According to the concerns of the Canadian universities, Canada’s struggle to process student visas for international students in time for fall classes is jeopardizing a critical pathway for potential new immigrants, and a recent report by a private organization highlights the importance of international students to Canada’s immigration measures and the needs of the labor market, stating that Canada’s classroom to citizenship process is in dire need of an urgent reset.
In the past few years, Canada has become a popular destination for international post-secondary students, with more than 560,000 study permit applications in 2021. Many people have been drawn to Canada by policies that encourage students to look for jobs and become permanent residents after their studies. Canada has also profited from border closures due to the pandemic in its competitor countries, as well as political affairs seen as not favorable to immigration.
According to Paul Davidson, the president of Universities Canada, Canada’s competitor countries are adjusting their policies in a bid to make their universities and postgraduate work programs more appealing to top talent.
Mr. Davidson said in a report that the restrictions due to the pandemic that shut down the flow of foreign students to Australia had been raised. The Trump-era policies that restricted immigration to the United States have been substituted with measures that focus on keeping international talent and the U.K. is rising from its Brexit issues with postgraduate work policies that are similar to Canada’s. Canada must not leave students waiting for their study permit delays.
He further stated that the universities had done an excellent job of marketing themselves and having students register online. That’s the 90 per cent that they are required to do, and then if they cannot get the students on campus, it’s an issue, not only for universities. It’s the third or fourth fall where Canada has not been able to meet the standard on visa processing.
Sean Fraser, the Immigration Minister has stated that his department has prioritized the processing of international study permits but acknowledged that some students would have to wait a long time.
Per the Canadian government, thousands of students are in the same boat.
According to the IRCC, part of the problem is that demand is very high. The department said it completed 360,000 applications this year by 31 July, which is up from 306,000 in the same period a year ago and anticipated completing 104,000 in August.
Foreign students, whose numbers have increased in the past decade, have been a source of financial advantage to the Canadian postsecondary system, providing $ 6 billion per year in tuition alone at a time when funding from provincial governments has been static.
Per Statistics Canada, over the past decade, the share of university income that comes from tuition rose from 21.5 per cent to 28.8 percent, while the share from provincial grants has diminished from 41.5 percent to 32.5 per cent. Most of that gain in tuition revenue has come from foreign students. On average, fees for international undergraduates were a little more than $33,000 last year, compared to about $6,700 for domestic students.
For example, per the 2022 budget documents of the University of British Columbia, international fees brought in more than $ 545 million in 2020-21, compared to $ 375 million from domestic students. In Ontario’s college system, foreign students comprise approximately 30 percent of the students and provide 68 percent of tuition revenue, per a 2021 report from Ontario’s Auditor-General.
However, as the global war for attracting talent increases, Canada needs to modify its policies to sustain its top position, the report states. The country’s current shortage of healthcare staff is an alarm that Canada should be more calculated in increasing its pool of international students. Shortages in the fields of STEM, trades, and skills required for the new green economy are already hovering.
More than 157,000 former international students shifted to permanent residency in 2021, which is a sign of the increased importance of international education to Canada’s immigration planning, and immigrants with Canadian work and study backgrounds are able to fare nicely economically, with an average wage of more than $44,000 per year among those admitted in 2018, compared to around $25,000 for those without a Canadian background.
According to the report, international students have traits that make them attractive to employers. They are more likely to have studied engineering and 2½ times as likely to have studied math or science compared to domestic students. But an increasing number of international students are choosing to get college diplomas.
The report has included seven suggestions, including that Canada should increase the number of international students who can shift to permanent residency, prioritizing those trained in STEM, health care, and fields connected to the green energy transition.
It also suggests providing more work-study opportunities available to international students to help them transition into the Canadian job market.
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