Immigration lawyers and education experts are calling on Ottawa to expand and fix issues related to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP), as a new study shows the number of international students entering the labour market has markedly increased in Canada.
The PGWPP allows international students who have graduated from eligible Canadian designated learning institutions (DLIs) to obtain an open work permit that can help them qualify for permanent residence in Canada.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) told New Canadian Media that more than 126,000 post-graduation work permits were issued between January and November last year.
In a new study looking at the extent of international students’ participation in the labour market through the PGWPP, Statistics Canada found that almost three-quarters of all PGWP holders became permanent residents within five years.
“Through participation in the PGWPP and subsequent transition to permanent residence, international students have provided a growing source of labour for the Canadian labour market that extends well beyond their periods of study,” the study found.
The number of new post-graduation work permit holders has increased, “with the largest gains occurring among those from India and those intending to work in Ontario,” the agency stated.
Along with India, China, France, South Korea and Brazil were among the top five source countries for PGWP holders. “The large majority of PGWP holders intended to work in Ontario, followed by those intending to work in British Columbia and Quebec.”
Currently, the IRCC only allows public universities and institutions granting private degrees the ability for their students to qualify for Post Graduate Work Permits.
Given the program’s popularity and the growing labour crunch in Canada, the National Association of Career Colleges (NACC) is pushing for the expansion of the PGWPP.
“Thousands of additional international students would study at private career colleges every year and help resolve Canada’s labour shortages if Ottawa made these students eligible for the Post-Graduate Work Permits (PGWP),” reads an article on immigration.ca referencing NACC chair, George Hood.
Veteran international education expert Patrick Dang, who advises the Indo-Canada Education Council, said the PGWPP is a major win for the economy and international students.
“It has proven to be a real opportunity for Canada to train students to Canadian employment standards making the students an ideal workforce with relevant skills giving them a pathway to residency,” he said.
“The smart move would be for the federal government to expand the PGWPP to include private institutions who qualify and meet the standards. This would more than triple the output of skilled graduates across the country for labour and employment.”
He added: “Imagine what the economic impact would be from international students if we were to realize and gain $700 billion instead of $200 billion injected into the economy. The positive impact would be felt across all sectors such as housing, education, retail, employment, taxation and GDP output of Canada.”
Dang said the limited seats available through public post-secondary institutions negates the potential gains Canada can make on a larger scale to address the massive labour shortage currently.
“This critical labour shortage is well on its way to becoming a major stumbling block for Canada in the post-pandemic era,” said Dang, who is also the president of the Seymour Education & Learning Centres (SELC) in Vancouver.
“It’s a known fact that Canada faces at least one million unfulfilled jobs and this number is set to escalate rapidly over the next seven years,” he said.
“Added to this we have new jobs being created at a rate of 26 per cent per year that goes unfulfilled. So, the fact of the matter is our economy is set to stall and stumble due to a critical labour shortage.”
SELC, he said, is now working to offer foundational programs in countries like Sri Lanka and South Korea for students intending to pursue degrees at Canadian designated learning institutions.
“These foundational programs prepare students in their homelands to succeed on their journey to Canadian employment via the PGWPP, and later permanent residency,” he said.
IRCC told NCM it has no current plans to include international students at private and career colleges.
It announced today that following a record year for study permits in 2019, IRCC increased its output by 32 per cent in 2021 by finalizing almost 560,000 study permit applications.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA) is raising the alarm over a new rule that requires PGWP applicants to provide documentation regarding any leaves of absence they may have taken during their studies at their Designated Learning Institution.
“Consider a student experiencing mental health issues and dropping their semester’s courses rather than having failures in their transcript. This student would be considered to have taken an unauthorized leave,” Canadian immigration lawyer, Ronalee Carey, explains in a guest article posted on CILA’s website.
“According to the new instructions, they would be granted no mercy from IRCC.”
Calling on the government to fix the problem, the article urges IRCC to mandate that Canadian post-secondary institutions offering programs to international students have a formal policy regarding authorized leaves.
“Until they do so, they should not be denying PGWPs to students who do not have the documentation from their DLIs,” reads the article.
“DLIs must not wait for IRCC to force them to act. They should immediately create processes for students to request authorized leaves and create standardized documents to meet the new requirements.”
A multiple-award winning journalist, Fabian Dawson is an internationally acclaimed author, filmmaker and media expert. His work over the last four decades spans the globe and he also serves as a consultant/strategic advisor to a variety of international companies. As deputy editor-in-chief of The Province, part of the Postmedia chain, Dawson led initiatives within a special publications group to provide directed content for a variety of organisations. He was named the 2019 recipient of the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award at Jack Webster Awards. Dawson has been invited by the governments of India, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and the United States to act as a media observer/advisor on a variety of Asian-Canada issues. Dawson, now operates FD Media, which specializes in harnessing editorial assets to revenue generating opportunities.