Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Canada may limit study permits and visas of foreign students


Nicholas Keung
Immigration Reporter 
In an attempt to weed out “disingenuous” international students, Ottawa plans to grant student visas and work permits to only those enrolling in government-accredited schools.
“The proposed regulatory changes would ensure that study permit holders are genuine students by requiring students to enroll in and actively pursue a course or program of study after arrival in Canada,” said Citizenship and Immigration spokesperson Nancy Caron.
“Institutions that are not designated by provinces and territories would no longer be able to host international students.”
Although the changes are still in the consultation phase, the proposal, published in the Canada Gazette, also recommended that work permits, whether for off-campus work or a co-op/internship program, be limited to visa students in accredited schools.
“Disingenuous study permit holders use their study permit as a primary means to gain full access to the Canadian labour market,” Caron noted.
“Strengthening aspects of the program that could be abused by fraudulent schools or non-genuine study permit applicants is vitally important to protect Canada’s reputation abroad.”
The proposed changes came just as a national task force released a report Tuesday calling on the government to double the number of international students studying in Canada by 2020. It urged Ottawa to ramp up efforts to attract foreign students, to encourage innovation and exchange.
The number of international students in Canada — taking anything from short-term language courses to post-graduate studies — has gone up by 36 per cent in the past five years, from 176,000 in 2007 to almost 240,000 last year. More than one-third of those students are studying in Ontario.
A recent study by the Canadian Bureau for International Education found that international students contributed $8 billion to the Canadian economy in 2010.
In overhauling the visa program, Ottawa is taking a leaf from Australia’s book. That nation adopted similar policies after seeing an upsurge of enrollments in fly-by-night colleges when it granted permission for foreign students to work in the country, then apply for permanent residency.
The international student program quickly became a conduit for immigration to otherwise unqualified candidates. Schools also reported students disappearing upon arrival.
In 2008, Ottawa launched the Canada Experience Class, to allow visitors on work and study permits to apply to become permanent residents. Since then, it has also expanded its work permit programs for foreign students.
The proposed changes are welcomed by the Canadian Consortium for International Education Marketing, which is made up of five national educational associations.
Accrediting qualifying schools could help crack down on sham colleges that offer substandard programs to foreign students, said Paul Brennan, of the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, a member of the consortium dedicated to promoting Canadian education abroad.
Brennan said some of his group’s 130 member-schools have had visa students who withdrew, transferred or disappeared soon after arrival. A stronger monitoring system can help screen international students and track their movements, he said.
“It’s an issue of manpower. They need money to fund the enforcement and must keep the reporting system simple.”
Under the plan, student visas would no longer be issued to people who enroll in courses of less than six months. These students could instead come as visitors and apply for a study permit from within Canada, officials said.

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