Immigration experts warn that foreign students, some of them misled by false promises from immigration consultants, are being misled into thinking that studying at Canadian postsecondary schools is a guaranteed route to remaining permanently in the country, senators and immigration experts warn.
A report by Senators Ratna Omidvar, Hassan Yussuff and Yuen Pau Woo about the federal international student program warns that there are not enough permanent residence spots to cater to the increasing number of these students coming to Canada, and calls on Ottawa to make clear that the process of staying permanently is highly competitive.
While a Canadian college or university can help foreign students gain permanent residency, it is not certain to be an ideal destination for a foreign student. The immigration program named Express Entry in Canada assigns scores to those who would-be permanent residents based on their work experience and other factors, and only the highest ranked applicants are invited to apply.
The Senate report also calls for the federal government to stop education consultants - who are paid by Canadian colleges to recruit students abroad - from overselling the ease of getting Canadian work permits after graduation. International students can be denied this privilege because their colleges are not recognized as 'designated learning institutions', which means that the schools are not on a government list of approved institutions.
The senators' report said it is often argued that the federal government itself is also 'perpetuating an inflated sense of hope' among people who come to study in Canada.
While Ottawa is increasing its immigration targets, with a goal of admitting 500,000 permanent residents a year by 2025, the senators' report notes that there will be no resources available to cater to the number of international students who wish to stay after graduation. While the number of permanent residents admitted each year is capped, there is no such limit on the number of temporary residents, including students.
A 2021 survey by the Canadian Bureau for International Education found that most international students want permanent residence after they finish their studies.
According to the survey, 73 percent of respondents plan to apply for postgraduation work permits, which allow former international students to temporarily work in Canada. In a survey, 59 per cent said they wanted to apply for permanent residency.
However, not all postsecondary programs make students eligible for postgraduation work permits. The Senate's report says international students should be made aware of this.
The report's author, Ms. Omidvar, said that the federal government should directly communicate with foreign students about the conditions for working and staying in Canada to counter what she called'misinformation' from education consultants.
The responsibility to communicate with the students is a vital part of their education. When a visa is issued, it should be accompanied by a letter, she said.
Toronto Immigration Lawyer Michael Battista said many people discover after finishing their studies that they have been rejected for postgraduation work permits because the schools they attended, often private colleges, were not designated learning institutions.
Some return to their home countries, while others have to start their studies again at designated colleges, he said.
The University of Toronto's law faculty, which includes Battista, said that applications for permanent residence are becoming more competitive. Qualifications that a few years ago would have allowed students to obtain permanent residence now aren't enough, he said.
The senators' report says statistics Canada found that 30 percent of international students who came to Canada in the 2000s became permanent residents within 10 years of arriving.