In previous articles I have talked in the past about various routes to permanent residence for International Students residing in British Columbia and other parts of Canada.  For those in BC, the BC Provincial Nominee Program’s International Graduates category remains an excellent option.  And graduate students in BC should be aware that the International Post-Graduate Pilot Project has recently been extended until July 31, 2013.  

Recently, we have seen some important changes introduced to the federal government’s most popular immigration categories.  At the beginning of 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) revised the relatively new Canadian Experience Class (CEC).  When it was first introduced, it consisted of two streams, the Post-Graduate Stream and the Temporary Foreign Worker Stream, each with its own set of selection criteria.  Now, there is simply one set of criteria that apply to all applicants.  Simply put, you need to meet an English or French language standard — which is set based on the skill level of your occupation — and have completed at least one year of full-time, skilled work experience Canada (work experience gained while studying in Canada on, for example, a Co-Op or Off-Campus Work Permit doesn’t count under the CEC).  Thus, although completing a college of university program in Canada is still required to qualify for the all-important Post-Graduate Open Work Permit, this Canadian education is no longer relevant to the assessment of a CEC permanent residence application.

In mid-April, the federal government also announced the final details of the new Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program.  Starting on May 4, 2013, a new set of criteria will apply to applicants under this category, which now emphasize age, language ability, and Canadian experience.  To qualify you still need to score 67 out of a possible 100 points.  But the weighting of the six factors has changed somewhat so that younger applicants with higher levels of English or French ability are advantaged.  For the first time, a minimum threshold for language ability must be meet.  This translates to a score of at least 6.0 across the board on the IELTS test.  Also, applicants with non-Canadian educational credentials are being required to have their programs assessed by a designated third-party organization before submitting an FSW application.  Most importantly, before even being able to submit an application under this category, you must determine if you are eligible.  As of May 4th, that will mean you either have at least one year of experience in an occupation on a relatively short list of 24 occupations dominated by the engineering, IT and health fields, you have arranged employment in Canada (that is, a permanent offer of employment from a Canadian employer that typically must be vetted by Service Canada) or be studying in or recently graduated from a Canadian PhD program.

All told, CIC is only accepting 5000 FSW applications for those applying based on the occupations list (with an individual cap of 300 on each specific occupation).  

As you can see, the emphasis for those seeking permanent residence remains on those with strong existing ties to Canada:  In the case of the BC PNP, post-secondary education and a permanent job offer; in the case of the federal programs, previous skilled work experience or a permanent job offer in Canada.  As a result, the ability of international students to obtain a Post-Graduate Work Permit, which gives them the time and the legal ability to work in Canada after graduation, has never been more valuable.

Future International Students may have fewer post-secondary institutions to choose from once the federal government completes its reform of the International Student program.  As announced last December, the federal government is working with the provinces to develop a system in which only educational institutions designated by a province or territory will be able to host international students.  This change is designed to ensure that all schools seeking international students are reputable and reliable and ultimately protects students from fraud or ending up at an institution that goes out of business.   Another change would allow Study Permit holders to work part-time off campus without having to obtain a Work Permit, as is now the case.  It is expected that these changes will be implemented sometime this year but no implementation date has been announced to date.

For more information, visit www.cic.gc.ca or call J. Kenney Consulting at 604-306-6375 to schedule a free consultation.