Canada could become less attractive to international students

Changing citizenship rule could hurt Canada’s efforts to woo foreign students, observers say


TORONTO – As more countries compete for the world’s top talent, some worry that planned changes to the Citizenship Act could hamper Canada’s efforts to woo international students, a group that contributes billions of dollars to the Canadian economy.

The changes, which are expected to become law later this year, do away with a provision that eased the path to citizenship for those who live in the country before becoming permanent residents — a rule that benefited foreign students.

“We’re taking away one of our major selling points,” said Debbie Douglas, executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

“We’re continuing to compete internationally with countries like the U.K., U.S. and Australia increasingly for talent and it makes no sense for us to take away incentives that we knew would bear fruit.”

The move seems to run counter to the government’s pledge to double the number of international students in Canada by 2022.

The impact of the change could be significant, considering the government estimates international students currently contribute more than $8 billion to the economy and support 86,000 jobs.

“We usually have laws to address a problem. I don’t know what the problem was,” Douglas said. “It was a win for Canada, it was a win for people coming here.”

Under current laws, for individuals like international students, foreign workers or live-in caregivers, every day spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident counts as a half day of residence needed for their citizenship application, up to a maximum of two years.

In addition to taking away that provision, the government is simultaneously increasing residency requirements for citizenship from three out of four years to four out of six years.

The change is raising some eyebrows as it creates a potential hurdle for those who typically make well-integrated, sought-after immigrants.

“Increasingly international students are seen as a fabulous talent pool for Canada, they’re golden immigrants,” said Jennifer Humphries, a vice-president at the Canadian Bureau for International Education.

“They can be huge contributors to the Canadian society, Canadian economy. If we create roadblocks to them, what will happen could mean that they could get their education in Canada and end up going to work in the U.S.”

In 2012 Canada welcomed a record number of over 100,000 international students. And over the last three years, more than 23,000 transitioned to permanent residency in Canada.

Observers will be watching closely to see how the changes affect future foreign students, but some who are already in the country say the new rules have put their plans in jeopardy.

Saman Maleki, who came to Canada from Iran as an international student in 2008, is one of them. The 31-year-old became a permanent resident in 2012 and was hoping to apply for citizenship this year, but may now have to wait.

He’s not alone — a petition protesting the rule change has garnered nearly 3,000 signatures and features multiple posts from those who feel the government isn’t recognizing their connection to a society in which they want to attain stable, long-term status.

“If anything I think the government should make it easier for people in my situation to get their citizenship. I want to live here, but I want to live here as a Canadian,” said Maleki, who is currently completing his PhD in London, Ont.

“I may not be a Canadian on paper but I really consider this country my home and I’d like to have the privilege to vote in the next election.”

The government says the change is meant to create a “level playing field” for all citizenship applicants.

“While it may take someone who came to Canada as a foreign student longer to meet the residence requirement under the new rules, the changes are designed to deepen their attachment to Canada,” said Sonia Lesage, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.

To at least one observer, however, the proposed changes are in line with the Conservative government’s increasingly hardline approach to immigration.

“Much of this bill is not about practical benefit. It’s about symbolic benefit to Canadians who like the idea of appearing to get tough on immigrants and go after citizens of convenience,” said University of Toronto law professor Audrey Macklin, who studies immigration and citizenship issues.

“If you look behind this to the function that was being served here, which is to recognize that people have been living, studying, working, residing and integrating into Canada, then you will see that (the change) disadvantages people who have been doing all those things without the benefit of secure legal status.”

Immigration lawyer David Cohen has already been getting calls from those troubled by the proposed changes.

“These people were able to gain a year towards their citizenship in the past,” he explained of the provision the government is doing away with. “It allowed people to plan their lives with some kind of certainty.”

In taking the long view, Cohen pointed out, however, that those affected by the change would still be able to eventually gain their citizenship, albeit after a considerably longer wait.

“It’s an inconvenience and it certainly affects people’s lives but it’s not a catastrophic or drastic change,” he noted. “It’s not eliminating anybody’s right to become a Canadian citizen at the end of the day.”


