduates successfully applied to immigrate permanently in 2019, and their decisions to stay in Canada will help to address Canada’s stark demographic challenges, Mendocino said.

In 1971, there were 6.6 people of working age for each senior. There are now only three Canadian workers for every retired Canadian and by 2035, there will be only two workers for every retiree, according to federal statistics. 

Without immigrants to help support the needs of an aging population, younger Canadians will end up paying more per person to provide the same benefits, officials said.

To apply for an open work permit under the new policy, an applicant must:

  • have a PGWP that expired on or after Jan. 30, 2020, or a PGWP that expires in 4 months or less from the date they apply
  • still be in Canada
  • have a valid temporary status, or be applying to restore their status

Applications will be open from Jan. 27 to July 27, 2021 on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website.

Source: IRCC, Radio Canada International, January 11, 2021.

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