Ottawa revises how it assesses permanent residence applications from international students

November 7, 2016

By Simona Chiose, Globe and Mail |

The federal government has revised how it assesses applications for permanent residence from former international students and expects to release the changes later this month, bolstered by recommendations from its panel on economic growth that argued this group is key to Canada’s immigration strategy.

The changes follow many complaints from international students that Express Entry, the new immigration system introduced on Jan. 1, 2015, has diminished their chances of staying in Canada after graduation. Under the new point-based system, applications from workers who can show that employers need their skills and that no Canadian residents can meet that need have been processed in record time. Thousands of international students, however, have seen their files languish.

“The problem is that people have come here hoping that their time in Canada, on a Canadian campus, will be properly evaluated and valued in the citizenship process,” said Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada. “And over the last couple of years that did not transpire …”

Universities Canada has lobbied the government for reforms to Express Entry that place less emphasis on work experience and more on Canadian credentials. Universities Canada argues that international students are the ideal immigrants, socially integrated and with work experience here, as well as with valuable connections to the world.

“An image that we have been using in Ottawa is to talk about universities as the Pier 21 of the 21st century,” Mr. Davidson said. Pier 21 was the Halifax pier where about one million immigrants landed between 1928 and 1971 – it is now a national museum of immigration.

“Universities can send a signal to the world that we want you to come and every step of the way we make it seamless,” Mr. Davidson said.

The federal government is currently debating the role immigration will play in economic growth over the next decade and beyond. A federal advisory panel headed by Dominic Barton, global managing director with McKinsey & Co., recommended that the number of immigrants Canada takes in increase by 50 per cent within five years. International students and highly skilled workers are most likely to succeed economically, the panel said, and their recruitment should be prioritized.

While the government rejected that ambitious growth target when it set immigration levels on Nov. 1, John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), said the problems faced by international students must be resolved.

Multiple people familiar with IRCC’s plans say that one of the principal changes is likely to be awarding more points for degrees earned in Canada. Other changes could include relaxed requirements for labour market impact assessment (LMIA) applications for employers wanting to hire international students, a recommendation made in the Barton report. (Any employer wanting to hire either a temporary foreign worker or a worker who wants to settle in Canada must apply for an LMIA, which assesses whether Canadians are available to do the job.)

The review of how Express Entry affects international students included “job offers, the LMIA requirement and how Express Entry can be used to support former international students and candidates with siblings in Canada,” a department spokesperson said.

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