2021 has undoubtedly been a year full of distress and challenges for international students across the globe. For most of last year, more than half of the world’s population was confined to their homes. Loss of mobility for anything less than essential services meant a great deal of circumstantial and financial stress for everyone. Now that the pandemic situation is improving in some parts of the world, we move towards a hopeful future.
Students working or studying overseas had to face many hardships regarding their finances, loss of valuable time, and visa expiry issues. Many were laid off from their jobs, which meant international students on work permits could not gain the necessary experience to apply for permanent residency. Keeping all this in mind, the Canadian government has decided to extend all students’ visas for the upcoming year. The current policy states that candidates whose visa’s are about to expire from January 2021 up until the next four months are eligible for an extension.
The international student community in Canada
2020 was a year full of uncertainty and chaos. Canada is globally ranked 3rd in terms of the rush of international students. The country hosts over 600,000 international students. This number has been seeing double-digit growth for the past couple of years. In 2019 the number grew by almost 13 percent. Canada’s student population has grown over six times in the past two decades. Overall the growth in the educated middle class, especially in Asian countries, has led to international students’ flocking to developed countries. The tally of overseas students globally has reached the 5 million mark in recent times.
Canada has been experiencing a dip in its birthrate. This has led to a decrease in the number of native college-going students. The gap is filled by international students that come for higher studies in Canada. These students pay hefty tuition fees; contribute by working during their stay, which helps Canada’s economy. For a less populous large country like Canada, the international student community is a huge asset. Nearly fifty per cent of international students reside in Ontario. Other provinces with a high concentration of outstation students include British Columbia and Quebec.
Road to students work permit
According to many student surveys, Canada ranks among the top 3 countries to pursue higher education. There are several institutions like the University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, McGill University, McMaster University. Also, Canada provides ample opportunity for international students to get permanent residency as well. After one receives their degree, they can apply for a post-graduation work permit in Canada within 180 days. To file for the permit, one needs a letter from their institution and all completed transcripts. You can do all of this online without any need for physical verification. The processing time is around three months. The application can also be made from outside Canada. It is smart to time the application so that your study visa does not expire before the work visa arrives.
To apply for a PGWP in Canada, you must complete at least eight months of study in the country. A standard two-year post-graduation diploma or Masters Degree will get you a work permit for three years after the course ends. The duration of work for a degree that takes less than two years is equal to or less than the time spend studying. The PGWP visa is designed in a manner so that students can complete their requirements for permanent residency as soon as possible. Such international students, later on, become a productive part of the Canadian economy.
Changes announced regarding PDWP in Canada
As Canada still struggles to recover from Covid, 19 PGWD holders face the expiry of their permit with a whole year loss in work. Due to lockdown and economic downturn, most were laid off. The majority of 2020, they spent unemployed and locked away in their homes. The immigration minister of Canada has finally addressed their grievances and taken necessary actions. On 8th January, it was announced that PGWP holders could apply for a maximum 18-month extension with their expiry in upcoming months. This news came as a ray of hope for many who were on the brink of being deported. It is a second chance for them to try and complete permanent residency requirements.
There are other changes to the PGWP scheme stated in the new policy. Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino on 8th January announced that students could continue their online education from their respective home countries without fear of loss of work permit. If they can do just 50percent of their classes physically in Canada, they will be eligible for the Post-graduation work permit. Students enrolled in shorter courses for a year, or less will be eligible even if their whole course is completed remotely from abroad. These changes have taken little pressure off the student community that suffers immensely due to the pandemic.
What lies ahead for students?
It seems like it’s good news for international students studying and working in Canada. The new policy caters well to their needs during such unprecedented times. The extension will give students more time to fulfill their permanent residency requirements in a sluggish economy where hiring is limited. Internships or work done during course time is not considered for residency in Canada. As hiring across industries, freeze students find it increasingly difficult to find lucrative opportunities till now.
The petition signed by thousands of students to stop deportation based on Post Graduate work permit’s expiry has been successful. The international student body contributes 21 billion to the economy and helps Canadian society prosper. In these challenging times, the government has promised to stand by the students. Hopefully, as vaccination picks up, the economy will also revive soon. It is only when hiring begins again that the students will be benefitted. Considering Canada is still practising strict lock down the future of international students look bleak.