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On October 7, 2022 the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Honourable Sean Fraser, announced that international students will soon be able to work off-campus for an unlimited number of hours. Previously, international students were capped at working only up to 20 hours per week during the academic year. The Minister’s new policy will take effect from November 15, 2022 until December 31, 2023 and it is expected to apply to about 500,000 international students in Canada. While this policy is intended to benefit the Canadian economy during this period of economic recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the policy is unlikely to benefit international students for two main reasons that I discuss below.

Canada’s international student program has long been a cornerstone of our immigration strategy to address Canada’s long-term labour shortages. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it much more difficult for recent graduates to make the transition from being temporary residents to becoming Canadian permanent residents, and many of them feel that they are being left behind in a rapidly changing immigration environment.

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.

On April 14, 2021, Minister Mendicino introduced the Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident Pathway (“TR to PR”) class providing a marvelous opportunity for health care workers, designated essential workers and international students currently within Canada to apply for permanent residence. The threshold for success is much lower than the requirements under Express Entry and a total of 90,000 applicants were tagged for this new program with maximum targets of 20,000 for health care workers, 30,000 for essential workers and 40,000 for international students.

The Canadian Government is committed to supporting international students through the challenges of the Coronavirus (“Covid-19”) pandemic. On January 8, 2021, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”), the Honourable Marco Mendicino, announced a temporary policy to help former international students remain in Canada to live, work, and continue to integrate into Canadian society.

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