Canadians understand the importance of welcoming individuals from all around the world to its provinces and territories. When it comes to international students, it will continue supporting them in various ways. As a matter of fact, Canada is a desirable destination for trade, travel, study and immigration. The country also recognizes that the prosperity and international competitiveness depend on being open to people and opportunity from every corner of the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis without modern equivalent. The actions Canada takes post-emergency can set the foundation for a sustainable growth and recovery with global opportunity in mind.
Canada’s colleges and universities can play an essential role in responding to the post-COVID– 19 crises. The network of business and community leaders who came to Canada as international students can contribute to the Canada’s economy.
Canada’s universities and colleges
Universities and colleges are already key drivers of Canada’s international agenda. In 2019 alone, international students contributed over $21.6 billion to the Canadian economy. This is more than the value of automotive parts, lumber, or aircraft exports. These contributions take place in communities all across the country, and support employment and innovation in every province and territory.
The more than 600,000 international students at the postsecondary level also bring new perspectives, ideas, and valuable networks abroad. International students become highly trained individuals who contribute to their local Canadian economies. Then they have a chance either to immigrate to Canada and join its labour market or return home with an appreciation for what Canada has to offer as a business partner.
Canada’s response to the economic impact of the crisis to date has been commendable. Still, more efforts have to be in place to ensure international students feel welcome supported. In this way, the Canadian PSE will remain competitive in these uncertain times.
Responsive study permit processing for international students
Ease of obtaining a study permit is a key factor in international student decision making. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has already shown a lot of flexibility in responding to the pandemic. However, to remain competitive, the IRCC should allow, on an exceptional basis, international students to start programs online this fall without jeopardizing their eligibility for a post-graduate work permit.
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Strengthening IRCC’s capacity to facilitate business resumption
Once health and travel restrictions start to be lifted in Canada and around the world, the IRCC must ensure that there is capacity to address large volumes of new study permit applications, quickly. Therefore, measures must be put in place now to ensure that disruptions to processing for the fall intake will be minimized.
Two-way mobility and international cooperation
It is also imperative to maintain the commitment to a national outbound mobility program for Canadian postsecondary students. This will support Canada’s goals around trade diversification, skills development and the future of work.
There are colleges and universities across Canada stepping up and supporting their communities in this time of need, donating medical equipment and retooling processes to manufacture more. There are students, recent graduates, in medical fields rushing to be of service in support of our health care systems. With the right investments, universities and colleges can also continue to play a critical role in building skills and increasing global competitiveness, helping Canada thrive in a post-COVID-19 world. Education opens doors, for students and for Canadian companies — across all sectors — looking to do business internationally. Leveraging international education, and the people-to-people ties it generates is a sound investment towards a more globally connected and prosperous Canada.