Should I Stay or Should I Go?

January 4th, 2017

Canada has a tremendous opportunity to become the foremost educational hub globally, but first it needs to stop confusing those international students who wish to study here.

Right now, hundreds of thousands of eager, ambitious international students are studying at institutions across Canada. Unless they are studying in Canada for just a short-term program, these students hold a study permit.

Of course, Canada doesn’t just let anybody obtain a study permit. Among other criteria, including the need to have been accepted by a designated learning institution, the government of Canada stipulates that ‘To be eligible to study in Canada . . . you must satisfy an immigration officer that you will leave Canada at the end of your authorized stay.’

OK, that’s fine in itself. Those are the rules and it seems clearly laid out. But you don’t have to scratch far beneath the surface before that particular rule becomes utterly perplexing.

First, one of the main attractions of coming to study in Canada is that the federal government offers the opportunity of an open work permit, valid for up to three years, to international graduates. Come build your career here in Canada, they are saying. You are exactly what our workforce needs. And don’t stop there, we want you to stay forever.

This doctrine comes straight from the highest authority, with Immigration Minister John McCallum effusive in his praise for students and laying out the government’s plan to have more and more of them transition to permanent residence.

“I believe international students are among the most fertile source of new immigrants for Canada. By definition, they are educated. They speak English or French. They know something about the country, so they should be first on our list of people who we court to come to Canada,” said Mr. McCallum just a few months ago, adding that “We must do more to attract students to this country as permanent residents . . . They are the cream of the crop in terms of potential future Canadians.”

Fertile source. Cream of the crop. These agricultural metaphors are no accident — it would be wise to take McCallum and the government at their word, they actually view these students as a source of growth for the country. Students and graduates really are among the most highly sought potential immigrants, and the government recently changed its Express Entry system to give bonus points to candidates who have studied in Canada. The provincial governments are also in on the act, with an ever-increasing range of Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) categories becoming available to students and graduates.

And yet, in spite of the rhetoric and recent changes to help students settle permanently, that ‘you must satisfy an immigration officer that you will leave Canada at the end of your authorized stay’ criterion remains in place, sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb and becoming the reason for many refusals on study permit applications. It confuses students, their families, institutions, and employers alike. It must also surely confuse immigration officers themselves.

Call it what you wish. Baffling, confusing, lacking in synergy . . . I have one word for it though: farce.

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10 Responses to “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

  • On January 4th, 2017, Bill Pierce said ...

    Indeed international students studying in Canada constitute an extremely desirable source of immigrants. Their relative youth, competency in one of Canada’s official languages, and experience with our educational system give them great value.

    At the same time we are encouraging their interest, It does seem counterproductive to require them to acknowledge that they must have plans to leave Canada at the end of their studies.

    Perhaps there is a compromise here. One way to allay the fears of those who believe they may overstay their welcome is to add a statement to the permit application to the effect that “I agree to abide by all applicable immigration requirements in effect during my stay.” And if we really need to be so pointed about it (persoanlly I do not believe so), a statement might be added to the effect, “I understand that should I not qualify for another program in effect at that time, I may be required to leave Canada at the conclusion of my studies.”

  • On January 4th, 2017, Sly said ...

    True words. My visa application was rejected last year despite paying the entire tuition fee before application and showing sufficient proof of finance, because the VO wasn’t convinced I will leave Canada after my studies. It will help international students if the government takes a position. The reason many of us will spend that much money to come and study in Canada in the first place is the opportunity of immigration. Best regards

  • On January 10th, 2017, Candy said ...

    I cannot agree with this more. Right now, I am nursing the disappointment of having my application declined because I wanted to pursue another masters degree for the sole reason that the university required it in order for me to get the background in my ultimate career field. I fulfilled every single requirement. My application was denied because I would not leave Canada afterwards. MOST people study there because of the opportunity to migrate. It is a win win: I get to migrate while the country gets to benefit from my youth and expertise. I have therefore lost interest in going to Canada. I can do without the stress. It is indeed a farce.

  • On January 20th, 2017, MB Whitcomb said ...

    Students need to also examine opportunities (or lack thereof) in their chosen school. I found consistently that there was no winning contests, or merit scholarships for non-Canadians. This is a level of discrimination that speaks eloquently of what things will be like as an immigrant in real life. The whole idea that you migh deprive a Canadian of a position is so protectionist that it will thwart the development/survival of some provinces.

  • On January 20th, 2017, CHELLAMANI RAMAN ATHAZHAWALLUR said ...

    Well concluded as ‘Farce’. More appropriate to say that it is ‘Hypocrisy’ !!

  • On January 26th, 2017, Clement said ...

    Completely agree with this article’s comment.

    Complete ridiculous non-sense from CIC

  • On January 26th, 2017, Marie said ...

    Now, I am scared of applying for a study permit. I just applied to three separate schools and really I do not intend to stay in Canada since my career path is working in conflict zones. I really would like the privilege of Canadian educational system which I am told far surpasses that of the U.K. and Australia. I do not have the luxury of applying and reapplying, I just don’t know if I can go through the process of applying to schools again.

  • On January 26th, 2017, George lewis said ...

    I luv Canada!! Period but I have to take care of my late mom’s home in Colorado. I have had a job. Offer from cbc tv Ottawa there tremendous huh
    Now I’m frustrated and confused what cic going to do for me there in old canada.ugh the pain!! Like DeeDee doodles says ” let me GUO ! Let me GUO !!

  • On January 27th, 2017, Anonymous said ...

    Spot on! Can’t immagine spending a lot on education and am expected to leave afterwards when my value is needed. So many students dreams are left unfulfilled because because the VO feels such students won’t return to their home country after studies. Something has to be done about this if not prospective students will start looking into other countries that are more welcoming. Regards.

  • On April 1st, 2017, Anonymous said ...


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