The Liberal government of Canada is seeking to find ways to make it simpler and more straightforward for international students in Canada to transition to permanent resident status once they have completed their studies in Canada.
Speaking after a meeting with provincial and territorial government representatives yesterday, Canada's Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, John McCallum, said he intends to launch federal-provincial talks to reform the Express Entry immigration selection system, which was launched by the previous Conservative government in January, 2015. Since Express Entry was introduced, the pathway for international students to immigrate to Canada permanently has become more uncertain.
Shortchanged by Express Entry
“We must do more to attract students to this country as permanent residents. International students have been shortchanged by the Express Entry system. They are the cream of the crop in terms of potential future Canadians and so I certainly would like to work with my provincial and territorial colleagues to improve that," said Mr. McCallum.
“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,”
The Express Entry system requires candidates eligible for permanent resident status to make an expression of interest in immigrating to Canada. The government of Canada then invites certain individuals from this pool of candidates to apply for permanent residence using a points-based system.
Presently, a huge number of points — 600 out of a total of 1,200 — are allocated to individuals with a job offer from a Canadian employer or nomination from a Canadian province. In order for the job offer to be valid for the purposes of Express Entry, the employer has to obtain a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which serves as proof that there are no Canadian citizens or permanent residents who are ready, willing and able to fill the position.
Since its launch, Express Entry has had repercussions for international students wishing to remain in Canada after their studies who, until 2015, typically followed a path to permanent residence that did not require their employer to obtain a LMIA. Most international students who graduate from a Canadian educational institution are eligible for a post-graduation work permit upon completion of their study program. This work permit may be issued for up to a maximum of three years.
Ideas that have been floated for tweaking the Express Entry system in order to assist international students include giving graduates specific points for education and work experience in Canada.
Other items on the agenda at yesterday's meeting of provincial, territorial, and federal ministers included a discussion on the future of immigration in Canada, a review of the recently tabled immigration levels plan, and an update on regional efforts to resettle and integrate Syrian refugees into communities.
All ministers present at the meeting committed to working together on multi-year levels planning to ensure that future immigration levels reflect the importance of immigration to meet labour market and other needs. Ministers discussed a new Vision Action Plan, that will guide the improvement of immigration and settlement outcomes over the next three years.
Ministers also discussed the the need to recognize foreign credentials with respect to integrating immigrants in the labour market. Ministers agreed to meet in the coming months to share best practices on the credential issue, which has resurfaced time and again among stakeholders in the private and public sectors.