Work rules change for int’l students

Work rules change for int’l students McGill University

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McGill Reporter
May 12, 2005 - Volume 37 Number 16
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 37: 2004-2005 > May 12, 2005 > Work rules change for int’l students

Work rules change for int'l students

International students will have more options to fund their studies and expand their experience of Canada thanks to recent rule changes brought in by the Federal government.

On April 18, Joe Volpe, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, revealed new initiatives to better integrate international students at public post-secondary institutions into Canadian society. The first initiative will allow these students to work off-campus while completing their studies. The second will offer a one-year extension on the existing year-long visa currently offered to graduating international students.

"We have been listening to our stakeholders and are certain that these initiatives will help increase the global competitiveness of Canada by attracting and retaining more international students to our schools," said Volpe.

The plight of the international student is not always an easy one. "It's already hard to be away from home," said Samuel Konig, incoming president of the McGill International Student Network. "It can take a year just to integrate into a new society." For Konig, joining the labour force is not just a means to make money: it is also part of a greater life experience.

Originally from Denmark, Konig, like many international students, struggled to find on-campus work. But with 5,958 international students at McGill this year, competition can be fierce for on-campus jobs. Frustrations swell because these students are also unable to access valuable off-campus jobs — jobs that would frequently allow them to gain experience in their own field of study. "I can't go home weekends to gain experience," said Konig.

Pauline L'Écuyer, Manager of International Student Services at McGill, illustrated this fact with law students. "There are many opportunities to work for a law firm or be assistant to a judge that many Canadians have access to. But international students can't take advantage of those opportunities and they find it frustrating."

Volpe's announcement is a welcome development for many international students. But the picture isn’t quite as rosy as it may initially appear. Some restrictions still apply in the larger Canadian metropolises, including Montreal and Quebec City, which is exasperating news for many local international students.

The two-year postgraduate visa incentive will come into effect May 16, but will only apply outside Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver to help spread the benefits of immigration to more of Canada’s regions. International students who want to work in or have graduated from schools in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver are limited in both cases to a one-year visa after graduation. According to L’Écuyer, Immigration Canada has been asked to revisit this rule. And while international students in some regions of Quebec are already enjoying offcampus work permits thanks to early pilot projects, those in Montreal and Quebec City are still awaiting authorization. "For offcampus work to be available [to international students in Canadian post-secondary institutions], each provincial government must sign an agreement with the federal government and with each participating institution in that province," said L’Écuyer. Montreal universities have not even begun this process.

The Government of Canada will invest $10 million a year for five years to support the initiatives. There is still no confirmation as to when the off-campus work will be available to local international students. "We don’t anticipate at this point that it will be available this summer," said L’Écuyer. "I’m hoping for September.” Still, international students are optimistic. "They’re excited," added L’Écuyer. "Especially the law students."

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