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Canadian Labour Shortage Solution: International Students in Canada

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Young, educated, and attuned to life in Canada, foreign students are Canadian immigrants of choice, with no settlement-integration cost and strong potential to contribute to the Canadian labour force. In December 2006 there were 157,000 foreign students in Canada – many from China, Korea, and the United States. The Canadian Bureau for International Education reports that the pool of international students in Canada could add as many as 30,000 skilled immigrants annually. They have called on the Canadian government to create a national strategy for international students.Canada needs to attract more foreign students to its educational institutions and put systems in place to convince them to stay in Canada upon graduation. International students have an advantage over internationally-trained immigrants in that they do not need to go through the foreign credential recognition process. Amid Canada’s current chronic labour shortages, quick integration into the job market is becoming an increasingly important aspect of Canadian immigration.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Canadian Experience Class, scheduled for implementation later this summer, responds to the need to retain international graduates. It will allow international students with Canadian degrees to apply for Permanent Residency from within Canada, instead of having to leave after their studies end to apply from outside the country.

“International students are highly skilled, have Canadian credentials and are familiar with Canadian society. Our province will benefit from their talents for years to come,” stated Ontario Citizenship and Immigration Minister Michael Chan. There are over 35,000 international students currently enrolled in Ontario universities and colleges. Minister Chan recently announced a new development in the Ontario Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) that removes obstacles for international students who wish to become Canadian Permanent Residents. The Ontario Pilot PNP is now open to international students who have graduated from post-secondary institutions across Canada, rather than from only those in Ontario. Candidates must be graduates of eligible publicly-funded Canadian universities or colleges and have a job offer from an Ontario employer. Successful nominees will have their Permanent Residency applications fast-tracked through Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Stakeholders like the Certified Management Accountants of Canada are urging the Canadian government to review its policies on attracting and retaining talented foreign students. It is recommending an expansion of the post graduate work permit beyond the current maximum of two years to encourage foreign students to stay and work in Canada to help fuel the economy.