By Stephen Smith And Kareem El-Assal
MONTREAL, Canada (CIC NEWS) – The number of foreign nationals in Canada on a post-graduation work permit has skyrocketed in recent years, rising from nearly 5,400 in 2005 to more than 143,000 last year.
A new Statistics Canada study attributed the growth to the rising number of international students coming to Canada as well as enhancements to the popular Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP).
The PGWPP provides an open work permit that allows international graduates of eligible Canadian post-secondary institutions to stay and work in Canada for a period of up to three years after their studies are completed. The length of time that a permit is valid depends on the length of the completed academic program.
As an open work permit, the post-graduation work permit allows international graduates to work in any occupation anywhere in Canada, and change employers at any time. In order to be eligible, the candidate must have completed a study program of at least eight months long and meet other specified criteria.
Since the PGWPP’s introduction in the early 2000s, the number of international students studying in Canada has risen sharply, tripling over the last decade to just over 572,000 in 2018. The program itself has experienced even more dramatic growth. Statistics Canada’s analysis shows the number of permits issued in 2016 had grown over 15 times from 2005, from 7,400 to 117,700 based on the department’s calculations.
That growth has continued, reaching more than 143,000 post-graduation work permits in 2018. The Statistics Canada study says enhancements to the PGWPP have contributed to the significant rise in permits. One improvement was the removal in 2008 of the requirements that applicants have a job with an employer in a field related to their studies.
Another enhancement was the expanded validity of the permit from one year to a maximum of three, thus allowing graduates to stay in Canada and transition to permanent resident status.
Additional tweaks occurred earlier this year when Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) doubled the amount of time that students have to apply once they obtain their notice of graduation, from 90 days to 180 days.
IRCC also removed the requirement that applicants have a valid study permit at the time they submit their PGWPP application.
A win-win situation
In a speech last year, Canada’s former immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, described international students as “the ideal future Canadians” and said they are an essential component of Canada’s immigration strategy.
“They have Canadian post-secondary education and, in many cases, Canadian work experience,” he said. “They also speak one, if not both, of our official languages. All of which is a recipe for a newcomer’s success in Canada.”
The PGWPP is part of a comprehensive study-work-immigrate package designed to attract and retain international students that few other countries offer.
In addition to its globally competitive tuition and cost of living expenses, Canada allows international students to work during their studies through the Off-Campus Work Permit and after their studies through the PGWPP. Numerous defined pathways to permanent residence are available to international graduates who wish to stay in Canada after completing their studies.
This package has benefitted Canada, which has reaped significant economic benefits from its surging international student intake. A federal government report indicates that international students contribute nearly $22 billion annually to Canada’s economy and support almost 170,000 jobs.
Moreover, numerous federal government and academic research papers show that former international students integrate quickly into the Canadian labour market upon becoming permanent residents due to their high language proficiency, Canadian education and work experience, as well as the social and professional networks developed over their time in Canada.
The express entry advantage
The Canadian work experience obtained through the PGWPP can also help improve the likelihood of obtaining Canadian permanent residence through the federal express entry system, which expedites applications for Canadian permanent residence for eligible skilled foreign workers.
Three years of Canadian work experience is worth 64 points under Express Entry’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), which is used to score the profiles of express entry candidates and determine their rank in the pool.
Targeted improvements to the express entry system’s CRS implemented in late 2016 are also giving international graduates an edge. Express Entry candidates with an eligible Canadian post-secondary education credential now receive an additional 15 or 30 points toward their CRS score, depending on their program of study.
Taken together, international graduates can receive up to 94 points toward their express entry score for their Canadian education and Canadian work experience.
In 2018, a quarter of express entry candidates who were invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence claimed additional points for education in Canada.
In addition, both the federal government and provinces have created additional avenues for international students to transition to permanent residents through the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program and the numerous Provincial Nominee Program streams for international students.
Canada will likely remain attractive to international students for the reasons outlined above plus its reputation as being an open and diverse society at a time of rising anti-immigrant sentiment in other countries.
Canada is also making greater efforts to ease conditions for international students to study in the country and become permanent residents. Since 2017, the Student Direct Stream (SDS) has existed to expedite study permit processing for top international student source countries and now covers international students from India, China, the Philippines, Pakistan, Vietnam, Morocco, and Senegal.
Canada’s annual admissions targets inevitably limit the number of international students who can obtain permanent residence. However, international students who wish to settle in Canada after their studies would be well-advised to inform themselves about how they can qualify for permanent residence and the various ways to improve their chances of continuing their new life in Canada.
This article written by CIC News, originally appeared on CIC NEWS on December 3, 2019