Andy J. Semotiuk | Forbes.com USA & Canada Immigration Contributor
The Washington Post recently reported that 65 percent of Americans support a temporary halt on nearly all immigration during the corona virus outbreak, with only 34 percent opposed. That poll came out just as President Trump issued a presidential proclamation suspending the entry of most new immigrants outside the U.S. for at least 60 days and ordered a 30-day review to recommend new restrictions on temporary visa holders. Many of those who learned of the proclamation, expected that it would likely be expanded.
Then, on an April 27, 2020, radio interview with radio host Brian Kilmeade, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf indicated that foreign student use of post graduate Optional Practical Training was an administration area of concern. Stuart Anderson, a Forbes Senior Contributor, later quoted Wolf as saying, “Again, we’ll have a series of recommendations that we’ll be teeing up and some of those could include students on what we call . . . OPT and CPT, Optional Practical Training, and a lot of those are utilized by Chinese students who could potentially stay here and work. So, yes, it is a concern that the Department’s highlighted as well.”
On May 11th, 2020, four influential U.S. senators also called for a suspension of student post graduate OPT work permits in the United States. Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and three of his colleagues wrote President Trump strongly urging him to suspend the OPT program. “While the merits of such a program are subject to debate, there is certainly no reason to allow foreign students to stay for three additional years just to take jobs that would otherwise go to unemployed Americans as our economy recovers,” they said.
Clearly, the writing is on the wall for international students studying in the United States. President Trump’s America First policy has been giving them a hard time, and the journey from F-1 student visa to H1B visa worker to permanent resident is not easy. So if America is closing its door on international students, then what other options do they have?
Well, Australia is number two on the list of countries in demand. But think about it – Australia is the English-speaking Argentina of the world – it is just so far away from everywhere else. However, the number three option is Canada’s international student program, which is fairly close by and attractive.
Canada has the third largest international student population in the world with over 642,000 such students. Indeed, in 2019, there were even 15,015 American students studying in Canada, rendering Americans the sixth largest foreign student population based on country of citizenship.
According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE), studying in Canada offers important benefits to international students including:
1. The quality of the Canadian education system,
2. Canada’s reputation as a tolerant and non-discriminatory society, and
3. Canada’s reputation as a safe country.
In addition, there are other considerations, such as:
- Affordability – especially for Americans, since the Canadian dollar is much lower.
- English at most Canadian universities
- Access to a robust job market that requires youth talent
- The ability to apply for study and work permits at the port of entry
- Path to Canadian permanent residence through the post-graduation work permit.
Of these benefits, the post-graduation work permit is a crucial feature of studying in Canada for most international students. Many of them in Canada now, will be applying for post graduate work permits soon, as the final school term winds up at Canadian universities.
I spoke with Parveen Sehra, a Canadian immigration lawyer who works in the student visa field, about the Canadian program. She said, “There are two primary benefits of the post graduation work permit. First, this is an open work permit – meaning students can remain in Canada after graduation without a job offer while they search for work opportunities.
Second, students can use the work experience they gain to bolster points for the Express Entry – Canadian Experience Class permanent resident system. Most international students are competitive candidates for permanent residency once they have work experience and a Canadian degree. Additionally, those U.S. students who have strong English language skills and fall into the age range, 20-29, earn maximum points in Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada’s comprehensive ranking system (CRS).”
Students are only eligible for one post graduate work permit in their lifetime, but the work permit can be used anywhere in Canada. They are not limited to the province where they completed their program. In the case of U.S. citizen students, they can apply for the post graduate work permit at the border, unlike most other foreign nationals. This factor significantly cuts down the wait time for receiving their work permit, a process that can take four to five months for other students.
Study in Canada Eligibility and Length of Stay
The post graduate work permit enables Canada to attract and retain young talent – this is crucial to the economy given Canada’s aging demographics. As for who is eligible to apply, Serha explains, “Students have to have been in full-time studies, except for the last term where they are allowed to be part-time. The definition of full-time is defined by each Designated Learning Institute (DLI) and is usually based on classroom hours per week”.
A post-grad work permit can be a minimum of eight months and a maximum of three years depending on the length of a student’s program. A four-year undergraduate student, for example, may be eligible for a three year post graduate work permit. The cost of a post graduate work permit is $255 – $155 for the work permit fee and $100 for the open work permit holder fee.
Referring to Americans, Serha noted, “U.S. students consistently excel in the Canadian labor market. Canada’s current immigration policies offer U.S. students significant advantages they should consider when selecting where to pursue their post-secondary studies.”
That said, it should be noted that Canada has also been hit hard by the Corona virus pandemic and this has played out in the economic sphere as well. No doubt the Canadian appetite for immigration has also been dampened by the loss of jobs and economic hardships Canadians have encountered. What is more disconcerting is the recent contraction of jobs available for students graduating.
There is no doubt that Canada will be hit hard by a decline in student enrollments for next year, and in turn, this will take a big bite out of the $ 22 billion in revenue the country enjoys from international students studying there each year. Still, the attitude towards international students is more favorable in Canada than it is in the U.S.
In addition, like in the U.S., college education in Canada is increasingly being done online given the circumstances. For these reasons, as things normalize regarding the pandemic, Canada’s trajectory in international student recruitment relative to the United States is expected to improve due to its policies.