International students who have a post-graduate work permit expiring between January and December 2022 will qualify for an additional open work permit of up to 18 months in new measures outlined by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada on April 22.
“Immigration will be crucial to easing our labour shortage”
The policy has been set out in order to address labour shortages, with the number of job vacancies in Canada reaching 900,000 in January, partially as a result of curbs on immigration during the pandemic.
“With the economy growing faster than employers can hire new workers, Canada needs to look at every option so that we have the skills and labour needed to fuel our growth,” said immigration minister Sean Fraser in a statement.
“Immigration will be crucial to easing our labour shortage, and these measures aim to address pressing needs in all sectors across the country,” said Fraser, adding that the policies will provide “more opportunities for recent graduates and other applicants to build their lives in Canada and continue contributing to our short-term recovery and long-term prosperity”.
The government estimates that approximately 95,000 post-graduation work permits expire between January 31 and December 31 2022 and that up to 50,000 applicants will benefit from this temporary policy.
In a statement, IRCC also said that this would “allow applicants to continue contributing to the Canadian economy, helping address our labour shortage while gaining valuable work experience and preparing their express entry profiles”.
This new policy is due to start in “summer 2022” and IRCC says it is “exploring a simplified, expeditious process for this”, with details being made available “in the weeks ahead”.
The government also announced that express entry draws – through which skilled workers can apply for permanent residence – will resume in July.
These had been paused due to a backlog of applications, which the government says has now been cut by more than half.
The news was welcomed by the sector, with Marc Leblanc, Universities Canada senior government and international relations officer, commenting that “this temporary measure recognises the valuable contribution that international students make to Canada’s economy after graduation and will help ensure we maintain a competitive edge in student recruitment.”
Martin Basiri, CEO and co-founder of ApplyBoard, a Canadian student recruitment company, also applauded the announcement, saying it is “welcome news for permit holders and their employers and indicates that the future is bright for international students during and after their studies in Canada”.
“It is also an indicator that IRCC recognises the challenges they are currently facing to keep up with record application volume,” Basiri said.
“Extensions will be tremendously helpful for holders of expiring permits facing the stress of awaiting permanent residence application results or trouble gaining enough experience to be eligible.”
Some international graduates whose visas expired between September 2021 and January 2022 – when express draw entries were halted –are unhappy that they will be excluded from the policy and potentially miss out on the chance to apply for permanent residency.
Writing on Twitter, one user said: “This is really a bad decision. So folks whose permit is expiring in 31st dec 2022 will get 18 months more while those who studied and worked till Dec 2021 cannot!”
Tamara Mosher-Kuczer, a Canadian immigration lawyer, said on Twitter that the announcement is “a great start” but it “needs to be expanded” to include those whose visas expired after September 2021.
“There is much more to do,” Basiri said, “including improved processing of study permit applications, but this is a great step forward and we thank minister Fraser for his focus on this matter.”