Post-Graduation Work Permit Holders Wanting to Become Licensed to Practice Their Profession Are Thwarted by IRCC’s Rules

by Ronalee Carey Law

June 2021

Last month, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Canadian Bar Association’s Immigration Law Online Symposium.  My paper and speaking notes are available here.

My presentation focused on matters affecting international students.  Some issues I highlighted for my colleagues were:

  • Those who study for less than two years in Canada are unlikely to qualify for permanent residence.
  • International students often work without authorization after graduation, not knowing that they cannot work until they submit their post-graduation work permit application.
  • International students who study part-time are not eligible for a post-graduation work permit, even if they dropped to part-time due to a medical issue or requiring a prerequisite for mandatory courses.
  • Only a fraction of international students achieve permanent residency.

In preparing for the presentation, one issue that I needed to research and discuss with my co-presenters concerned the ability of post-graduation work permit holders to take courses and write exams required to become licensed in a profession. Unfortunately, a gaping hole exists in the rules governing studies.  Individuals in law, healthcare, and insurance and securities are impacted, including those wishing to take courses through the Investment Industry Organization of Canada (IIROC)

All post-graduation work permits state that the holder may not engage in ‘unauthorized study.’  ‘Study’ includes ‘professional training.’  To engage in professional training, either a study permit must be obtained, or the individual must be authorized to study without a study permit. 

Study permits can only be issued for studies at a designated learning institution (DLI). However, many professional associations and regulatory bodies that provide professional training and credentialing are not DLIs.  As such, a study permit cannot be obtained for their courses. 

It is possible to study without a study permit at a non-DLI if the program of study is six months or less in duration and if the studies will be completed ‘within the period for their stay authorized upon entry into Canada.’ However, most post-graduation work permit holders are granted their permits as an application to extend their stay within Canada.  Since the period for their stay was not given ‘upon entry into Canada,’ they cannot rely on this exception to the rules concerning studies.  As a result, many international students cannot complete their professional training and become licensed to practice their profession.

My co-presenter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada assured me that she would raise this issue to policymakers.  In the interim, one of my clients who plans to become a certified accountant will be leaving Ontario to study at CPA Western School of Business, as it is a DLI, unlike CPA Ontario.  Hopefully, incoming students to the Telfer School of Business at the University of Ontario will not have to make the same move.

Racism Exists in Canada, whether our Politicians Wish to Admit It or Not

by Ronalee Carey Law

May 2021

When I meet with prospective immigrants, I often ask them why they wish to move to Canada.  Their responses vary, but economic opportunities and respect for human rights are usually at the top of their lists. 

Unfortunately, this rosy picture of what life in Canada will be like is often not based on reality.  Though life in Canada is very different than in many places in the world, systemic racism still impacts the economic opportunities available to those from the global majority (considered racialized minorities in Canada).  Further, skin colour often predicts treatment by government officials, the police, and members of the community.

In 2020, an 80-year old immigrant from Vietnam was assaulted by teenagers in her community of Pembroke, located in the Ottawa Valley.   This prompted the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to interview Black, indigenous, and people of colour living in communities in the Ottawa Valley. 

Responses from the mayors of these communities were mixed.  The mayor of Pembroke admitted there was systemic racism in his community and vowed to address it.  However, the mayor in Renfrew denied the existence of any systematic racism in that community, only an hour’s drive from Ottawa, the country’s capital.  His constituents were quick to organize petitions and penned letters detailing their own experiences of racism to town councillors.  The mayor apologized for his remarks and committed to learning more about the problem.  In Arnprior, a community just half an hour from Ottawa, the mayor was found to have breached a code of conduct after having written an opinion letter to residents denying the existence of systemic racism in his community.

Racism is not confined to smaller communities in Canada.  Even in cities where populations are increasingly diverse, racism continues and is even increasing.  Data from the Ottawa Police Service for 2020 showed a rise in hate incidents against those of East Asian descent. 

I am the mother of three adopted children.  The younger two are Haitian, and the eldest is East Indian/Black.  My eldest remembers being told as a young teenager, ‘You’re pretty for a Black girl’.  My youngest, when she was old enough to go to our local shopping centre with her friends, would tell me that when she went with her white friends, there were never issues.  However, when she went with her Black friends, they would be tailed by security guards.

