Under new rules proposed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), international students attending designated institutions would be permitted to work off-campus, without applying for a $150 permit. Though the changes remove a procedure that was troublesome, staff and students at U of T say that the CIC should also focus on other issues in international student policy, such as financial aid concerns.
Benefits of eliminating the work permit go beyond saving students the $150 application fee. International students would be more likely to find employment as they would no longer be limited to jobs on campus.
Zohair Masood, an international student from India, welcomes the changes as he was “constantly looking for jobs on campus,” but had trouble finding a position as there were “very few jobs and a lot of students were competing for them.”
Jeff Jifeng, an international student from China, said many students he knew resorted to other means to find work, because of the permit. He described how many international students he knew took jobs which paid less than minimum wage: “I once had a friend who worked in a tea shop in Chinatown for six dollars an hour with no benefits and her employer paid her in cash.”
Centre for International Experience director Miranda Cheng said students faced few issues with the permit, noting that “other than a delay in the processing time, the process is not that painful.” In fact, says Cheng, “Canada is very much at the forefront in terms of how international students have the right to work.”
Cheng and assistant director Holly Luffman emphasized that while the work permit was rarely a source of problems for students, they did face challenges with bureaucracy such as missing the deadline for renewing visas, or misunderstanding rules surrounding some of CIC’s other programs.
Both administrators and international students agree that beyond this one welcomed change, the federal government should institute other reforms that would strengthen financial aid and employment for international students.
In regard to his own experience in dealing with the job market, Jifeng said that “if the Government of Canada wanted to attract more international students, it should provide a platform designed to help them find jobs.” Jifeng also noted that many employers “prefer permanent residents, so the government should also provide some sort of incentive for companies to hire international students.”
The CIC has a different view on this matter, stating that “finding a job is the responsibility of each student who wishes to do so. Students may qualify for the on-campus, off-campus or post- graduate work permit programs.”