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Canada tightens visa rules to protect students

In a bid to protect the growing number of international students coming to Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has put forward proposals to limit student visas to those attending institutions officially approved by provinces and territories from 2014. Plans to monitor use of student visa uptake also form part of the reforms.

Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney

CIC says "gaps" are leaving the student visa channel open to abuse

Under the proposals, which are open to public comment for 45-days, the immigration agency would also require evidence from visa applicants to ensure they are genuine and make it easier for eligible students to obtain part-time work.

This would mean Canada taking steps similar to competitor nations such as the UK.

There is no requirement for students to actually pursue studies once in Canada

The reforms are a response to findings from a 2011 evaluation of CIC’s International Student Program which concluded that “gaps” were leaving it open to abuse and fraud. The biggest change would see CIC working with provinces and territories – which are constitutionally responsible for education – to designate educational institutions that are permitted to host international students.

This would not apply to courses of six months or less, however, on which students can continue to enrol using a visitor visa.

CIC would also be able to request evidence from study permit holders to verify their compliance with student visa conditions. Currently, foreign nationals need only demonstrate “an intent to study” and there is no requirement for them to actually pursue studies once in Canada – nor a system to track whether they do.

Geoff Wilmshurst, director of international at Camosun College, British Columbia, told The PIE News. “I am especially gratified that the government intends to ensure that students who receive study permits will be monitored. This measure will help to reduce cases of fraud.”

Students may be able to work part-time off-campus without having to apply for a separate work permit

In another proposed reform, eligible international students will be able to work part-time off-campus without having to apply for a separate work permit. CIC says this will contribute to Canada’s appeal as a study destination.

Languages Canada, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) have all backed the proposals. Gonzalo Peralta, executive director of Languages Canada, told The PIE News: “We have long tried to report fraud to government, and we are pleased that this issue is being addressed in the proposed changes – after all, Canada wants to welcome bona fide students and to make the visa process as easy and fair as possible.”

He added that Languages Canada would work hard to ensure provinces and territories used the association’s Quality Assurance Framework as a touch point when deciding which institutions can receive international students.

The National Association of Career Colleges fears provinces and the federal government will not coordinate effectively

However, there has been resistance from the National Association of Career Colleges which represents about 400 schools, hosting around 3,000 foreign students a year. CEO, Serge Buy, says he fears that provinces and the federal government will not coordinate effectively in monitoring international students and that career colleges, which have a relatively low profile compared to other providers, will suffer. “There are some colleges that will close their doors,” he said.

While it is likely to heed some sector fears, the government is sure to push ahead with the reforms which it believes will maintain integrity in the system as Canada increases its education exports. Some say recruitment could double to over 500,000 in ten years.

“These changes will help us better protect international students and the reputation of Canada’s post-secondary education system by making sure that international students are coming to quality institutions that comply with basic standards of accountability,” Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney said last week.

Canadian educators continue to complain of CIC visa delays; more news on this to come on the PIE News. 


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