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Upcoming changes for international students in Canada

By Kathleen Leighton

Canada is facing considerable labour shortages resulting from a myriad of factors including its aging population and declining birth rates. As a result, our immigration strategy going forward must help drive the growth of our labour force and economy, and the value of international students cannot be overlooked. In fact, international students contribute hugely – over $20 billion annually – to the economy.[1]

In recognition of this, the Government of Canada has announced new measures that will be attractive to both international students and Canadian employers seeking to address their labour gaps.

Expanded off-campus work eligibility for study permit holders in Canada

Currently, international students are eligible to work off-campus during the course of their studies in Canada if they meet specific eligibility criteria. For example, they must be attending one of Canada’s designated learning institutions on a full-time basis in a program that is at least six months in length and that will lead to a degree, diploma, or certificate. These students do not require a separate work permit, but rather the eligibility to work off-campus will be noted in the conditions section of their study permit. This work eligibility allows international students to support themselves while they complete their studies, gain valuable Canadian work experience, and make connections with employers that may lead to full-time positions after graduation. That said, the eligibility to work on a study permit is limited to 20 hours per week during regular academic sessions (full-time work is only allowed during scheduled academic breaks).

Per the October 7, 2022 announcement from the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, a new temporary measure will apply between November 15, 2022 and December 31, 2023 such that international students in Canada who hold a study permit with off-campus work authorization and who meet certain criteria will not be restricted by the 20-hour-per-week limit.

Not only will this allow international students to gain more work experience while attending school, but it also provides additional labour for Canada’s employers, given there are over half-a-million international students presently in Canada.[2] Note, that this announcement does not appear to change the fact that Canadian work experience gained as a full-time student cannot be counted towards an Express Entry score.

That said, international students must be cautious that they maintain full-time student status, even when taking on additional work hours.

Automated processing of study permit extension applications

Additionally, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) is also launching a new pilot project to explore the benefits of automating study permit extension applications. Students who are already in Canada on a valid study permit may need to apply online from within Canada to extend their student status. Given these individuals have already applied and been approved for temporary resident status as students, the extension applications typically have very high approval rates. Therefore, IRCC is leveraging automation technology to expedite processing of these straight-forward applications to ultimately reduce backlogs and improve processing times. Complex applications will still be reviewed manually, and refusals will always come from an officer despite this pilot. If the pilot is successful, there is potential for future expansion.

This update is intended for general information only. If you have further questions about these programs or are an employer seeking to support your workers, please contact a member of our Immigration Group.

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