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Canada removes limit on off-campus work hours for international students

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • From 15 November 2022 to the end of December 2023 international students with off-campus permissions on their study permits will be able to work an unlimited number of hours off-campus
  • The temporary rule will also apply to active study permit holders who submitted study applications by 7 October 2022

To address acute labour shortages in Canada’s economy, the Canadian government is temporarily lifting the cap on the number of hours per week international students can work off-campus while classes are in session.

Normally, international students are allowed to work for no more than 20 hours per week off-campus during their academic term. But now, from 15 November 2022 to 31 December 2023, international students who have an off-campus permission on their work permit will not be limited to 20 hours per week.

The new rule applies not only to international students currently in Canada – but to students who have submitted a study permit application as of 7 October 2022, (provided, of course, that their application is approved).

The government estimates that the temporary lifting of the work cap will affect “more than 500,000 international students already in Canada available to potentially work additional hours,” not to mention those who will come to the country on an approved study permit applied for before the 7 October cut-off.

Students will be expected to balance their academic coursework and off-campus work. They will not be permitted to reduce their course loads or to move to part-time status. If they do, they will not be eligible for off-campus work.

Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship states:

“With the economy growing at a faster rate than employers can hire new workers, Canada needs to look at every option so that we have the skills and workforce needed to fuel our growth. Immigration will be crucial to addressing our labour shortage. By allowing international students to work more while they study, we can help ease pressing needs in many sectors across the country, while providing more opportunities for international students to gain valuable Canadian work experience and continue contributing to our short-term recovery and long-term prosperity.”

As we have written about recently, the ability to work while studying is essential for many international students this year given an affordability crisis in many countries. Typically, almost half of post-secondary international students in Canada report earning income during their studies. The temporary lifting of work caps beginning mid-November will allow them to earn more money than before.

The change does not affect international students working on-campus in Canada, as on-campus work is already not restricted in terms of the number of hours students can work while classes are in session.

Make the change permanent, say some

Some advocates are urging the government to lift caps on off-campus work hours permanently – to see the policy as addressing more than just Canadian labour supply shortages. Alistair Kirk, an international representative for Canadian Federation of Students Ontario, gave a frank interview to Canada’s CBC News:

“International students are more often than not seen as cash cows. I want the government to think about the livelihoods of international students — to know that the more unfair they treat us, the less likely we will stay to build Canada in the future.”

New pilot aims to automate processing of study permit extensions

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has also announced that it is launching a pilot project to automate the processing of study permit extensions for a small group of international students. The department’s assessment is that those types of applications are already being approved at a high rate, and therefore it makes sense to try to automate this segment of applications to free up resources to process “more complex” applications. If the pilot is successful, it will be expanded more broadly.

Canada’s immigration officials are struggling to work through a backlog of tens of thousands of study permit files, both for new students who have not yet arrived in Canada and for students who need extensions to remain legally in Canada. Frustration is incredibly high for many students whose study plans and lives have been disrupted by abnormally long wait times.

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