Fulfilling Canada’s labour needs

  • April 26, 2022

Fulfilling Canada’s labour needs not only during the pandemic but on a long-term basis justifies facilitating the transition of international students to permanent resident status. That’s the message conveyed by the Immigration Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association in a letter sent to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

Because of their strong employment and language skills, to say nothing of the knowledge they have gained in their Canadian educational programs, international students are ideal candidates for re-settlement as permanent residents.

In particular during the COVID-19 pandemic, the cohort of international students present in Canada has contributed greatly to our economy despite the several challenges they faced. If these students are unable to renew their status and are forced to leave, “Canada will lose significant essential and talented workers,” says the Section.

Extending temporary policy changes to post-graduation work permit program

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the labour market in Canada, the CBA Section recommends extending the temporary public policy that allows current and former post-graduation work permit program holders to extend their status and to benefit from a special pathway to permanent residence.

Most international students currently waiting for an invitation to apply, or ITA, in the express entry pool work in key occupations. In normal circumstances they could apply for a bridging open work permit after receiving an invitation to apply and then apply for permanent residence. But there have been no ITAs issued in the Canadian Experience Class since September 2021. Many international students are at risk of seeing their existing permits expire without possibility of renewal. This would force them to stop working and leave Canada.

The temporary program made it easier for post-graduation work permit, or PGWP holders to get an open work permit and continue working in Canada. International students were also given access to the temporary residence to permanent residence pathway until November 2021.

Unless these temporary programs are extended, the current cohort of international students will not benefit from the same opportunities. Noting that the current cohort includes highly qualified workers with bachelor’s or master’s degrees, the Section warns we could lose this large group of qualified workers.

“International students need a solution now if they are to continue to assist the Canadian economy to grow during the pandemic. They are ideal candidates to remedy the current shortage of workers in a broad range of occupations across Canada. Our economy is not in a position to lose them.”

Facilitate transition of certain international students to Canadian Permanent Residence status

The website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says there are opportunities to “stay and work in Canada after graduation,” including paths to PR status. This, reasonably, leads students to believe they will be able to remain in Canada after graduation. Unfortunately, PR paths vary across the country and are not equally available to all.

The CBA recommends implementing a pilot program for recent graduates with Canadian experience targeting international students who want to stay in Canada (outside of Quebec) permanently after graduation. The letter to the Immigration minister lays out several possible criteria for this pilot project. They are designed to “target only the students most affected by the Express Entry backlogs caused by the pandemic,” says the Section. “These students stayed in Canada after graduation, indicating that they genuinely intend to permanently settle in Canada if given a chance. They should get a fair opportunity and time to properly prepare a complete PR application (i.e., take a language test, get a medical exam, police checks, etc.) and submit a full application package.”