On January 23, 2024, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced a significant policy shift that expands work opportunities for international students in Canada. The new policy, effective from January 1 to April 30, 2024, allows certain students to work off-campus for more than 20 hours weekly during regular academic sessions. This marks a departure from the previous regulations, wherein students were restricted to working 20 hours or less if their study permit application was received by IRCC before October 8, 2022.
Changing Landscape of Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWP)
The alterations in the off-campus work policy are complemented by changes in the eligibility criteria for Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWP). Starting September 1, 2024, international students embarking on study programs within a curriculum licensing arrangement will no longer be eligible for a post-graduation work permit upon graduation. This shift aims to regulate the number of international students qualifying for PGWP.
While some students face restrictions, there is a silver lining for graduates of master’s and other short graduate-level programs. They will now be eligible to apply for a three-year work permit, providing them with an extended opportunity to gain valuable work experience in Canada.
Impact on Spouses and Ongoing Housing Debate
The evolving policies also bring changes for spouses of international students. Spouses of those enrolled in undergraduate and college programs will soon no longer be eligible for open work permits. The forthcoming weeks will witness open work permits being exclusively available to spouses of international students pursuing master’s and doctoral programs.
The Canadian government is currently under scrutiny from opposition critics attributing the housing crisis to record-high immigration levels. Immigration Minister Marc Miller emphasized the importance of international students to Canada but acknowledged the need to balance their access to resources with safeguarding against potential abuse of the system.
Proposed Caps and Economic Perspectives
In response to concerns about immigration contributing to the housing crisis, the government is proposing a series of two-year limits on the number of international students permitted to study in each province. This cap is anticipated to lead to a significant decrease in approved study permits, aligning with the government’s commitment to fairness by allocating cap space based on provincial populations.
While the proposed limits might enable some provinces to increase their international student population, there is expected to be a substantial reduction in other provinces, particularly Ontario. The idea of a cap on international students was introduced in December as part of broader efforts to manage immigration levels more effectively.
Working Opportunities for International Students
International students in Canada have the opportunity to work on campus without a work permit while completing their studies, provided they meet specific criteria, including having a valid study permit and being a full-time student at an eligible institution. Additionally, they can often work off-campus without a work permit, subject to certain conditions.
The lifting of the 20-hour rule during specified periods allows international students to engage in off-campus employment. However, work permits become mandatory for students participating in study programs with work requirements such as co-op or internships.
Moreover, the International Experience Canada program enables eligible international students to travel and work in Canada for up to one year, provided they meet age criteria and their country of origin has a bilateral agreement with Canada. The recent policy changes reflect Canada’s ongoing efforts to balance the benefits of international student contributions with the need to manage immigration in a way that addresses domestic challenges. As the landscape evolves, it is crucial for students and stakeholders to stay informed about these changes to navigate the Canadian education and immigration landscape effectively.