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Canada: path to citizenship eased for international students

Canada’s newly elected Liberal government has announced changes to the country’s path to citizenship which will reduce stay requirements and allow international students to count study time towards residency petitions.

"If I were asked what is the stupidest part of [Bill] C-24, I would say revoking the 50% credit for international students," said John McCallum (above)."If I were asked what is the stupidest part of [Bill] C-24, I would say revoking the 50% credit for international students," said John McCallum (above).

"Changes such as this will further boost Canada’s image as an open and welcoming country for international students"

Under Bill C-6 international students will be able to count 50% of their time towards the physical residency requirement and will need to reside three of the previous five years in the country.

The legislation will annul measures introduced by the previous Conservative government through Bill C-24 last year which required students to live in the country for four of the past six years and didn’t offer international students study time credit toward physical residency requirements.

“International students are the perfect candidates to become Canadian citizens”

“If I were asked what is the stupidest part of [Bill] C-24, I would say revoking the 50% credit for international students,” said John McCallum, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, in a speech announcing the u-turn.

“Because international students are the perfect candidates to become Canadian citizens and we are seeking them out as are other countries around the world.”

“And so it makes no sense for Canada to punch them in the nose by taking away their 50% credit rather than nurturing them and seeking to welcome them into our midst,” he explained.

Meanwhile, international education stakeholders are positive about the steps the government has taken to ease the process for international students to apply for citizenship.

“Changes such as this will further boost Canada’s image as an open and welcoming country for international students, and increase the already impressive yield of students to immigrants,” Randall Martin, executive director of the British Columbia Council for International Education, told The PIE News, adding that he believes international students will be attracted by these changes.

“Canada must compete with other countries for the same pool of skilled international students, and creating clear transitions from studying to working, permanent residency and citizenship will help our case.”

According to CBIE’s A World of Learning report released last year, 51% of international students in Canada planned to apply for permanent residence in 2014, with 37% planning to remain in the country to pursue further study.

“The number one reason that international students choose to study in Canada is the quality of education,” said Jennifer Humphries, vice-president, membership, public policy and communications.

“And this will not change with the new legislation.”

“This is just another example of a government that is moving quickly on many fronts”

However, Humphries added that any initiative to reduce the amount of time a student needs to reside in Canada before being eligible to apply for citizenship will be viewed positively.

“But it is doubtful that it will significantly impact the numbers that are already extremely positive,” she maintained.

Paul Brennan, vice-president international partnerships at Colleges and Institutes Canada, told The PIE News: “I think that one of the things that distinguishes Canada from other countries at the moment is that we view international students as some of the best eventual citizens if they so wish.”

Justin Trudeau was elected just five months ago, when he promised to ease the path to citizenship, but there is little surprise that he is acting quickly on some of these measures.

“With our new government, which is much more open to immigrants and refugees, acted very quickly to correct some of the more negative regulations or laws of the previous government,” said Brennan.

“The Trudeau government is moving forward with a swath of new initiatives that they promised in the last election,” said Geoff Wilmshurst, vice president partnerships at Camosun College in British Columbia.

“And this is just another example of a government that is moving quickly on many fronts.”

Humphries echoed support for Trudeau’s quick action on a number of key issues including removing the visa requirement for Mexicans expected to take effect this month.

“It will have a positive impact on Mexican student mobility to Canada,” she said.

As part of the other changes announced by the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, the age range for language requirements will be changed back to apply to individuals aged 18-54, after Bill C-24 changed it to 14-64.

And Canadian citizenship for dual citizens will now not be revoked from individuals who have committed certain serious crimes.

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