Quebec Offers Fast-Tracked Canadian Citizenship to International Students

By:Kathleen Legris

In a move that may be designed to take advantage of Australia's and Britain's recent problems in the Indian-student market, Quebec is offering Canadian citizenship to international students who graduate from any university in the province.

The province's premier, Jean Charest, who is leading a delegation of university heads on a visit to India, told students and experts at the University of Mumbai on Monday that, beginning on February 14th, international students who graduate from universities in Quebec would get "a certificate of selection" that would put them on a fast track to Canadian citizenship.

According to The Times of India, Charest told the packed house that, "Any student who secures a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from any university in Quebec will obtain a certificate of selection to become a citizen of Canada.” Mr. Charest said that once foreign students had the certificate, the federal government would then carry out security and health checks before awarding citizenship.

The premier's announcement may encourage Indian students to think about Canada, especially in the wake of recent issues in two popular countries of study. In Australia, racial violence against Indian students has increased, and the sudden closure of four colleges left thousands of Indian students without credentials, while in the U.K., a report over the weekend revealed that British authorities had temporarily suspended all student-visa applications from northern India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, British officials feel the system has been overwhelmed and there are concerns that many cases are not genuine.

The move by Quebec reflects a broader national interest in focusing on India. Canadian universities appear to be showing an increased interest in strategic engagement with India, and Quebec universities, like their counterparts in other provinces, already have a number of partnerships with Indian institutions.

A pilot project run by Canadian immigration authorities and community colleges to speed up applications from India has doubled the acceptance rate, according to a report released by the government in late January. It showed that processing visas took an average of about two and a half weeks. The program is designed to uncover any fraud with a variety of checks, including a requirement that applicants provide verifiable documentation and a feedback mechanism in which colleges report back on whether students show up.

Additionally, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) recently published a guidebook designed to assist universities and colleges in identifying good practices for recruiting international students in India.

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