Canadian International Students take note - No more Flagpoling! - Immigration Lawyer Vancouver, Canada | Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre

BlogInternational StudentsStudying in CanadaCanadian International Students take note – No more Flagpoling!

25 June 2024

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It has been a rough year for international students in Canada.  Firstly, in December 2023 the Minister of Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), The Honorable Marc Miller, increased the cost of living requirement for international students from $10,000 to $20,635.  Soon after he imposed a restriction (and reduction) of the number of international students to Canada each year.  Then he reduced the number of hours that international students can work while studying full time to 24 hours per week down from full time.   He revoked the open spousal work permit for international student spouses at the college or undergraduate level.  And this past week on June 21, 2024 he eliminated the option of obtaining a post-graduation work permit (PGWP) at the port of entry, a process commonly referred to as “flagpoling”.  Now an international student applying for an initial PGWP, or an extension will be limited to applying for their permit from within Canada and waiting for it to be processed.

It is interesting to note the language used to introduce this new policy stating that “Canada is improving fairness for applicants by ending post-graduation work permit ‘flagpoling’.’  For the full announcement please see the link:   It is hard to understand how fairness is being “improved” or what is fair at all in this policy announcement as it only applies to international students seeking a PGWP.  All other types of work permits can still be applied for at the border.  The article indicates that PGWPs account for one fifth of all flagpole applications which is not that significant in the overall volume of applications being made at the port of entry (POE).

In addition to eliminating the option of flagpoling for international students, recent announcements were made stipulating that the hours for applying for work permits at the major ports of entry would be limited to Mondays to Thursdays from 10am to 4pm. The premise behind these changes is the facilitation of international trade and the reduction of traffic flow at our POEs.  People access the port of entry to have a measure of control over their lives!

The Minister’s announcement also made reference to other measures to address or reduce flagpoling including speeding up processing times.   That’s a rather bold statement given that the IRCC posted processing times for a work permit application from within Canada as of June 19, 2024 (two days before the Minister’s announcement) was 99 days – almost three and a half months!  From this Immigration lawyer’s perspective, a 3-month processing time is nothing to be proud of.  Delayed processing of applications can have significant ramifications for applicants:  employers are distrustful of anything other than a valid permit authorizing work, medical coverage is often cancelled or can’t be renewed, Social Insurance Numbers can be suspended, and driver’s licences denied or cancelled.   There are even cases of children (including Canadian born children) being denied access to public school when parents don’t possess valid work permits!

The poor Canadian international student has truly been hung out to dry this past year being held responsible for many of the current social and economic ills of the day – overcrowding of post secondary institutions, pillaging food banks, the housing shortage crisis and now, impeding international trade!  Our Ministers would be well advised to consider one of the basic laws of physics – “For each action there is an equal and opposite reaction”.  International students have clearly been the target of some dramatic policy changes in the past year such that they may vote with their feet and not choose Canada as their country of choice to obtain an international education.  Such action also has an impact on Canada’s economy.

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