Canada ‘aims to profit’ from US deterrent to overseas students

Canada sends ‘loud and clear’ message to foreign students with work rules change following deportation threat by US administration

July 24, 2020
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Canada has further relaxed its immigration policy on international students in a move that experts suggest could partly be an attempt to hoover up those who might otherwise have studied in the US.

Last week, the Canadian government announced that international students would be able to count the time spent studying online abroad towards their eligibility for a post-graduation work permit, as long as they had submitted a study-permit application before 15 September and at least 50 per cent of their programme was completed in Canada. It applies to students starting a programme this autumn.

The new measures also include providing priority study-permit processing for students who have submitted a complete application online and implementing a temporary two-stage approval process to reassure foreign students who cannot submit all of the documentation needed for the application, but who choose to pursue programmes through distance learning.

The changes go a step further than Canada’s previous immigration relaxation in the wake of Covid-19, when it waived its usual requirement that time spent studying outside Canada is deducted from the length of the time for which post-graduation work permits are eligible.

The new policy is also in stark contrast to the approach of the US administration, which earlier this month said that overseas students must attend in-person classes this autumn and cannot remain in the US if their college moves entirely online. The government agreed to pull back from its position after being sued by universities, but US institutions say they anticipate more hits on overseas students.

Paul Evans, a professor in the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, said he suspected that there was a “dual motivation” for the new measures in Canada.

One motive was to “relieve some of the uncertainty and anxiety for students already enrolled in Canadian institutions and who are being advised for Covid reasons to remain at home for at least the fall semester”. The other was to “signal to prospective applicants that they are welcome, partly to remain competitive and to indicate that Canada is not closing doors as appears to be happening in the US”.  

Roopa Desai Trilokekar, associate professor in the Faculty of Education at York University and an expert on the internationalisation of higher education, agreed that Canada’s message was “loud and clear” that it is “open and welcoming of international students during this period”.

“I think we are very cognizant of the restrictions in the US,” she said. “So although I don’t think we are specifically targeting these students, we know we have profited in the past and will continue to do so during this period, given the US policies.”

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Canada's open borders policy, for all except those from the anglosphere, has been 'welcoming' people for years, no doubt Justine and Chrystia see this as a perfect opportunity to stick one up to Trump.

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