Changes to work and study permits double-edged

By in News

The new year brought a series of amendments to federal legislation regarding study and work permits that open up the application process while adding requirements.

International students in Canada are now able to apply for off-campus work permits immediately after receiving their study permit, however they must retain full-time student status.

On Jan. 1, a series of changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations under Citizenship and Immigration Canada came into effect, amending the requirements for study and work permits.

Representing international students at University Student Council, David Ogunkanmi said he hopes the University of Saskatchewan quickly aligns its policies regarding international students with those of CIC.

One such example is CIC’s removal of the requirement for students to be in good academic standing in order to receive a work permit — the same stipulations as study permits.

The U of S website for international students currently states that to be eligible for an off-campus work permit students must maintain satisfactory academic standing — undergraduate students need a cumulative weighted average of 60 per cent, master’s and PhD students need 70 per cent — and agree to let the U of S report this information to the CIC annually.

“I hope that the U of S is quick to follow suit with changes to its own requirements,” Ogunkanmi wrote to the Sheaf in an email.

The IRPR now requires international students to be enrolled at an institution and to also be actively pursuing their education or area of study, whereas before there were no requirements for a student to apply for a work permit. If a student holding a study permit wishes to be employed without a work permit, they must meet additional requirements before authorization can be granted.

There was previously a six-month-long term from when the study permit is granted to applying for a work permit. This interval has now been removed, meaning students can begin searching for employment much sooner. However, to be eligible for a work permit, they must be enrolled in a program of at least six months in duration.

Ogunkanmi said this is an amendment that will benefit international students, who face challenges of financial stability while pursuing their studies just like domestic students.

“For many students — and international students are no exception — the concern over meeting the financial requirements of living expenses as well as tuition (and for international students, tuition is at a rate 2.6 times higher than for Canadian students) is a big one,” Ogunkanmi wrote. “This may help alleviate some of that concern.”

Wenbo Fu is an international student in the College of Arts and Science. Although he did know about the previous wait-period of six months, he said he was unaware of the recent changes to study and work permits for international students.

Fu said he does not work on or off campus and doesn’t think the changes will affect him much.

Notably, Ogunkanmi related the removal of the six-month interim to the deportation story of the University of Regina students, Favour Amadi and Victoria Ordu, who after more than a year in hiding, were deported back to Nigeria for having worked off-campus without the proper work permits.

Citing awareness as an issue, Ogunkanmi said international students need to be aware of the laws pertaining to study and work permits.

“Of course, as with other newcomers to Canada, we must be diligent in helping ensure that employers are aware of the benefits of hiring international students and not taking advantage of a labour force that is unaccustomed to the rights and responsibilities of employment in Saskatchewan (and Canada),” he wrote.

The U of S currently supplies information online detailing working on and off campus and provides links to the Government of Canada websites with similar information.

However, Ogunkanmi said these sites often require indirect means of access — sifting through numerous pages before specific information is available — and that they are out of date and sometimes have broken links.

“Just as with other Canadian, provincial and local laws, it is the responsibility of the newcomer to know them, but it would be a nice service if the U of S was able to provide quicker and easier reference for new international students,” Ogunkanmi wrote.

From his experience of applying for work and study permits, Obaoya Oladipo, an international student who is in his second year of geology, said getting rid of the six-month interval has been a long time coming.

Having had to pay $150 to apply for a work permit, Oladipo would like to see the opportunity for students to be able to receive their study and work permit together as a package, saying the process would become easier for students and give them more opportunities.