On January 1, new rules came into effect at the federal level concerning the permanent residency applications of international students. Previously, the application system gave an automatic leg-up to international students with Canadian work experience. Under the new regulations, however, international students will now be put in a general pool with other immigrants and will be scored according to a “comprehensive ranking system.”
In order to receive a formal invitation from the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, international students need to receive a high score on the ranking system. For instance, if the applicant is particularly skilled at a job that, according to a government assessment, no Canadian worker is available to do, they are awarded 600 points. The most recent bulk of invitations were sent to applicants who scored above 800.
Representatives from the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) have voiced concern about the attitudes of the federal and provincial governments toward international students.
“My first reaction is that it is quite unfair that that regulation would be put in place, and that [the] exception has been removed,” said SSMU VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette in an interview with The Daily.
“International students come here and make a large investment in the society and in our post-secondary education system. It is unfair that that investment of time and resources wouldn’t be recognized. It’s true that it’s really difficult for international students to be full-time students and also gain work experience, so it definitely puts them at a disadvantage, and unfairly so,” Moustaqim-Barrette said.
The new rules change only the treatment of students in the Express Entry program under the Canadian Experience Class, and does not alter provincial selection systems. Students wishing to live in Quebec cannot apply through that program, and will not be affected by the changes. However, Quebec students wishing to reside elsewhere in Canada need to use the federal system.
Currently, Quebec holds the power to declare applicants who are applying through the Programme de l’expérience québécoise as eligible for consideration for permanent residency by issuing a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ), which is similar to the Quebec Acceptance Certificate that is issued when applying for a study permit. Holding a CSQ, however, does not guarantee permanent residency, as the authority to grant it ultimately rests in the hands of the federal government.
“PGSS is involved in everything that deals with international student rights at [the] Quebec and Canadian levels. We’re going to do a bit of research on this topic,” said PGSS External Affairs Officer Julien Ouellet.
“I’ve heard of this issue pertaining to the flexibility of what international students can do in Quebec before,” said Ouellet. “Even when people want to get involved in student politics, it’s much more difficult for international students to do that, especially at [the] FEUQ [Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec] level. Because if they don’t take [an adequate] number of credits, they can be asked to leave the country. This is not something that we think is very healthy, of course. The government seems to be going in a different direction right now than what we would like the situation to be.”
In an email to The Daily, McGill Vice-Principal (Communications and External Relations) Olivier Marcil said that the federal immigration program does not apply to McGill or other Quebec universities. Pauline L’Écuyer, Director of International Student Services, echoed Marcil’s statement.
“My understanding is that the new Express Entry program does not apply to our international students who want to stay in Quebec after graduation,” L’Ecuyer wrote in an email to The Daily. “Quebec is currently conducting a consultation on the future of immigration in Quebec; perhaps this will evolve in new [permanent residency] programs.”
Forgoing the rights of international students
Pointing to McGill’s recent restatement of support for international student tuition deregulation, Moustaqim-Barrette argued that there is a trend of putting the burden of austerity measures on the backs of international students, given that it is much more unlikely that there will be high mobilization around the subject of international students’ rights.
“I think it’s a very strategic move to do. In 2012, when [the provincial government] tried to raise tuition for Quebec students, they saw these massive mobilizations – thousands of people in the streets. So it’s very strategic on the government’s part to do something like that, because they won’t see that kind of pushback [on the part of international students], and they know it,” Moustaqim-Barrette explained.
Ouellet also pointed to the difficulty of lobbying with the federal Conservative government, which tends to be unresponsive to student demands.
“We have very little [recourse] in what does not affect our members directly. When it’s something that is outside of Quebec, we have very little reach, because even the FEUQ has a hard time getting in touch with Conservative ministers and deputies,” explained Ouellet. “We’ve managed to get in touch with all three other federal political parties, but I think we meet […] a Conservative [maybe] once a year, and it’s usually very brief. It’s very, very difficult to talk to them.”