FILE PHOTO: BERNADA GOSPICTHE/THE VARSITY

Ontario is pausing the Provincial Nominee Program that allows international graduate students to gain Permanent Residency (PR) upon completion of their degrees.

“As a result of changes Ontario has made to more closely align the streams of the program with the needs of its labour market, the province has already received the sufficient number of [Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP)] applications to meet its 2016 federal allocation,” read a message on the OINP website. “This is further proof that Ontario remains a very sought after destination for highly-skilled workers.”

The change took effect on May 9, 2016; any applications received after 5:00 pm that day will not be considered.

A total of 1.8 per cent of immigration to Canada comes from OINP.

“A lot of the people who come here to study might not have the intention of staying, but eventually they do because they form connections, they find job opportunities, and it would be frustrating if you work here long enough, but there’s not the possibility to legally stay,” said Libby Vervain, international first-year master’s of education student at OISE.

International students tend to experience more difficulty in qualifying for all streams of immigration, such as the Express Entry system that the Harper government implemented in 2014. Under Express Entry, international students are added to a pool of all applicants and judged on work experience that does not include jobs they held while in school.

Federal Immigration Minister John McCallum has spoken repeatedly about the importance of keeping international students in Canada and creating more pathways to citizenship for international students. He acknowledged that through the implementation of Express Entry, international students are having a harder time transitioning to PR.

Sara*, an international student from Peru commented on the university’s lack of notification about the program change: “The university is really fond of bringing international students for their fees, so at least they can give back some information, especially regarding status and immigration info in Canada because as internationals we rely on the university to have official information. It really sucks that you have to hear about this news in the papers, for example.”

Vervain believes it is the responsibility of the university to control the number of international students it admits, depending on immigration regulations in Ontario at the time. “Whether it’s their intention or not to stay, it’s important for them to have the option,” Vervain explained.

“…If this was a private institution, okay, maybe I get it, you are only seeking us for the money. But this is a public institution, so they do have responsibilities for everybody who is here,” said Sara.

Upon completing an academic program in Canada that is longer than 8 months, students are able to apply for an open work permit valid for the duration of their studies, up to a maximum of three years. International students may apply for this permit once throughout their academic career.

In November 2016, OINP is expected to make an announcement regarding their plan for 2017.

*Name changed at individual’s request

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