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Canada’s changing immigration landscape and what it means for a job-seeking overseas student

Canada has long been one of the world’s leading destinations for new immigrants. No surprise, as various studies and polls consistently rank Canada at or near the top as a great place to live. It’s why immigrants seek out Canada as a place to work, have good health care and build a quality life for their families.

But there has been a change in how the government views the routes to Canada.

The main shift in Canada's immigration policy is a greater emphasis on recruiting new immigrants through its international student program. Canada has always offered superior university and college programs at reasonable costs. Some would argue the best value in the world for the quality offered. But for years international students were not permitted to work off-campus and had only limited immigration options. In fact, it was common that students who might be seeking to be permanent residents of Canada might have their study permit application refused on that basis! Visa officers could only whisper that it was okay if a student stayed in Canada. No one in government dared to say it out loud, officially.

That’s the big change.

Canadian policy makers woke up one day and realized that international students were the best possible immigrants. Young, English or French- speaking, well-educated overseas, further educated in Canada with exposure to Canadian values, and having the resources to finance an education: these were precisely the qualities that have made international students the targets for the new Canadian immigration recruitment policy. Canada’s revelation came a little late, as other nations have for years been out front in a competitive field of international recruitment. So now Canada is going all out to make it the most attractive destination for international students. The Canadian government even promotes becoming a Canadian immigrant in its own education promotional materials.

What are the incentives?

In recent years a wide variety of attractions have been introduced if students are coming to authorized institutions, which almost always means government-funded (public) universities or colleges. International students can work off-campus after six months of study, and can do so anywhere in Canada. During studies, this means an international student can work in the city of the institution. But this also means during any study break such as a summer recess, a student can leave the town of her institution to work anywhere in Canada! After graduation Canada now offers students from one to three years of post-graduation work permit – the length of the permit depends on the length of the term of study. Two years of study in Canada leading to a certificate, degree or diploma will qualify for the three year work permit and also permit application for permanent resident status under the Canadian Experience Class with just one year of work experience after graduation.

The desire to have students stay on is so strong, that individual Canadian provinces are offering their own incentives to keep international students inside their borders. Some offer special “fast-tracks” to permanent resident status under Nominee programs where the province selects students, commonly master or doctoral students who are excelling in an academic field. Some provinces even offer other incentives such as a tuition fee rebate in the form of provincial tax credits for international students who graduate and live and work in that province.

Finally, Canada offers even more attractions than its very advantageous immigration regulations. Its welcoming spirit and its strong and diverse economy mean it is more and more one of the world’s true leading lands of opportunity and where people from all nations live in a peaceful tolerance.

With sophisticated industries in IT, health and bioscience, aerospace, automotive and locomotive engineering, nanotechnology, banking and a host of other specialities, Canada is a global leader with plenty of room for new talent.

For international students and for prospective new immigrants, Canada should always be on the short list of countries to consider before choosing a program of study.

• To find out more about studying in Canada, visit Canadian University Application Centre’s website at www.canada123.org

Posted: Oct 2, 2012

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