Under pressure to help international students unable to get study permits in time for this school year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) are allowing them to take their courses online and still qualify for a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) later.
“Distance learning measures have been extended to Aug. 31, 2023,” announced the IRCC on Friday. “But they are being reduced in scope.
“As we transition back to pre-pandemic requirements, we encourage international students to come back to Canada. A transition period is available for those who may need some time to do so.”
IRCC Adding 1,250 Employees To Cut Canada Immigration Backlogs, Reduce Processing Times
IRCC Reassures International Graduates Over New Open Work Permits
Immigration Forecast To Double Canada’s Population In 46 Years
International students studying online from abroad or who submit a study permit application no later than Aug. 31, 2022 – this coming Wednesday – will continue to be able to complete up to 100 per cent of their program online without affecting their eligibility for PGWP.
After that, study time completed from abroad starting on Sept. 1, 2023, will be deducted from the length of their PGWP, regardless of when they began their studies.
The extension of temporary distance learning measures will affect those starting programs from Sept. 1, 2022 to Aug. 31, 2023.
Under these measures no more than 50 per cent of the credits earned can be completed outside Canada to remain eligible for a PGWP.
Ottawa’s last-ditch attempt to save the school year of many international students who will likely not get their study permits before the start of the school year comes roughly a week after India put pressure on the Canadian government to cut study permit processing times
India, the biggest source of new permanent residents to Canada, called on Ottawa to help its international students so they can come and learn in Canadian colleges and universities this autumn.
“In recent years, Canada has emerged as a preferred destination for Indian students for post-secondary education,” the High Commission of India noted in an advisory.
“Currently, more than 230,000 students from India enrolled in post-secondary institutions in Canada are making a positive contribution to the Canadian economy, including through an estimated $4 billion (in American dollars) in tuition fees.”
Indian Students Inject Almost $5.2b Annually Into Canada’s Colleges And Universities
At the exchange rate in effect on Aug. 25, that U.S.-$4 billion works out to almost $5.2 billion in Canadian dollars or about $22,494 per Indian student in Canada.
In Tuition Fees for Degree Programs, 2021/2922, Statistics Canada noted last year Canadian universities are increasingly dependent on the tuition fees of international students to stay afloat.
“In 2021/2022, the average tuition fees for international undergraduate students in Canada rose 4.9 per cent from a year earlier to $33,623,” noted Statistics Canada.
“This follows a 7.1 per cent gain in 2020/2021. Increasingly, postsecondary institutions have relied on income from international students as part of their revenue stream.”
The IRCC revealed in an e-mail to Immigration.ca that immigration officials were facing a backlog of 196,729 study permit applications and another 35,482 study permit extensions as of July 17 this year.
Since then, though, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser has announced the immigration department is hiring 1,250 additional employees to cut through the backlog of applications and reduce processing times.
IRCC Hiring 1,250 Workers To Speed Up Processing Of Applications
“A well-run immigration system supports our communities’ futures and allows our industries to tap into the essential talent and new business opportunities, so they can continue to grow and remain competitive,” the immigration minister said on Wednesday this week.
“We will continue to take steps to strengthen immigration, for the benefit of our businesses, our economy, and all Canadians.”
With the success of last year’s Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident (TR-to-PR) pathway, Fraser is also reportedly hoping to unveil a new program to allow temporary residents, including international students, to more quickly get their permanent residency in Canada.
“We are looking right now at the best path forward to create a permanent pathway for temporary residents,” Fraser reportedly told the CBC earlier this year.
The original TR-to-PR pathway targeted healthcare and other workers in Canada and recent international graduates from Canadian colleges and universities. It applied across the country with the exception of the francophone province of Quebec which operates its own immigration system.
The expected new pathway for temporary residents is expected to be announced within the next couple of months.
“We’re in the depths of planning the policy so we can have a policy that’s not driven by a need to respond urgently in the face of an emergency, but actually to have a permanent pathway that provides a clear path for those seeking permanent residency who can enter Canada,” said Fraser in June.
So far, the immigration minister and IRCC are refusing to divulge any details of this potential new pathway.
International Students Desperate For Answers From Ottawa As Start Of School Year Looms
But as the school year approaches, many international students were worried and looking for answers from Ottawa and the colleges and universities to which they have applied, desperate to know whether or not they would be able to study in Canada this year.
The extension of distance education without foregoing the ability to get a PGWP is a temporary solution for many international students, a kind of escape hatch from their current ordeal.
But, clearly, Ottawa, the international students and the colleges and universities would ideally like those students to be able to get study permits and come to Canada to complete their studies.
“The High Commission of India in Ottawa and our consulates in Toronto and Vancouver continue to be engaged with relevant Canadian interlocutors including Canadian academic institutions and universities regarding problems faced by Indian students due to delays in the issue of visas,” wrote the high commission in its advisory.
“Highlighting these issues and the fact that Indian students have already deposited tuition fees with the Canadian institutions, we requested the Canadian authorities to expedite processing of visa applications for students from India.”
On its website, IRCC provides estimates of the current processing times for various types of applications, including study permits. The current processing time for study permits from international students applying outside of Canada is 12 weeks.
That estimated processing time does not include the time it takes to send an application between a visa application centre (VAC) and the IRCC’s offices or the time needed to provide biometrics.
With the academic year only a couple of weeks away, many Canadian colleges and universities have put in place contingency plans to help international students who have not yet received their study permits to come to Canada.
Those contingency plans are usually the opportunity to complete courses online.
Colleges And Universities In Some Cases Offering Online Courses For Stranded International Students
“Some institutions will provide a remote option for students unable to reach Canada at the start of the term because they have not yet received their visa,” notes the high commission.
“Students can contact the university/institutions to find out which courses have a remote option and to discuss their options in case some do not.”
Colleges and universities in Canada have apparently made Ottawa aware of the situation and asked for expedited processing of study permits.
“For students wishing to defer their admission, the university/institution is communicating to students their options including deferring the offer of admission to a later term or consider exceptional circumstances on a case-by-case basis,” notes the high commission.”
In a statement released earlier this week, Canadian immigration officials indicated the department is processing far more study permits now than it did prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last year, the IRCC finalized almost 560,000 study permit applications, surpassing our previous record from 2019 by 31 per cent,” said the immigration department in a statement this week. “IRCC is already outpacing that number in 2022, with almost 360,000 study permits finalized between Jan. 1 and July 31, 2022, compared to about 306,000 finalized in the same period in 2021.”