Ottawa looks to ease international students’ path to permanent residency
June 21, 2016
The Liberal government is moving to make it easier for international students to become permanent residents once they have graduated from Canadian postsecondary institutions.
Immigration Minister John McCallum said he intends to launch federal-provincial talks to reform the current Express Entry program, a computerized system that serves as a matchmaking service between employers and foreign skilled workers. Thousands of international students have been rejected for permanent residency because the program favours prospective skilled workers from abroad.
“We must do more to attract students to this country as permanent residents,” Mr. McCallum told reporters after meeting with his provincial and territorial counterparts Monday. “International students have been shortchanged by the Express Entry system. They are the cream of the crop in terms of potential future Canadians and so I certainly would like to work with my provincial and territorial colleagues to improve that.”
Mr. McCallum said international students are ideal immigrants and should be recruited by Canada.
“I believe international students are among the most fertile source of new immigrants for Canada. By definition, they are educated. They speak English or French,” said the minister.
“They know something about the country, so they should be first on our list of people who we court to come to Canada,” he minister.
International students have been uncertain about whether they will be able to stay in Canada after they finish their studies since the former Conservative government introduced the Express Entry system on Jan. 1, 2015. Prior to that, they had a clear path to permanent residency.
To be able to apply for permanent residence under Express Entry, however, graduates have to reach a certain number of points, with levels changing from month to month. Those with the highest points in any given month are more likely to be successful.
Evan Green, a Toronto immigration lawyer who has helped international students apply for permanent residence, was cautious about the promise to adjust how applications are processed.
The government is projecting fewer economic applicants overall, and so international students may face more competition for the available spots.
“The target for 2015 was 181,300 in the economic class and this year it’s 160,600,” he said.
Still, a few simple adjustments could make it easier for international students to settle in Canada, he said. Giving graduates specific points for education and work experience in this country would be a start. That’s how the prior system worked.
“You had people who paid for their own education, had Canadian work experience, they’re pretty good immigrants,” he said. “They could adjust it so that work experience on your postgrad work permit could be worth more.”
Making the system easier to navigate is crucial to Canada’s economy and its universities, said Paul Davidson, the president of Universities Canada. International students contribute in excess of $10-billion in GDP to the economy, more than wheat and more than softwood lumber, he said.
“It’s a global competition,” he said. “Being able to offer a commitment that students can stay here after they graduate is part of the pitch Canadian universities make to attract top talent.”
When the system was first introduced, people with a long work history in Canada were the first to receive invitations. That’s because their employers were willing to file applications for a labour market impact assessment (LMIA). If the assessment is positive, and shows no Canadian can do the job, the applicant receives an automatic 600 points.