Working in Canada: 5 things international students should know

Working in Canada
Searching for a job in Canada can be a discriminatory process. Source: Shutterstock

International students who graduated from a Canadian university have some of the best chances for living and working in their host country. Compared to countries like the US and UK, where government policies are making it increasingly difficult for international graduates to remain and work, Canada bucks the trend with friendly immigration policies for “locally educated, skilled labour” to remain and work towards permanent residency.

Those who graduate from a designated learning institution are eligible to apply for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP). A typical degree-holder can apply for a work permit (CA$255) that’s valid for three years. All documents can be submitted online or on paper, and results will be received within 69 and 101 days respectively.

As simple as this sounds, international students should be aware that there are concerns and obstacles that can hamper their chances or working in Canada and ultimately, their pathways to citizenship:

1. There may not be enough time to get a job and apply for a work permit

Working in Canada

The 90 days run from the date of course completion. Source: Shutterstock

According to the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, the average time it takes to find a job is between four and a half to five months. However, international students are given only 90 days, from when it was confirmed they had completed their programme for this job search.

This time frame has been criticised as too short for students to get a job or if they do, too short a time to make a decision. To be eligible for the work permit, students must have a valid study permit. Limiting the job search to 90 days means students must start searching while their study permit is still valid and face lower chances of being hired due to the narrower time frame they have to work with.

2. Visa status may be a problem in the job search

Research has found that local employers have been hesitant to offer jobs to international students, who typically lack permanent status to remain legally in Canada.

Temporary status was found to disadvantage international students as they are not able to access opportunities otherwise made available to permanent residents or citizens. In addition to this, Canadian employers tend to hold a preconceived notion that international students bring with them an administrative burden that would require them to file more paperwork and deal with the government.

3. Having Canadian work experience can boost hiring chances

Working in Canada

Local work experience can make or break international students’ job hunt. Source: Shutterstock

Research suggests that Canadian employers are worried about hiring international students for fear they will not be able to adapt to the local workplace language and culture. Canadian employers have been found to discriminate against international students because they lack experience working in Canada.

Such prejudice and discrimination is said to be the main obstacle obstructing international students’ job search in Canada.

4. Canadian universities typically do not do enough to prepare international students for employment

There is a lack of initiatives such as practicum and internships offered specifically to international students. This is worsened by another study which found that work placement experiences outside of Canada were “under-valued” by employers in the country. International students need such work placement opportunities, which would significantly even the playing field when they enter the Canadian job market as fresh graduates.

5. Advice about immigration can only be sought from third-party advisors

Working in Canada

The International Student Office is not the place to go to for immigration advice. Source: Shutterstock

Although international students would feel more comfortable approaching their university’s staff about immigration advice, Canadian government rules are as such that they can only consult third-party advisers on this subject, as part of their measures to prevent fraud.

While lack of familiarity may be one hurdle, it can also be costly for international students to seek advice from an “authorised representative”.

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