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New rules make working easier for international students

by Rosanna Tamburri

New rules make working easier for international students
International students at University of Toronto take a tour of the downtown. Photo: Dermot Brennan, International Student Centre

International students should find it easier to get work permits and jobs and even to become permanent residents after they finish their studies in Canada, thanks to new regulations introduced by the Canadian government in April.

The new rules will also help Canadian universities in their efforts to recruit more foreign students and help Canada retain international students already here, said Immigration Minister Diane Finley in a news release. "These changes will help create a pool of individuals who, with work experience, will find it easier to apply to immigrate to Canada."

The new rules will allow foreign students who graduate from a Canadian university or college to work up to three years. They will no longer have to have a job offer in place before they are issued a work permit and they won't be restricted to finding employment in their field of study.

"Everybody recognizes that even Canadian kids don't graduate as CPAs and become accountants the next day," said Les Linklater, director general of the immigration branch of the department of Citizenship and Immigration. "They work at entry-level jobs until they can get that career-related occupation."

Previously, international students had to have a job offer in a field related to their area of study and had to apply within 90 days of completing university or college. Those with a job offer in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal were eligible for a one-year work permit while those working anywhere else in the country could get a two-year permit.

New immigrant class

Mr. Linklater said the changes will also help international students gain the work experience they need to qualify for permanent residency in Canada under a new immigration class that is expected to be introduced this summer.

Canada admits immigrants under three broad classes or categories: economic, family and refugee. The proposal would create a new sub- category in the economic class, called the Canadian Experience Class. This new stream would allow skilled temporary foreign workers and international students with work experience to apply for permanent residence status without leaving the country. At least one year of work experience in a managerial, professional or technical position will be necessary to qualify for admission under the Canadian Experience Class. The government first announced its plans to create this class in the 2007 budget.

The announcement is "good news in almost all respects," said Justin Kerr, international student adviser at Queen's University. "It facilitates students staying here in Canada as permanent residents and potentially as citizens. When students had only three months to find work and apply for a work permit, that was problematic," he said.

The changes will give Canadian universities a leg up when it comes to recruiting foreign students, said Pari Johnston, director of international relations at the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. "We are better positioned now against countries like Australia and others that have made immigration reforms in order to make themselves more attractive [to international students]."

She noted that Australia has started issuing work permits to foreign students in conjunction with study visas.

The Canadian government is also set to unveil a marketing campaign aimed at international students.

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