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Canada visa strike closer to resolution

A strike by Canada’s foreign services workers that has caused lengthy visa processing delays may be nearing an end, after the government accepted an arbitration offer from the union involved in the crisis.

“That’s a real possibility that there will be students missing in the ranks”

The Government’s Treasury Board president, Tony Clement, said he had accepted the offer from the Professional Association of Foreign Services Officers (PAFSO) yesterday, giving hope to many educators who fear students could have to defer their courses.

However he said there would be “conditions” to the deal, details of which are not publicly available. PAFSO is said to be reviewing the terms and will follow up with the Treasury Board imminently.

Visa issuance “dropped by nearly 25%” over the month of June

Gonzalo Peralta, the head of Languages Canada, which represents language schools across Canada, said he now expected the dispute to end. “Although there are conditions to the offer, this is good news for the international education sector,” he said in a statement, adding that Languages Canada had lobbied government to resolve its differences with PAFSA.

The strike by Canadian foreign service workers , which centres around pay, has resulted in months of rotating job actions leading to a significant backlog in visa applications. Visa processing services have been withdrawn in Canada and cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Moscow, Manila, Mexico City and Delhi and waiting times have shot up.

Chrystiane Roy said that overall, visa issuance “dropped by nearly 25%” over the month of June and that the drop was “especially severe in India, where services have been withdrawn, at 60-65 per cent”. McGill University warned yesterday that the situation still posed a major risk to international students starting courses this September many whom may have to defer.

“That’s a real possibility that there will be students missing in the ranks,” Dean of Students, André Costopoulos, told CBC.

“Our students and agents will see an improved landscape for international students in Canada in the next months”

Canada’s visa processing times are already subject to criticism in many countries. Canadian Immigration and Citizenship was compelled to publish a list of projected processing times for different markets in February – along with guidance on speeding up applications – following complaints of lengthy delays in markets such as Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Colombia.

However, Peralta said he was hopeful that the end of the strike and additional C$43 million allocated in the last budget to improving processing times would improve matters.

“[Due to these changes] and the proposed regulations to ensure that international students are [legitimately] in Canada to study, our students and agents will see an improved landscape for international students in Canada in the next months,” he said.

The process of arbitration is commonly used to resolve employee and union grievances in North America. It involves both parties submitting their respective positions to a neutral third party who makes a judgement on the dispute.

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