Canada could become less attractive to international students

  1. Harp never thinks things through….totally incompetent

    • Who ‘never thought things through’ was Brian Mulroney, whose government hiked the immigration intake and students’ visas, as well as brought in the terrible Investor Immigration program in the first place.

      • We should be bringing in a million immigrants a year…..we need more people.

        • Nonsense! We need to create jobs first!

          • Immigrants create jobs

          • And take jobs away from Canadians already here.

          • No, they do jobs Canadians can’t do, plus create new ones.

          • Can you give logical illustrations of your points?
            How does bringing in a cheaper labourer create jobs & wealth?

          • This is exactly how industrialization works – more people -> mass effect -> cheaper goods from automated production lines -> higher standards of living. Why is there always a price gap between Canadian/US markets? More people south of the border and so industrialization works better. Of course you have to make sure that the people we take in are educated and skillful. Unfortunately Bill C-24 tastes bitter for international students than new immigrants who have no previous Canadian experience.

  2. Canada’s universities are already overcrowded degree mills, where instructors are pressured to pass very marginally performing foreign students, because they are ‘paying customers.’ Universities are publicly-funded (i.e., by Canadian taxpayers) institutions, and we need to ensure that our students have spaces, not provide visas for foreigners, or revenue streams for administrators. It’s time to slam the door shut.

    • Any Canadian who wants to go to university can do so…..and they pay tuition.

      • Living proof.

    • ‘paying customers’? I assure you we don’t receive special treatment and I would be offended I’f I had.

  3. “The change is raising some eyebrows as it creates a potential hurdle for those who typically make well-integrated, sought-after immigrants” (Diana Mehta).

    There’s millions of other potentially “sought-after” immigrants. But that’s one of the reasons for lengthening the process, is to make becoming a citizen a little harder. It’s been just too damn easy!

    No doubt the change is “raising some eyebrows”. Who would have thought it of Canada not to let foreigners have their own way.

    • Too Damn easy? I’ve been living in Canada since 2005. I’ve spend all of my teen as well as my adulthood in Canada, I represented Canada in entrepreneurship competitions.

      I work as a COO of a company we took from 0 to becoming the fastest growing company in Canada, and you know what? I cannot apply to become citizen nor I can bring my mom to Canada. I’ve made the Canadian government literally millions of dollars, I brought a lot of prestige to my university, and hire countless canadian, and you know what? the government claiming I have not done enough for Canada is plain insulting.

      I don’t really think I have it my own way.

      • And now you’re 21?

        I’m not familiar with the process of emigrating here now. If Canada won’t accept you as a citizen could it be because of how you arrived here?

        We came many years ago, when I, too, was not yet a teenager. I applied and became a citizen after I was married, at age 20, which presumably was the age at which you applied, since you came in 2005, 9 years ago.

        I don’t know where you’re from or why you would have difficulty getting your mom over here, except you’re not a citizen, and now, Canada is making it harder for immigrants to bring their parents over here.

        The problem is not that you have not done enough, It’s that too many immigrants are doing hard to our country, in changing our culture to something else, not accepting our conditions to become citizens, being a burden on our healthcare system and so on.

        I have a tough time getting the healthcare I need – getting it recognized and getting something done about it. As long as you have money, earned in this country of ours which promotes the education and hiring of foreigners, often over training and hiring our own citizens living here already, you can get more back in healthcare and OAS and decent places to live for your elderly relatives than even some of us can.

        As long as immigrants believe they are harder working, and cleverer than Canadians here who are down on their luck, you are contributing to a negative environment for many of us. Canada is not the rich country many of you still think it is. You cannot come in here taking places that traditionally were for Canadians, and with the support of your relatives, achieve success on the backs of Canadians who already worked hard to develop our country.

        • I’m actually 24. I got the citizenship by getting a job and hard work not by getting married. Do I have to work harder than the average Canadian? I do, and I am proud of it. So according to you I should slack and be lazy so the environment is better for immigrants? I really don’t get your argument.

