Until recently, travel restrictions due to COVID-19 led to fears that thousands of international students would defer plans to come to Canada which in turn could seriously lead to the closure of many smaller universities and mass layoffs. Now they have nothing to fear as the government has cast them an expected lifeline. If anything, universities may end up having to hire even more staff.
The federal government announced a series of measures aimed at making it easier for international students who will be beginning their fall semesters taking online courses from Canadian schools, while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.
Students can count the time spent studying online while abroad towards their eligibility for a postgraduate Canadian work permit if at least 50 per cent of their post-secondary program is completed in Canada.
Sweetening the deal even further, international students who are not able to submit all of the documentation needed to process their post-graduation work applications due to COVID-19-related closures but still want to begin their studies while in another country can now do so.
All a student really has to do is to show they’ve been accepted to a Canadian college or university and have the ability to pay for it.
Ministers and politicians never fail to remind us that international students contribute 21 billion dollars to the Canadian economy. On paper that may be definitely true, but in reality, a large percentage of international students mysteriously come to Canada with limited funds prompting them to start working even before they set foot in a classroom. Just see what would happen if there was a rule stating that international students could only work after one year.
Last year more than 650,000 international students were enrolled in Canadian college and university programs, with more than 58,000 becoming permanent Canadian residents.
We are also led to believe that Canada attracts the brightest and the best students from around the world, although that seems hard to believe given the fact that many of these individuals are usually to be found mowing lawns, driving trucks and doing menial jobs most Canadians are reluctant to take. And even assuming that was true, the reality should be an international scandal. In America, undocumented immigrants and poorly educated people of color are known to take up such jobs.
One thing is for sure is that Canadian universities are increasingly more dependent upon international students for their very survival.
I am willing to bet that if travel restrictions continue for the next couple of years, regardless of the state of the Canadian economy, Canada will make it still easier for international students to not only pursue their education online, but even become permanent Canadian residents without setting foot in Canada.
Here is how such a scenario could play out: Our politicians could roll out a scheme that would give international students the option to complete their entire education online in their countries of origin (mostly India) and even continue working there. As long as they pay their fees in full, PR status would be assured. They could literally have their PR papers issued at a Canadian airport when they finally come down to settle. Who knows, a day could come when someone could be in the process of becoming ‘Canadian’ while living elsewhere and could be made citizens on arrival. Citizenship ceremonies could potentially be held at airports.
Don’t be surprised if international students are allowed to marry and bring their spouses as a permanent resident as well, just like legal immigrants. Coming to Canada as a student in any case is just a formality. Perhaps a more ingenuous racket would be that anyone wanting to immigrate to Canada could either pay a set amount into a university fund or a national fund.
It sounds ridiculous, but our reliance on international students will require such schemes.
Some suspect that the Canadian government prefers international students over normal immigrants because they pay full college tuition fees and aren’t so particular about the kind of work they do. And most importantly, they ensure that thousands of jobs at universities across the land aren’t lost.
Meanwhile Canadian-born students are saddled with student loans, find it hard to land decent jobs and are forever complaining. Come to think of it, when was the last time you heard an international student complain about being paid $6 to $10 an hour under the table? Do they complain about being exploited by unscrupulous small business owners and landlords?