Changes to Processing of Applications for Canadian Permanent Residence for International Students on the Horizon
It is expected that the government of Canada will soon announce changes to the processing of Canadian permanent residence applications from international graduates of Canadian study programs.
A recent report from the Advisory Council on Economic Growth — which recommended that Canada boost its immigration levels to 450,000 in order to optimize economic growth in Canada — advised that Canada welcome more international graduates as permanent residents. The Council proposed two ways to ease the pathway to permanent residence for international students in Canada: increasing the number of points allocated under the Express Entry system, and simplifying the Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process for employers who want to hire international graduates who studied at Canadian institutions.
The recommendations of the Advisory Council echo the government of Canada’s own goals regarding encouraging international students to remain in Canada after graduation. Representatives from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have frequently voiced their support for international students who wish to immigrate to Canada permanently.
John McCallum, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, was quoted earlier in 2016 as saying, “We’re going to make it easier for international students, and we’re going to reduce some of the barriers in our immigration system.”
The Express Entry selection system, introduced in January, 2015 was designed to respond to Canada’s labor market needs by selecting candidates for permanent residence to Canada who would be more likely to integrate successfully and contribute to the Canadian economy. Candidates in the Express Entry pool are assigned Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points based on civil status information, work and education history, language proficiency, and other factors. IRCC issues Invitations to Apply (ITA) to the highest-ranking candidates when it performs draws from the pool of candidates. Individuals who receive an ITA may submit an application for permanent residence to the government of Canada.
Many international students in Canada, however, find it difficult to be competitive in the Express Entry pool. Without a provincial nomination from a Canadian province or a validated job offer, many international students find that their CRS score is not high enough for them to receive an ITA. The report from the Advisory Council found that ‘the median score for international students in 2015 was below the lowest invitation cutoff score to date.’
In this regard, McCallum agrees with the Advisory Council’s report. “International students have been short changed by the express entry system,” he said, earlier this year. “They are the cream of the crop, in terms of potential future Canadians.”
Changes on the horizon
McCallum had voiced a desire to simplify the LMIA process for employers who wish to hire international graduates before the Advisory Council issued its recommendation.
“We don’t think that every immigrant needs to go through what we call a labor market impact assessment process,” McCallum has said. “We think it can be simplified. We think there are some rules which are no longer necessary.”
Currently, under the Express Entry system, a candidate in the Express Entry pool may gain 600 CRS points for a validated job offer, if their employer has obtained an LMIA to prove that no Canadian or permanent resident could do that job.
Another proposed change that would likely benefit international students and graduates is a reform of the allocation of CRS points to individuals who have studied in Canada. The Advisory Council recommended that ‘by placing more emphasis on human capital characteristics (such as age, education, language, or Canadian work experience), a greater number of highly skilled international students in Canada would qualify for permanent residence through Express Entry.’