Ease up on int'l students

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

April 10, 2008 Ed Cartoon

As another academic year winds down, many graduating students will begin searching for full-time employment " the first step into adulthood.

An exciting time for many who prepare to begin the rest of their lives, but a stressful time for international students who face a tangled web of red tape trying to stay in Canada.

International students, who have studied at Canadian universities for four years, must apply for a post-graduation work permit in order to stay in Canada. In order to be granted a permit, students must secure employment in their field of study within 90 days of graduation.

If they are going to work in a major city they will receive a one-year permit, but if they are willing to work in a smaller town, they can receive a two-year permit.

It is a rigorous process, but is it fair?

It is unreasonable to expect all international students to secure employment in their field in 90 days.

As many Canadians know, finding a position in your area of study can often take a year at best; many Canadian university graduates are forced to accept a position outside their field in order to live and may not work in their field for a long time. Some, such as arts and humanities students, may never work in their field since it is not directly applicable.

Furthermore, international students face unique challenges finding employment in Canada. Many employers are reticent to hire international students since they are ineligible to work in Canada.

In other words, many employers do not understand the permit process and are scared to be embroiled in red tape, which discourages them from hiring an international student even if he or she were qualified.

The question is: should we treat international students like Canadian university students or should we treat them like immigrants?

It stands to reason international students who have studied in Canada will rank highly on the Canadian immigration points scale. They hold degrees from Canadian post-secondary institutions and in many, but not all, cases have a solid command of English and have adapted to life in Canada.

Moreover, these students will be uprooted by leaving Canada, which would translate into leaving friendships and relationships behind.

A permit process for international students is necessary to screen immigrants and ensure the people most able to contribute and adapt to Canadian society are allowed to stay in Canada, which also protects Canadian interests.

At the same time, the process as it stands is unfair.

It would be more reasonable to allow international students six months to a year to find employment with a reasonable living wage (entry-level positions average between $20,000-$30,000 a year).

Canada needs a solid base of young skilled workers to support our aging population and international students could help on this front.

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