There are currently about 353,000 international students studying in Canada today, and these students are no stranger to adversity. If you don’t think moving to an entirely new country is enough of a challenge, international students also face unclear and complex visa processes, rising and sometimes completely unpredictable tuition rates, limited ability to work, and difficulties immigrating to Canada permanently after graduation.
International students with spouses and children understandably want to bring them here while they complete their studies. However, the process for doing so is complex, and difficult to navigate. This means that some international students are forced to live apart from their families for the duration of their studies. To make things worse, international office staff on campus are no longer permitted to provide any advice around immigration without paying for a costly certification. This certification is unaffordable for many schools, whose international students are left to fend for themselves.
International tuition rates have been rising at a much higher rate than domestic tuition, as institutions often see international tuition as an opportunity to make up for lost government funding. This is extremely problematic, as students in the middle of their studies are told their tuition has risen to a level they could not budget for. While tuition increases can be capped by provincial governments, the federal government should do its part by making sure that all post-secondary institutions across the country are adequately funded.
While in Canada, international students often need to work to pay for their education and living costs. Plus, doing a work placement in your field is increasingly seen as an integral part of a high quality post-secondary education. While full-time students are allowed to work up to 20 hours a week under their study visa, they are not permitted to take part in full-time co-op and internship positions. For this, they must apply for a separate visa that takes months to process. At the same time, part-time international students are not permitted to work at all.
Finally, after years of hard work studying in Canada and integrating into the community, more than half of international students decide that they want to stay and work in the country. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Those who wish to apply for a work permit after graduation have only 90 days to find a job, while the average time it takes for someone to find a job in Canada is about 5 months (approximately 150 days). Thanks to our advocacy work, however, international students applying for permanent residency after graduation now get more “points” for having studied in Canada, and therefore have a higher chance of being successful.
Canada prides itself on being welcoming and inclusive to all, and we should ensure that all international students feel that sentiment throughout their studies. This means making sure international students can access a high quality education, work, bring their families, and afterwards keep their talents and skills in our economy.
For more detailed information on the experience of international students in Canada and how we can make it better, read our international student policy paper. But don't forget to sign our petition below first to show your support!