          • It’s not just about money, or even doing hard work. There has to be more than that for a person to be seen as a worthwhile Canadian. Even drug dealers, bringing in drugs from South America or Asia would fit into your definition. Google “strengthening canadian citizenship act”

          • But marrying someone will actually bring a lot of value? I’ve been living here for 10 years, from the Albertan Highlands to Montreal. I pay a lot of taxes, I follow the law, I create innovation, jobs, brought recognition to my university, I speak french and English, I know Vancouver better than my birth country.

            By the way, they fact that you call me drug dealer is just plain insulting, ignorant and borderline racist.

          • You need to work on your language skills. Jordan!

          • Is that the end of your argument? You will not consider me Canadian, or ignore all of my arguments because I “need to work on [my] language skills”. I am open of new ideas from different people independently of age, gender, or nationality.

            Unlike other people in this forum, I judge people based on their character, skills and reasoning not based on their language, race or religion.

          • In one post you say you are not allowed to become a Canadian citizen, in another you claim that you are. The dates and figures you gave don’t add up. You don’t say where you were from or what university you attended nor what you took there, nor where you worked.

            I won’t even begin to “consider” you a Canadian until you are, and even then, it might take time.

        • Also, as you can see from the discussion here I emigrate here as a international student.

  4. From the article: “Much of this bill is not about practical benefit. It’s about symbolic benefit to Canadians who like the idea of appearing to get tough on immigrants and go after citizens of convenience,” said University of Toronto law professor Audrey Macklin, who studies immigration and citizenship issues. End

    And some of it is to try to stop terrorists and others whose purpose for coming here is not to make Canada their home. I’m not sure why that appears to be a “symbolic benefit”.

    • You think masses of people are coming here as terrorists? You know anywhere that’s happening?

        • LOL yeah that hotbed of revolution….London Ont.

          Canada has always had homegrown radicals….from the FLQ to eco-warriors, students, anarchists etc.

          Many of them are also incompetent crackpots. Or drunks.

          It’s part of society and would continue even if we stopped all immigration….which we can’t do.

          • This one’s a doctor.

            So would rape and murder persist; nevertheless, trying ways to lessen its impact on society is important – to some people.

            If such people can be caught early, or caught. perhaps something can be done with them, such as send them to their other home land, if they have dual nationality.

          • It’s all part of society….the reason and the method don’t matter.

            Don’t use it to excuse racism and xenophobia.

  5. I’ve been living in Canada since 2005. I’ve spend all of my teen as well as my adulthood in Canada, I’ve represented Canada in entrepreneurship competitions, in 2011 I was named “Canadian Undergrad Student Entrepreneur of the Year”, so I would say I was a good student.

    I work as a COO of a company we took from 0 to becoming the fastest growing company in Canada. I cannot apply to become citizen nor I can bring my mom to Canada. I’ve made the Canadian government literally millions of dollars, I brought a lot of prestige to my university, and hire countless canadians. The government claims that I have not done enough for Canada is plain insulting. I still need to wait another 3 years to get my citizenship.

    I love Canada, but if 15 years old me would know it would take over 10 years to become a citizen I would have ended up in the U.K or US.

  6. So how the proposed Bill C-24 is supposed to solve the backlog issue? What is the cause of the current backlog? Didn’t the current government create it? Isn’t this Bill only set against talented foreign students and workers that boost Canada’s economy and inject billions of dollars in public taxes and the Canadian educational system?

    This Bill may only postpone the backlog by 2 years. With the elections coming up in 2015, I suppose this is a good way to offload the backlog onto the next ruling party, who may or may not be the Conservatives.

    This Bill is just another poorly designed paper crafted only for the next elections. It only targets good immigrants and doesn’t solve any real problem. With couple of petitions against this bill already going on the Internet, I hope there is a chance to stop the Conservatives on this one.

    • Do you know how huge some of these countries are that are wanting to ship immigrants over here because there are so many people over there?

      If we let in everyone who had potential or was a ‘good’ immigrant we would still be inundated with them, with our small population. We could end up like Britain, and it wouldn’t take very long.

