Canada’s immigration program still welcomes international students in the midst of the pandemic - Immigration Lawyer Vancouver, Canada | Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre

BlogCanada’s immigration program still welcomes international students in the midst of the pandemic

26 May 2021

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The COVID-19 pandemic has created many unique immigration challenges over the past 14 months. From processing delays to travel restrictions, immigration norms have been completely upended. One thing that has remained constant throughout the pandemic, however, is that interest in immigrating to Canada remains strong. With so much uncertainty around the future of Canada’s immigration programs, many clients are turning to reliable immigration pathways like Canada’s international student program to achieve their immigration goals.

The Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has never shied away from highlighting the importance of international students to meeting our nation’s immigration objectives. In a January 8, 2021 announcement, IRCC stated that international students inject more than $21 billion every year into the Canadian economy and made it clear they view international students as ideal candidates for permanent residence because they often have strong language skills, have been educated in Canada, and will be able to contribute our labour market for years to come.

Consistent with these views, IRCC has established policies ensuring that international students who have graduated will have a competitive edge if they wish to settle permanently in Canada. Compared to other foreign nationals interested in obtaining permanent residency, international students are eligible for a post-graduation work permit that authorizes them to work for up to three years after graduation, which enhances their eligibility for permanent residence because the open work permit allows them to earn valuable Canadian work experience. Moreover, international students earn bonus points under Canada’s Express Entry system for having completed their studies in Canada, and they also have access to Canada’s Provincial Nominee Programs, which have immigration streams dedicated to international graduates that typically have lower eligibility requirements.

Most recently, we saw the introduction of the Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident (TR to PR) Pathway for 40,000 recent international graduates who successfully completed a program of study within Canada and were still living and working here in Canada, regardless of the kind of work they were performing. This program was so successful that it was completely filled within just over 24 hours and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Honourable Marco Mendicino, has already announced he is open to expanding it further.

While there has always been a high level of interest in participating in Canada’s international student program, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has created a new cohort of possible applicants. As an immigration lawyer, I have consulted with many clients who are here in Canada but have expiring work permits or status as visitors. Some may have previously held work permits but had to switch to visitor status in order to remain in Canada during the pandemic. These would include working holiday permit holders who cannot obtain extensions or participate in the International Experience Class a second time because of the pandemic, or even work permit holders who might have lost their employment due to COVID-19 related shutdowns and have had no luck job hunting since. These individuals are all potentially ideal candidates to enrol in post-secondary education if they are seeking to further their education, remain in Canada where they can continue to lay roots and establish their personal and professional networks, and work towards transitioning to permanent residency after graduation.

Current work permit holders will be interested to know that they can apply for a study permit from inside Canada and that they can legally remain in Canada even after their current work permit expires, so long as the study permit application was made before the expiry date.

In the case of visitors, it is not commonly known that they can apply overseas to the visa offices in their home country for a study permit and wait inside Canada as visitors pending the decision. Once the overseas application is approved, they will have to exit Canada but will be able to return to Canada and be issued a study permit on arrival to commence their studies because international students have been exempted from COVID-19 travel restrictions prohibiting non-essential travel to Canada.

There can be no doubt that completing a post-secondary education in Canada has traditionally been a reliable pathway to obtaining Canadian permanent residence; there are many benefits associated with completing a world-class education in Canada within an immigration system that favours international graduates. With the protracted recovery from the global pandemic and with the upcoming Fall and Winter post-secondary school semesters set to start in September and January, respectively, now may be a good time to consider Canada’s international student program as part of your immigration strategy. Ideal candidates include those who have previously considered furthering their education and who are currently in Canada without any clear pathway towards achieving their long-term immigration goals.

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