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Canada eases path to permanent residency for international students

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Canada’s immigration minister announced changes this week to the scoring system used to select candidates for permanent residency
  • Under the new rules, fewer points will be awarded for qualified job offers and international graduates will receive additional points in recognition of their having completed post-secondary studies in Canada
  • The Canadian immigration ministry projects that this will increase the numbers of international students invited to apply for permanent residency by about a third

The Canadian government has announced some much-anticipated changes to its immigrant-selection system, with the goal of boosting the prospects of international students and highly skilled workers who wish to become permanent residents.

The changes to Canada’s Express Entry programme were announced on 14 November by Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum. They are detailed in the Canada Gazette, an official government record of legislative and regulatory change, and will come into effect on 19 November 2016.

As we reported last year, the Express Entry programme is effectively a selection mechanism for prospective immigrants to Canada. Under the programme, international students who have graduated from a Canadian institution are placed in a pool with other groups of skilled workers and prospective immigrants. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) then uses a standardised scoring scheme (the “Comprehensive Ranking System”) to determine which applicants to the pool will receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residency. Those who receive an ITA may then go on to complete the application process via one of several previously established immigration programmes.

The net effect of the Express Entry programme has been to place international students within a larger pool of skilled workers who are all competing for a chance to apply for permanent residency. The scoring system in Express Entry has also been heavily weighted to candidates who have a job offer that has been vetted via a federal Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or supported by provincial government nomination.

Minister McCallum set out the following changes for the programme in this week’s announcement:

  • International graduates of Canadian post-secondary institutions will be awarded 15 points for completion of a one-year or two-year programme, and 30 points for completion of degree studies at the undergraduate or postgraduate levels
  • The programme will award significantly less points for a qualified job offer: rather than the 600 points currently awarded, candidates will, as of 19 November, receive a maximum of 200 points for offers for senior management positions; all other job offers will earn 50 points

An accompanying statement from IRCC notes, “With these changes, more former international students will be able to transition to permanent residence using the Express Entry system. Former international students are a key source of candidates in Express Entry because of their age, education, skills, and experience. In addition to the time already spent in Canada, integrating into Canadian society permanently will be easier because they will have established social networks and familiarized themselves with life in Canada.”

The net result of the new scoring system is that it will place international graduates on a much stronger footing within the Express Entry candidate pool by both greatly reducing the importance of a qualified job offer while also increasing the points awarded for study in Canada.

“Our department has done simulations of what all of these changes will mean,” said Mr McCallum, who was speaking this week at the annual Canadian Bureau for International Education conference in Ottawa. “And those simulations suggest that whereas today 30% of all of the people invited to apply under Express Entry are international students, that with these changes that number will move from 30% to 40%.”

That’s a very high proportion of the total [invitations to apply to immigrate],” the Minister continued. “We’re doing this to bring a better balance to the system, evening the playing field so to speak, and making it easier for many highly skilled, highly educated candidates with good language skills and expertise, but without job offers, to get an invitation to apply… When I think of the best group in the world that would make the best future Canadians, the group that comes first to my mind is international students.”

The new scoring system announced this week also follow changes introduced earlier this year that were designed to ease the path to citizenship for international students in Canada.

For additional background on recent changes in Canadian immigration policy, please see:

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