      • Sue, you are talking as if your grandparents were not immigrants but built this land from the scratch. You are nothing but an immigrant yourself as well. Never forget that. Here is a quote for you; It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.
        Audre Lorde

        • It was my great grandfather who emigrated here. And at that time much of sw Ontario was sparsely inhabited.

          Your comment doesn’t even make sense. I didn’t even mention my ancestors. And I didn’t say anything about them building this land from scratch. But they were farmers, and did develop their farms from scratch, more or less.

          Don’t worry about me ever being allowed to forget I was an immigrant. When I applied for OAS – Old Age Security – I was told by the man with the foreign accent looking after my case that I was required to provide proof – the record of landing – from some 50 years ago. I graduated from high school in Canada and have the certificate for that. I married and have that also. I gave birth to my children here and have evidence of that. And I divorced, went to university here and earned a HBA and MA at universities in Ontario. Yes, I fulfilled the time limit for Canadians applying for OAS, with a residency of 45 years.

          I am far more than just an immigrant, as I said. But none of that counts to recent immigrants for whom what matters is having the right document as required by law, for those whose word is not believed.

          When you people from abroad who have come over here and think you know what a Canadian is, and how we are different from one another – not just that was are all immigrants – then maybe we can start to communicate.

          I spend 10 years abroad as an adult, and was the only member of my family required to produce a record of landing in order to demonstrate my right to the OAS. This is what you can do, ig. You tell your foreign friends that this country was started by the British and the French – in its original form. You tell them they need to know the difference between people who emigrated here 300 or more years ago and those who are emigrating here now. Tell them they have not demonstrated to me that they are worthy of being called Canadians. And neither are you!

          Don’t ever say to me that I am nothing but an immigrant!

    • By the way, you referred to the backlog. I don’t think anything can be done about that unless the govt’ takes back or cancels applications that have already been approved. But with fewer potential immigrants being allowed in – greater restrictions – the backlog will look after itself, in time.

      It’s not about postponing the backlog, as I have understood it. The backlog will continue to be worked on.

      Furthermore, you speak as though you believe the myth told to potential immigrants, that if you work hard and are smart, you can be successful in what you do here. You talk about talented students and workers. Well, we already have those here. And if our gov’t would put more money into getting them the necessary education and training we wouldn’t have to bring in so many middle class privileged immigrants to do thee work. I know you think you are better than men and women here who don’t have decent work but the reason is not that they are not capable. So, get that through your dainty brain.

  7. “The move seems to run counter to the government’s pledge to double the number of international students in Canada by 2022” (Diane Mehta).

    I think what Canada wants is not simply talented, intelligent students from abroad. They want students who aren’t simply coming here because it’s easy to get in. They want students who want to be the kind of Canadian citizens who make our country better.

    • I was interested in what type of a person you are and clicked your profile, than it forwarded me to your website.
      Here are your words;
      In 1957, when I was ten, I emigrated to Canada with my mother and my brother Michael, my father having gone beforehand to his sponsor’s home to make preparations for us. Back then, emigrants were required to have a family willing to give the newcomer a home until he was able to find a job and a home for his own family, who already would have tickets for a later passage. We were lucky that our neighbour down the road in Bratton Seymour had a sister in Woodstock, Ontario, and it was to their home.
      Yes, you were lucky that the Canadian neighbour was not a racist person as you are now. And yes, you are an immigrant.

  8. I agree that Canadian citizenship is a privilege, and its value must be strengthened. But one term in the proposed Bill is totally going the wrong way by penalizing international students.

    Think about two new immigrants: “S” comes to Canada at age of 18, spends 6 years at a university, pays triple tuition fee, learns English/French (and skiing), finds a job, works and pays tax for one year, and then files her immigration application at age of 25. “N” immigrates to Canada at age of 40. He hasn’t stayed a single day in this country before. He hasn’t paid any tax nor spent even one buck. Now guess who’ll be qualified to apply for citizenship first? The new Bill says “N”. Does this make sense?

    Amend the Bill. Keep the credits given to international students for their pre-permanent resident experience!

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