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Canadian educators extend start dates as visa strikes continue

Education providers in Canada have been forced to extend start dates and even defer admissions until January as foreign service strikes stretch into their fourth month and continue to disrupt student visa processing.

"The processing statistics are good overall, thanks to measures that CIC has implemented"

In addition to the stress caused on students embarking on their studies overseas, universities and secondary schools are concerned delays could affect them financially and push students to competing destinations.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada says it is taking steps to mitigate the disruption including prioritising student visa applications and encouraging students to apply for visas online that are then processed by personnel in Canada.

“We’ve been in touch with all of the universities across Canada, and know they’re really concerned about the success of students,”  a spokesperson for the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada (AUCC) told The PIE News. “While we don’t have an official number, we do know that the vast majority of universities have a contingency plan in place for students affected by the strike.”

“The later it is, the harder it is going to be”

“Some are offering students late admission or deferring admission to January or next year,” they added. Missions around the world have been advised of the new extended start dates so that officers can approve qualified applications even if the expected final start date could not be met.

In order to make up for lost time universities are organising provisions for academic support and tutors, making arrangements for housing or residence and setting up special orientation sessions for the students when they arrive.

Secondary schools are also aware that affected students could miss pre-term orientation classes where their English is assessed and they meet new classmates.

Vancouver’s Surrey School District expected 205 of their 770 international students to attend the introductory sessions last week but 25 did not show up “likely tied to the delays in processing to get their documentation” spokesman Doug Strachan told the Vancouver Sun.

“We set aside a good chunk of last week to do assessments on every one of the students to assure that they have the courses and the assistance they need,” he added. “The later it is, the harder it is going to be.”

Last month the government accepted an arbitration offer from the Professional Association of Foreign Services Officers (PAFSO) however no developments have been made since, raising fears campuses will lose cultural diversity and international education’s CAN$8 billion contribution to the economy could be affected.

“Globally, there is increasing competition among countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to attract international students. If international students are unable to come to Canada due to visa delays, they could likely decide to study elsewhere and we’ll lose them not just for this coming school year, but for the next four academic years as well,” said the AUCC.

“If international students are unable to come to Canada due to visa delays, they could likely decide to study elsewhere”

Despite reported delays, the Canadian Bureau for International Education says it is encouraged by its communication with CIC.

“The processing statistics are good overall, thanks to measures that CIC has implemented, such as forwarding online applications from missions with reduced capacity to other missions with more capacity and adding temporary immigration officers in many cases,” Vice President of Public Policy and Communications Jennifer Humphries said.

“As well, medical exams are being processed quicker as of this year, due to an online system that processes normal medical results without immigration officer intervention.”

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