International-Students-and-Special-Measures-2022-in-Review | MyConsultant

International Students and Special Measures 2022 in Review

International Students and Special Measures 2022 in Review

To mitigate challenges faced by the Canadian economy & local businesses, Canada has implemented a series of initiatives that benefit international students and also fill labour market & economic needs

During a time of economic recovery and Canadian businesses facing unprecedented challenges in finding and retaining workers, over the last several months, Canada has implemented a series of initiatives that benefit international students and graduates in an attempt to mitigate these challenges. These new measures have given international students a greater opportunity to gain valuable Canadian work experience, and, at the same time, support Canada’s post-pandemic growth.

Already, in 2022, IRCC has seen an increase in study permit applications by 23% for the period from January 1, 2022, to the end of August 2022, with more than 452,000 study permit applications being processed. 2021 was already a record year for study permit applications and during the same period last year 367,000 applications were processed.

In the recently published Strategy to Expand Transitions to Permanent Residency, it recognizes that international students “are a key source of talent that help grow Canada’s labour force, boost productivity, and balance the impact from Canada’s aging population.”  International students are recognized as playing an important role in Canada’s economy and hence the reasons why the Government is aiming to create more favorable measures to facilitate them towards permanent residency.

The special measures implemented over the last year and more recently, the last several months, support these goals as the government works towards developing and employing clear paths of permanent residency for international students who choose to study in Canada and make this country their new home, permanently.

Lifting Work Hour Restrictions for International Students

On October 7, 2022, IRCC announced the temporary lifting of the 20-hour-per-week cap on the number of hours that eligible post-secondary students are allowed to work off-campus during the academic terms. As per IRPR 186(v), certain international students are allowed to work part time (up to 20 hours a week) during regular academic sessions and full time during regularly scheduled breaks between academic sessions. However, IRPR 186(f) allows eligible students to work on-campus with unlimited hours.

Starting on November 15, 2022 until December 31, 2023, international students studying inside of Canada who have off-campus work authorization on their study permit will no longer be restricted by the 20-hour-per-week rule. However, although the hours per week restriction will be temporarily lifted, students are expected to balance their study and work commitments.  If a study permit holder reduces their course load to part-time status or stops studying all together, they will no longer be eligible to work at all.

Automated Study Permit Extensions

In October 2022, IRCC also launched a pilot project to automate the processing of study permit extensions. Study permit extensions have a consistently high approval rate, as all applicants have already gone through the rigorous study permit application process of review and initial approval. In 2021, study permit extension applications had an approval rate of 97%. In 2022, of the more than 135,000 applications that were processed between January to August, the approval rate was 96%. With the objective to improve the client experience, the pilot will involve a small number of applicants whose applications will be processed much faster. Certain criteria must be met to be considered under this pilot, and IRCC assures that applications which fall outside of the criteria will be reviewed manually.  The automated process will not refuse applications and any decision to refuse an application will be made by an officer, not the automated system.

Completing 100% of studies online from outside of Canada and still being eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program

At the height of the pandemic, IRCC introduced measures to mitigate the impact of travel and health restrictions that negatively affected the international education industry and international students’ ability to actively pursue their studies. Furthermore, these measures also allowed international students to pursue their studies online from abroad, completing up to 100% of their program outside of Canada, while remaining eligible for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP). Prior to the pandemic, students were required to complete no more than 50% of their program online, and if the distance-learning courses were completed outside of Canada, that time spent studying outside of Canada was reduced from the overall length of the PGWP.

The temporary policy change has allowed for international students studying online from abroad or who submitted a study permit application before August 31, 2022, the ability to be able to continue to complete up to 100% of their program online and still be eligible for a PGWP.

Transition Period for Distance Learning Measures

Announced on August 25, 2022, distance learning measures were extended for another year to August 31, 2023, with certain caveats. Starting September 1, 2023, time spent studying abroad will be deducted from the overall length of the post-graduation work permit, regardless of when a student began their studies. For students starting programs from September 1, 2022 to August 31, 2023, to remain eligible for the PGWP, no more than 50% of the credits earned can be completed outside of Canada.

18 Month Extensions for Expired or Expiring Post-Graduation Work Permits

International student graduates with an expired PGWP or if their PGWP expires between September 20, 2021 and December 31, 2022, can apply for another 18-month open work permit. Moreover, those who are eligible currently in Canada are allowed to work in the interim while their new work permit is being processed. This interim work period will be in effect until May 31, 2023.

Exemptions to Express Entry Requirements for International Students

Under Express Entry, to qualify for Canadian educational credential points, students must normally complete the majority of their studies full-time in Canada and in-person. However, in July 2022, IRCC introduced exemptions so that international students who studied online at a Canadian educational institution during the pandemic, and completed their credential between March 2020 and August 2022, were able to receive Canadian educational credential points in Express Entry.

Minister’s Mandate for a Clear Pathway to PR for International Students

A key commitment in the Minister’s Mandate Letter is the creation of a clearer pathway to permanent residence for international students. The Strategy states that the Department “is exploring options for additional pathways to permanent residence for international student graduates, particularly if their education, training, or work experience is relevant in helping address Canada’s emerging economic priorities. The Government intends to work with provinces, territories, and stakeholders on how to design the program based on selection, recruitment, and retention.”

As indicated in the Strategy to Expand Transitions to Permanent Residency, IRCC specifies that they will continue to assess the impact of these measures and temporary policies with the goal of incorporating lessons learned into a policy review of the International Student Program.  Hopefully, some of these measures will stick, especially the 18-month extension for PGWP holders, as many graduates who want to immigrate permanently to Canada need that extra work experience to be eligible for permanent residence. Even better, would be the creation of a special program or direct pathway for permanent residence for international graduates. The Canadian government has pivoted during the pandemic, and this was demonstrated through all the special measures and temporary policies that were implemented. There were other temporary policies put into effect throughout the pandemic, other than the ones mentioned above, a testament to IRCCs ability to pivot during unprecedented times. We’re hopeful to see the government’s actions soon alleviating student concerns, benefitting international graduates and supporting Canada’s post-pandemic recovery.

Sources:

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2022/10/international-students-to-help-address-canadas-labour-shortage.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/notices/distance-learning-measures.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/notices/measures-post-graduation-work-permits-temporary-resident-permanent-resident-pathways.html

About the author

Leah Iszakovits[CICC ID: R526922]
Our firm provides immigration legal services helping individuals, families & businesses establish themselves in Canada. We also deliver corporate services providing subject matter expertise to senior leadership & management consulting services.
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