Give poor int’l students Canadian open work permits and sponsorships, IRCC urged

Canadian open work permit
A committee has proposed the IRCC to issue more open work permits and sponsorship opportunities to alleviate international students from financial hardships. Source: Daniel Slim/AFP

A Canadian government standing committee has urged the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to provide international students from poor countries with Canadian open work permits and sponsorship opportunities.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration published its report, “Differential Treatment in Recruitment and Acceptance Rates of Foreign Students in Quebec and the Rest of Canada” in May. It contains 35 recommendations for IRCC.

Helping international students in Canada get work experience

International students enrolled full-time can obtain Canadian work experience through working on campus and off-campus for a limited number of hours. They can also work after graduation through the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Programme.

Students must apply for a work permit for other work off-campus during their studies (i.e. in addition to the restricted hours).

“With respect to other means of acquiring Canadian work experience, Pirita Mattola told the committee that students ‘should be able to contribute to the workforce a little more during their studies,'” read the report. 

This idea includes allowing international students to work more than the allowed 20 hours off-campus during their study sessions and facilitating co-op and work‑integrated learning.

Shamira Madhany told the committee that for students’ work experience to count towards the Express Entry stream — the main pathway to permanent residence — they need to have experience matching their skills from their Canadian education. 

More flexibility in the number of hours they can work will allow them to have access to these jobs, she said.

Following this, recommendations for IRCC include: 

  • That IRCC issue a work permit automatically and at no extra cost at the same time as study permits for students enrolled in a co‑op programme
  • Not require work permits for work-integrated learning (such as internships), and that in the context of these studies, no work permit is necessary
  • That IRCC develop a special programme that would allow international students without financial means to come to Canada and work full-time on an open work permit while studying part-time, and that IRCC review the requirements to ensure that these students are not disqualified from the PGWP Programme
canadian open work permit

The committee has urged IRCC to develop a special programme that would allow international students without financial means to come to Canada and work full-time on an open work permit while studying part-time. Source: Cole Burston/AFP

Canadian open work permit: What to know

The Canadian open work permit gives candidates the freedom and flexibility to move between jobs, employers and locations within the Great White North. 

Currently, eligible candidates for the Canadian open work permit include, but are not limited to:  

  • International students who have graduated from a designated learning institution (DLI) and are eligible for the PGWP Programme
  • Students who are no longer able to meet the costs of their studies (destitute students)

The committee also recommended that IRCC partially fund tailored settlement services for international students seeking their Canadian permanent residency, as well as parallel sponsorship measures for those who want to obtain permanent residency.

“Currently, settlements services funded by IRCC are only available to permanent residents. Witnesses suggested that international students on the pathway to permanent residence should have the same access to settlement services,” read the report. 

Shamira Madhany told the committee that IRCC should be funding settlement agencies and post-secondary institutions to provide settlement services to international students.

International students face many hurdles 

The committee members also recognise that international students face many hurdles to come, live and study in Canada. For instance, depending on where students live, they may be able to get their study permit faster through the Student Direct Stream (SDS).

Among the requirements for the SDS include having a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) of 10,000 Canadian dollars.

Colleges and Institutes Canada President and CEO Denise Amyot said prospective students might not have CA$10,000 on hand right away, but their extended family will chip in to fund the student who is going to study in Canada. 

Yan Cimon, Deputy Vice Rector of External and International Affairs and Health, Director of International Affairs and La Francophonie, at Université Laval, suggested that scholarships should be considered proof that a student has the financial resources needed to come to study in Canada.

“It’s not only scholarships; we must also make sure that research assistantships and laboratory work can also be considered proof that a student has sufficient financial resources,” he said.

More transparency for study permit processing times

The committee also called for more transparency for students’ study permit processing times.

Its recommendation to IRCC includes that they provide data on study permit processing times and reasons for refusal, broken down by applicants’ country of origin and other available demographic variables, in the department’s Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration.

According to the report, preliminary internal IRCC data indicates long delays for some students in receiving study permits that may force students to abandon or defer their studies. 

The report highlights the high visa refusal rates among African applicants — particularly francophone populations. Universities Canada indicated that undergraduate refusal rates for students from Morocco and Senegal were 45% and 80% in 2019. 

In speaking about the rates of students applying to CEGEPs, Francis Brown Mastropaolo said between 2015 and 2020, “the highest refusal rates observable were for applications from 13 francophone African countries. For several of these countries, refusal rates reached 80%. The regional average remained above 65%.”

Previously, the high refusal rates among Africans have led to allegations of systemic racism practised by the Canadian immigration system.