The Canadian think-tank found that one of the main reasons for rejection was a belief that the student may not return to their home country after study, despite efforts by the government to encourage overseas students to stay and work in Quebec after graduating.
“These criteria no longer have their raison d’etre and denote a certain inconsistency in a context where efforts are being made by both levels of government to encourage foreign graduates to settle in Quebec,” said Daye Dallio, senior economist at the IDQ.
Quebec has also experienced higher refusal rates than other regions. The IDQ blamed this on the greater number of African applicants, who are more likely to be rejected by IRCC. In 2021, 72% of applications made by students of African origin were refused study permits.
Representatives from the international education sector have previously called on the government to address the high visa refusal rate among African students.
Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada, told a parliamentary committee in 2022 that this is an “urgent challenge we need to address”.
The IDQ said in a statement that the situation could affect the attractiveness of the province, particularly among French-speaking students.
The number of international students in Quebec has more than doubled over the past decade and more of these students stay and work after graduating, in part due to the Quebec Experience Program which provides a route to permanent residency.
The number of post-graduation work permit holders tripled between 2015 and 2022, from 9,825 to 31,915. The number of new permanent residents who graduated from a Canadian institution also tripled during this period, from 3,690 to 11,290.
“The integration of immigrants into the labour market has greatly improved in recent years”
“In Quebec, the integration of immigrants into the labour market has greatly improved in recent years,” said Emna Braham, executive director of the IDQ.
But the IDQ found the process of obtaining permanent residency is slow due to the work requirements, with graduates needed 12 to 18 months experience, and longer processing times by IRCC for applicants to Quebec, compared to other regions.
The think tank called on the Quebec and federal governments to increase access to study permits for students chosen by the region’s institutions as well as accelerating access to permanent residence for graduates of those institutions.
An IRCC spokesperson said, “The government of Canada is committed to applying equitable, non-discriminatory immigration procedures. We are continually evaluating data and making a concerted effort to address differential results and strategies to improve our approaches and overcome challenges.”
The IRCC and Quebec government formed a working group in 2022 to examine and compare approval rates.
The spokesperson said all applications “are assessed objectively and consistently” but that the ongoing strategic review of immigration policies “will enable us to identify and address the issues associated with refusals, and the international student program will be informed by this exercise”.
“The measures taken by IRCC to improve the overall approval rates of applications from Africa have contributed to a 30% improvement in 2021 and a 36% improvement in 2022,” they added.