Recently, my youngest posted on Facebook about the impact she felt from years of microaggressions.  She wrote:

It is hard for me to express how I feel, but I need to be heard.  A lot of you may know me as someone who smiles, has a passion for cooking, etc.  This post may be shocking for some of you, and some may take it personally.  For a while now, I haven’t felt comfortable in my own skin at all.  It’s hard being a different race and for me being an African American woman is not something I’m happy about being at the moment.  I know it should be something I should be proud of.  It is extremely hard when people still make little unnecessary comments or even judge my choices such as how I wear my hair.  Judge me when you are perfect.  Choose your words wisely.  I would like the same respect as if I were your own child no matter the circumstances.  Both my parents who are Caucasian accepted me into their family.  Colour doesn’t matter to them.  But still to this day we have people who are uneducated and it’s hurtful.  A few times in my life I was scared to mention I was adopted, so I just let people assume my parents were Black.  But you know what, I’m human too.  Don’t treat me differently because of how I appear or make me feel out of place in this world.  I deserve to be here as much as you do.  I’m tired of people putting me down and because of that, not feeling okay in my own skin.  I don’t wish for anyone to feel this way.  If you can’t accept the way I feel you are free to leave, really, I don’t need that negativity in my life or around me.

This brave, strong young woman has the voice to speak up for herself.  Many others do not, especially those who came to Canada broken by war, domestic violence, political oppression, or any of the other reasons that cause people to seek asylum in other countries.

Canada needs immigrants.  We need immigrants to fill jobs, to allow Canada to grow economically, and to pay taxes to buttress our health care system as a wave of baby boomers moves into old age.  Canada hopes to bring over a million immigrants to Canada by 2023.  We must not bury our heads in the sand. Rather, we should recognize and address systemic racism in our institutions, our communities, and in our own beliefs, to make those immigrants feel as if they have come home.

Canadian Immigration Fire Sale on Now!

by Ronalee Carey Law

April 2021

In an attempt to make up for a pandemic-related shortfall of potential immigrants from overseas, the Canadian government will open temporary programs for individuals working in Canada.  There will be three streams available:

  • 20,000 applications for temporary workers in health care

  • 30,000 applications for temporary workers in other selected essential occupations

  • 40,000 applications for international students who graduated from a Canadian institution

In addition to these programs, three additional streams will be available for French-speaking or bilingual applicants.  There will be no intake caps for these streams.  Eligibility will be similar to the program for anglophones, but with the requirement of Canadian Benchmark Level 4 in French.  See essential occupations and international students.

For the healthcare and essential occupations programs, applicants must have at least one year of work experience in Canada within three years of application, and be employed in Canada when they apply (but not necessarily in healthcare or an essential occupation).

For the international students program, applicants must have completed a post-secondary program of study in Canada, and be employed in Canada when they apply.

The programs contain some innovations long requested by the immigration legal community:

  • Medical doctors in a fee-for-service arrangement with a local health authority may apply, even though they are technically self-employed. Other self-employed work will not be considered for the programs.

  • Minimum language requirements are low – Canadian Language Benchmark level 4 for the essential occupations stream and level 5 for the international graduates stream will be required. This will allow a greater range of applicants to apply.  Language tests evaluate the ability to perform well on language tests but do not necessarily reflect being able to succeed economically in Canada.  They have long caused disadvantages to those learning English or French after already having acquired several other languages. They also cause difficulties for those with learning disabilities, and for those too busy working in Canada to have the time to take test preparation courses. 

  • ‘Lower skilled’ occupations are being recognized as ‘essential’, including cashiers, pest controllers, taxi drivers, harvesting labourers, and janitors. Until now, there was no pathway for individuals with experience in these fields to apply for permanent residence.

There are a few shortfalls to this bonanza.

  • Applications will only be accepted until quotas are met, or until November 5th, whichever comes first. Those who already have completed language tests will be at an advantage. I checked both the CELPIP and IELTS websites the evening of the announcement; both were down, likely overwhelmed with people trying to book test dates.  Whether or not you will make the quota before the program closes may very well depend on if you can get a test date in time.

  • Refugee claimants need not apply. Refugee claimants are not granted ‘temporary resident status’, a requirement of the programs.

  • Those without status or outside of the restoration period (90 days of their status expiring) also may not apply. This is not a government fix to the issue of the many undocumented workers in Canada performing essential services.

  • These programs are only for those who will live outside of Quebec.

  • Graduates of private institutions are for the most part shut out.

  • This is a one-time deal. Though innovative, it is limited in scope.

This is a limited-time offer!  The sale starts May 6th.  Be sure to apply early!

Transparency and Efficiency Please:  Making the Express Entry System Work for Canada

by Ronalee Carey Law

March 2021

Last month, I told you about a historical draw from the Express Entry pool, where 27,332 Canadian Experience Class (CEC) applicants were invited to apply for permanent residence.

Unsurprisingly, thousands of people have submitted Express Entry profiles in the past weeks, hopeful that another large draw would occur.  162,120 individuals were in the pool in mid-March; only 152,714 were in the pool prior to the February draw. 

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