Migrant student workers, labour and immigration advocates delivered over 16,000 petitions to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino’s office in Toronto on Tuesday asking for changes to work permit rules before year’s end. 

“Current and former international students are running out of time. Thousands face deportation after December 31 if they don’t fulfill requirements for permanent residency that are out of their control,” says Sarom Rho, National Coordinator, Migrant Students United (MSU) speaking outside Minister Mendicino’s offices in Toronto. “Canada must create fair immigration rules, make post graduate work permits (PGWP) renewable, and ensure full and permanent immigration status for all.”

Many migrant students are working in essential jobs as delivery workers, cleaners, construction workers and freelancers. But this work experience cannot be counted towards Permanent Residency, said Migrant Students United, a membership-based organization of current and former migrant students. Work done during the school year is excluded. Under current immigration rules, permits that expire in 2020 can be restored before December 31, 2020. However, because the PGWP is non-renewable, students on expired permits in Canada cannot restore their status, and will be forced to leave if changes aren’t made immediately, the group noted in a media statement.

Approximately 100,000 post graduate work permits (PGWPs) are issued in Canada each year. One in 5 are either one or two years in length within which migrants must complete 12-24 months of high-waged work to qualify for permanent residency. However, with COVID-19 related job losses worsening again in the second wave, most graduates do not have access to these jobs and yet their permits remain non-renewable and are set to expire, according to MSU. 

Only 1,115 former migrant students received permanent residency in the third quarter of 2020 compared to 9,305 in the third quarter of 2019 – an 88% decrease, the organization which is part of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change noted. 

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