Will Canada make its current international student off-campus work hours policy permanent?

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: December 4, 2023

As we near the turn of the calendar to 2024, many international students anxiously await the expected end of Canada’s temporary policy allowing some international students to work full-time off-campus outside of scheduled academic breaks.

This policy, announced in October 2022, is a measure that was introduced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in an effort to ease nationwide labour shortages. However, IRCC’s temporary policy is set to expire on December 31, 2023.

This comes after the policy was first implemented on November 15 last year.

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Note: Before the implementation of this measure, IRCC restricted international students to 20 hours of off-campus employment per week during the school year, although students were allowed to work full-time during scheduled academic breaks (reading week, winter break etc.)

Who was eligible to work more than 20 hours per week under this IRCC policy?

Applicable only to certain groups of international students, IRCC’s temporary measure allows eligible foreign nationals studying in Canada to work off-campus beyond the typical 20-hour-per-week limit placed on international students while classes are in session.

To be eligible for the amended work hours policy, international students across Canada must be attending classes in the country (not online from abroad) and have designated off-campus work authorization included on their study permit.

In addition to those already enrolled in a Canadian post-secondary program, students who submitted a study permit application as of the day the measure was announced (October 7, 2022) have also been able to benefit from this temporary policy.

Many stakeholders are calling for IRCC to make the current policy permanent

Around the country, many argue that making this policy permanent would greatly benefit eligible international students who need to earn more money to account for inflation and the rising cost of living in this country.

As an example, in a CBC story from late November, 20-year-old University of Saskatchewan student Krunal Chavda said that being able to work beyond 20 hours per week allowed him to pay off his tuition fees.

Additionally, being able to work more hours has been beneficial to students battling rising costs because, as exemplified in Chavda’s situation, “inflation has upped his grocery budget from as low as $100 to as much as $300 a month.”

Understanding that the permanence of this policy will aid international students fighting against the growing affordability crisis in Canada, subject matter experts and advocacy groups are also joining foreign nationals in calling for Canada to avoid reverting to the old work hours policy.

For instance, James Casey, a policy and research analyst at the Canadian Federation of Students, told CBC that the reimplementation of Canada’s cap on work hours will “put international students in very difficult positions to choose between whether to break this policy or afford housing.”

What are the chances that IRCC will make this policy permanent for eligible international students?

At the time of writing, there has been no indication from the Canadian government regarding whether or not authorities will make the current work hours policy permanent beyond the end of this year. This is in spite of the fact that Canada still needs help combatting national labour shortages, meaning that the rationale behind the policy’s implementation remains a problem that the country must grapple with.

Be sure to check back with CICNews for updates on this crucial development for Canada’s international student population.

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