Challenges for Foreign Students in Canada in 2015

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Canada’s immigration rules are some of the most welcoming, and the opportunities for immigrants are some of the best in the world. However, moving to a new country is always testing, no matter how smoothly it proceeds. Foreign national students in Canada face a lot of challenges when it comes to adjusting to new cultures, languages and work ways.

Immigration challenges for international students

In January 2015, a new process of immigration was introduced for skilled workers called the Express Entry programme. Under this system, international graduates from Canadian universities have to compete with other skilled workers for an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for immigration, which is determined by your score under the Comprehensive Ranking System. This new system has actually made it more difficult for international students to immigrate.

Before Express Entry, the immigration process was fairly easy. After graduation, a foreign student could apply for a post-graduate open work permit. After a year of working in Canada, she could apply for permanent residence under the Canadian Experience Class. Therefore, she did not have to compete with other skilled workers for immigration.

Here’s why Express Entry is harming international students:

  • Firstly, under the Comprehensive Ranking System, international students fail to score a lot of points. Even the fact that they have a Canadian degree doesn’t help much.
  • Secondly, it has become more difficult for employers to perform a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) of foreign students because of new, more stringent rules. Even if an LMIA is performed, the students score very low as they are mostly in entry-level positions.

Because of these complications, it has become more difficult and challenging for foreign students to successfully immigrate to Canada.

Other challenges faced by international students

Recently, the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities funded a study of 48 international students and recent graduates from The University of Guelph and York University, on the particular challenges students of foreign origin face in Canada. The study is called “International Education, Future Citizens and the Labour Market: Challenges and Prospects for Ontario.”

While the study focused on students in Ontario, its findings are true for all foreign students in Canada.

  • International students have a tough time finding employment, and the jobs they manage to secure are often ill-matched with their skills and experiences.
  • The biggest barrier for these students is language ability. Even though many students are proficient in English when they arrive in Canada, they find it difficult to understand Canadian slang and idioms.
  • Next in line is the challenge of connecting with domestic students and community members. Although there are many services in place for immigrant students to connect with each other, there aren’t many that help them integrate with native Canadians. Thus, they don’t develop a sense of belonging to the community.
  • The third barrier reported by the study was the perception of being discriminated against by some professors and potential employers, because of their foreign status.

The solution proposed by the study is to provide opportunities for students to have contact with potential employers. According to Guelph psychology professor, Saba Safdar, there needs to be a specialised effort by university support staff, policy makers and private sector partners to make off-campus work opportunities accessible to international students.

What, in your opinion, can be done to make life and work easier for international students in Canada?