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Immigration Department Signals Upcoming Changes to International Students’ Work Permits

Immigration Department Signals Upcoming Changes

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Proposed Changes Require Foreign Students to Graduate from Programs Linked to Labor Shortages, Document Reveals

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Immigration Minister Marc Miller has recently hinted at coming changes to the rules on postgraduation work permits.

New Requirements for International Students: Labor-Shortage Programs and Language Proficiency for Post-Graduation Work Permits

International students may soon need to graduate from programs tied to labor shortages and meet new language requirements to obtain post-graduation work permits, as proposed by the Immigration Department. With a cap introduced to control the number of international students, Immigration Minister Marc Miller has hinted at upcoming changes to the rules governing these permits.

A survey distributed by the department to colleges and universities has revealed some details of the proposed changes. Under the new plan, academic programs would be coded according to Canada’s national occupational classification, identifying programs that meet the educational requirements for jobs projected to experience long-term labor shortages.

Proposed Changes Would Align Work Permit Eligibility with Labor Market Needs

For instance, carpenters would be matched to one of three programs of study: construction trades, carpentry, or woodworking/general.

The proposed changes aim “to align post-graduation work permit (PGWP) eligibility with labor market needs while reducing the overall volume of PGWP holders, and increasing the likelihood that international students have labor market outcomes commensurate with their education and training,” according to a one-page questionnaire obtained by the Star.

For over a decade, international students have been able to pursue any postsecondary program and still qualify for an open work permit upon graduation, regardless of whether their studies align with Canadian economic needs.

While these work permits have made Canada a top destination for foreign students, they have also contributed to a surge in international enrollment. This surge has led Minister Marc Miller to impose a two-year cap to reduce the number of new study permits issued and limit the hours students can work off-campus per week during the school year.

Survey Questions Outline Potential Changes to Work Permit Eligibility

The survey includes eight key questions aimed at understanding and shaping potential changes to post-graduation work permit (PGWP) eligibility:

  • Occupational Needs: If permit eligibility were restricted to occupations experiencing shortages and corresponding programs of study, which occupations should be included based on the needs in your area?
  • Exemptions: Should any cohorts, such as francophone students or those in graduate degree programs, be exempt from these changes?
  • Job Offer Requirement: Should international students be required to demonstrate proof of a job offer aligned with the occupational shortage list to hold a PGWP beyond one year?
  • Additional Eligibility Criteria: Apart from a job offer, should other eligibility criteria (such as language proficiency or provincial support) be applied to PGWP holders seeking to extend their permit past one year?
  • Immediate Implementation: What is your view on applying these labor market-based changes to all graduates upon announcement this year, rather than grandfathering students already studying in Canada at the time of implementation?

Immigration Officials Seek Feedback on Permanent Residence Prospects for International Graduates

Immigration officials are requesting feedback from postsecondary education institutions about the potential for international graduates with job offers in in-demand sectors to obtain permanent residence through their respective provinces’ immigration selection programs.

The survey asks: Are there any gaps between the labor market needs you have identified and your province’s existing streams? Will any amendments be required to ensure they remain responsive to graduates and PGWP holders in specific occupations?

Access to an open work permit after graduation has been a strong incentive for international students to study in Canada, as the immigration system increasingly prioritizes candidates already in the country for permanent residence. This system rewards those with Canadian education credentials and work experience.

Experts suggest that adjusting post-graduation work permit eligibility could be an effective strategy to achieve Ottawa’s goals of restoring the integrity of the international education program, improving the quality of candidates in the permanent resident pool, and aligning their studies with labor market needs.

The last significant changes to the post-graduation work permit program occurred in April 2008, allowing recent graduates to obtain an open work permit for up to three years, depending on the length of their program of study, with no restrictions on the location of study or requirement of a job offer.


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