(The Free Press Journal publishes articles by study abroad consultants, Consulates, foreign universities, international students, and much more every Saturday to give its readers a glimpse of the world of overseas education.)
Canada, which issued a record number of study permits to Indian students last year, has remained one of the world’s leading study-abroad destinations for students from all over the world. But those assuming that study permits are a guaranteed gateway to permanent residence may be in for a shocking reality.
According to data published by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, as of October 2022, out of 4,40,000 study permits issued worldwide, nearly 164,000 accounted for Indian students. Canada remains one of the world’s leading study-abroad destinations for students across the world. Currently, there are 3,88,782 international students enrolled in Canadian colleges and universities. The number of overseas students has risen significantly from 2,28,924 to 3,88,782 (69.2%).
The majority of students choose Canada as they look at it as a safe, stable and immigrant-friendly country with an amazing educational system. Out of all, almost 60% of international students have intentions to settle permanently in Canada after graduation.
The trouble is that international students in Canada struggle a lot when applying for permanent residency status. Most students face an uphill battle during their permanent residency process as Canada does not make it easier for students to apply for PR visas, and the pandemic has only exacerbated backlogs in the immigration process.
The Conference Board of Canada recently conducted a study titled, ‘Student to Immigrant? Multi-steps Pathways to Permanent Residence’, wherein it has suggested that several international students struggle with multi-step, indirect pathways to Canadian permanent residence (PR). This shortcoming makes it difficult for both potential and current students to assess their likelihood of securing PR.
The study recommends that Canada needs purpose-built immigration programmes for international students to ensure faster and more predictable immigration processes.
Ajay Sharma |
What's the actual problem?
Merely studying in Canada does not automatically make you eligible for permanent residency. The study cited that of international students who gained PR, 88% had multiple temporary visas before approving their permanent residence status. The biggest loophole in the multi-permit immigration pathways is that it compels students to spend years in Canada without permanent residence, which makes them more vulnerable in front of Canadian employers.
The number of international students enrolled in certificate programmes in Canadian colleges is growing rapidly, but Canada offers only a few purpose-built immigration opportunities at this level of education to these students.
Additionally, Canada needs to build a solid strategy to balance and coordinate between granting study permits and issuing permanent residency to international students. The strategy is essential to mitigate the negative impacts of increasing international student enrolments and the lack of planned levels of permanent immigration.
Connections in Canada also play a pivotal role in determining an international student’s ability to qualify for PR. By December 2020, 39.1% of international students got their PR through sponsorship routes or as dependents. Many students who obtained permanent residency through economic immigration programs had to demonstrate connections in Canada, such as education in a specific province or a specific employer.
Among other notable pathways that international students could take a chance on while applying for PR are Canada’s Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). They are indeed the most popular immigration streams, as they accounted for 34% of international students who switched to PR status, making it the most sought-after way to immigrate to Canada. But, irrespective of how fancy it may seem, international students struggle with PNPs because provinces usually nominate people with in-demand skills or provincial connections. They also sometimes allocate a limited number of nominations to students.
Mounting troubles for international students
The study further highlights that prolonged waiting times and temporary visa status put many international students in an exploitative position and stress as they cannot assess their likelihood of receiving PR. Out of 16,595 applicants, 9% of international students who were issued PR—became permanent residents after studying at one level in Canada without any work permit. 3% became permanent residents after multiple levels of study and no subsequent work permit. The rest, 88%, got their PR visas following the combination of studies and post-graduation work permits.
Another thing that concerns PR visa aspirants is the intensity of pressure international students have to face to remain in Canada. They have to find a suitable job opportunity, make connections in Canada, and do everything to demonstrate their skills and abilities to settle in Canada.
To sum up
The journey from a student to an immigrant may take several years, and this period between study and PR is key to determining one’s success in Canada. The level of employment opportunities that international students may take advantage of during this waiting period decides their suitability for PR. Unfortunately, most international students in Canada feel uncertain and navigate this period with no substantial support. By the time they prove their eligibility for funded settlement services, international students have already spent a lot of time and faced significant barriers deterring their chances of settling in Canada. The government must take steps to help these students by providing investment support and settlement services so that they don’t waste precious years waiting for a decision.
The author is President and Founder of Abhinav Immigration Services.
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