Citizenship and Immigration Canada Minister Diane Finley recently announced changes to work permit requirements for international students in Canada.

The new regulations afford more flexibility to international students who wish to contribute to the Canadian workforce upon graduation from eligible programs at certain Canadian post-secondary institutions.

These graduates will now be eligible for an open work permit under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program, which removes the requirement to have a job offer at the time of application and allows the graduate to work for any employer who offers him/her a job. The changes also allow international students the flexibility to work outside of their field of study, whereas previously, they were constrained to that field. In addition, where the program only allowed for work permits of one or two years, the duration of the work permit has been extended to three years across the country. These changes are effective immediately.

"The Government of Canada wants more foreign students to choose Canada and we want to help them succeed," said Minister Finley. "Open and longer work permits provide international students with more opportunities for Canadian work experience and skills development. This will, in turn, help make Canada a destination of choice, and help us keep international students already studying in Canada."

In the global competition for foreign skilled workers, Canada is working to make it easier for international students and foreign workers who are already in Canada with temporary status to become Canadian Permanent Residents. The new Canadian Experience Class category of immigration, which will be rolled out towards the end of the summer, aims to do just that.

"As we move toward the implementation of the Canadian Experience Class, these changes will help create a pool of individuals who, with work experience, will find it easier to apply to immigrate to Canada," added Minister Finley. "Our ability to retain international graduates with Canadian qualifications, work experience and familiarity with Canadian society, will help increase our competitiveness and benefit Canada as a whole."

The changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program will help international graduates meet the requirements to stay in Canada permanently. At least one year of work experience in a managerial, professional, or technical position is required to apply for the Canadian Experience Class.

In 2007, 63,673 international students came to Canada and about 11,000 international graduates received work permits.