Canada to allow international students to work off-campus over 20 hours per week

Kareem El-Assal
Published: October 7, 2022

From November 15, 2022 until December 31, 2023, international students who are in Canada and have off-campus work authorization on their study permit will be allowed to work over 20 hours per week off-campus while class is in session.

This temporary measure will also apply to foreign nationals who have already submitted a study permit application as of today. They will also be able to benefit from this policy if Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada approves their application.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced this major reform this morning in Canada's capital city, Ottawa.

Fraser explained this measure aims to alleviate the labour shortages that are being experienced across Canada.

Canada is grappling with historic labour shortages and an unemployment rate which is low by historical standards. Earlier this morning, Statistics Canada reported that Canada's unemployment rate fell to 5.2 per cent in September, down from 5.4 per cent in August.

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At present, international students who apply to study in an eligible Canadian educational program may get authorized to work off-campus during their studies for up to 20 hours per week. This limit is lifted during scheduled breaks such as the summer and winter holidays. This policy allows international students to support themselves financially while also seeking to ensure that they remain focused on completing their studies rather than be focused on working in Canada. Facing nearly one million job vacancies, however, has resulted in the Canadian government easing this rule for the time being.

Fraser noted this measure will allow over 500,000 eligible international students already in Canada to potentially work more hours.

Canada is among the world's leading destinations of international students. In 2021, it hosted over 620,000 international students, a figure which has tripled over the past two decades. Canada issued nearly 450,000 new study permits last year alone. Demand to study in Canada remains strong due to various factors, such as the quality of the country's educational institutions, multiculturalism, affordability of the Canadian dollar, and the work and permanent residence opportunities that the country offers.

Fraser also pointed out in today's announcement that Canada has already processed more than 452,000 study permit applications between January and August of 2022, a 23 per cent increase compared to the 367,000 processed over the same period in 2021. As such, Canada has already broken the record it set last year for study permits processed in a calendar year.

The majority of international students report they are interested in remaining in Canada as permanent residents upon completing their studies, according to research by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE).

Statistics Canada research shows that international students who go on to gain permanent residence tend to integrate quickly into the Canadian labour market due to factors such as their Canadian work and study experience, as well as English and/or French language proficiency.

This explains why Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) offers a host of measures aimed at helping international graduates work in Canada and remain here.

IRCC offers the popular Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). The PGWP enables eligible international students to get an open work permit that has a validity period that corresponds with the length of their educational program in Canada. Open work permits allow foreign nationals to work for any employer of their choice in Canada. The maximum PGWP validity period is three years. PGWP holders can then gain the professional Canadian work experience they often need to become eligible for an economic class immigration program. The most prominent immigration pathways offered by IRCC fall under the Express Entry system, with PGWP holders commonly pursuing permanent residence through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program.

Provinces and territories across Canada also reward international graduates with domestic work experience. Quebec and Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) streams across the country offer permanent residence pathways to international graduates as a means of encouraging them to remain in the province or territory and continuing to contribute to the labour market as immigrants.

Canada has increasingly looked to international students as a key source of permanent residents in recent years, especially during the pandemic. For instance, IRCC relied significantly on international graduates to achieve its target of landing over 405,000 new immigrants in 2021, breaking Canada's record for new landed immigrants in a year. IRCC did this by inviting and landing large numbers of Canadian Experience Class candidates. In addition, it introduced a time-limited Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence (TR2PR) program in 2021 that enabled some 90,000 temporary residents to apply for immigration.

Minister Fraser also has a mandate from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to identify additional ways for international students and temporary foreign workers to gain permanent residence via Express Entry. In addition, Fraser tabled a strategy in September outlining how the government aims to help more temporary residents gain permanent residence. The strategy contains five pillars, such as modernizing the immigration system to improve application processing times. We will gain greater insights on the Canadian government's newcomer strategy when they table their new Immigration Levels Plan 2023-2025 by November 1st.

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