Nigerian and other international students who are forced to enrol in online courses due to COVID-19 will still be eligible for postgraduate work permits, the Canadian government has announced.
Toronto star reports that the news is being welcomed by Canada’s education sector and experts, who say the move can help the country retain international students in uncertain times as borders are closed and commercial flights are reduced as a result of the pandemic.
The president and CEO of Colleges Ontario, which represents the province’s 24 public colleges, Linda Franklin, said: “This is terrific news for students and for our province. It ensures students outside Canada who want to pursue the quality programs at Ontario’s colleges will get that opportunity this fall.”
She added: “We’re grateful the federal and provincial governments are supporting us during these challenging times.”
International education is a significant source of revenues for Canada, with international students contributing $21.6 billion in tuition and spending to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and supporting nearly 170,000 jobs in 2018.
As of Dec. 31, 2019, there were 498,735 post-secondary international students in Canada, which is a popular destination because it allows international students to work part-time during the school year and grants them work permits when they graduate as a pathway for permanent residence.
Under normal circumstances, international students from government-designated schools are issued postgraduate work permits that are good for one to three years, depending on the length of their studies. However, distance learning and time spent studying outside Canada does not count.
Due to COVID-19, all post-secondary schools have moved their programmes online and Ottawa had no choice but changed its criteria in order to retain international student enrolment and save its lucrative international education sector.
The confusion and uncertainty hanging over their studies already led many current and prospective international students to put their plan on hold and delay admissions for the May/June and summer term.
Immigration policy analyst, Kareem El-Assal, said: “International students who wish to eventually apply for Canadian immigration will want to capitalize on the opportunity to complete a portion of their studies in their countries of origin, while still being able to access the same benefits (the work permits) had they been required to physically study in Canada.
“The cost to study in Canada will decline for them, since they will not have to incur additional living expenses at the outset of their Canadian education.”
El-Assal added: “The Immigration Department’s announcement will be a benefit for the slowing Canadan economy ravaged by the pandemic.
“The tuition that international students will pay will help to support jobs at colleges and universities across Canada.
“International students will support economic activity in a number of ways once they arrive to Canada, through their spending, labour, and the taxes they will pay as workers.”
The Immigration Department said international students may begin their classes while outside Canada and can complete up to 50 per cent of their program via distance learning if they cannot travel to Canada sooner.
It said students in this situation won’t have time deducted from the length of a future post-graduation work permit for studies completed outside of Canada up to Dec. 31, 2020.