Canada is a popular destination for international students with 265,468 foreign students in Canada in 2012. New changes to the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act will come into effect that will substantially change the situation for future students who come to Canada to study. These changes will provide more flexibility for employment by students and facilitate a transition to the work force. At the same time, the regulations will limit the institutions that can accept international students and tie the student’s immigration status closely to their enrolment at a post-secondary institution.
Overall, the changes are supposed to improve the process for ‘genuine’ students. Applicants for a study permit must enrol in and continue to pursue studies in Canada in order to maintain status. A related provision of the new regulations will allow students to apply for a study permit while inside Canada if they meet eligibility conditions.
Students must now be pursuing studies at a ‘designated institution’. As education is a provincial mandate, the specific list of institutions will be defined by the provincial governments. This is a restriction from the current situation, where a more general study program at any Canadian educational institution is possible. One of the stated reasons for the changes is to reduce the potential for fraudulent international student programs. Based on CIC statistics, this is likely to affect a small minority of students, such as the 3% of permit holders who are classified as attending ‘other’ educational institutions.
International students will now be able to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week during the academic year. Currently, this is not an automatic provision as off-campus employment requires a specific Off-Campus Work Permit. Co-op programs that are part of an educational program are also included and do not require a separate permit.
A study permit will now automatically end 90 days following the completion of studies. This is a change from current situation where a study permit is assigned a particular expiry date at the time of issue.
Eligible international graduates who apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit can work full time between the time their studies are complete and a decision is made. Study programs can be academic, vocational or professional training of six months or more that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate at a designated institution.
These changes will come into effect June 1, 2014. See Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s notice for additional details.