The international student community at Algonquin College is expressing both hope and concern regarding the cap on study permits the federal government announced last month.
With a stated objective of closing loopholes in post-graduate work permits and the housing crisis driven by an influx of international students, the federal government plans a 35 per cent reduction in new international study visas over the next two years.
Faced with Canada’s evolving perspective on international students, shifting from a hospitable approach to imposing restrictions, some international students at Algonquin College are voicing apprehension about the new policies.
However, some students understand the federal government’s motivations and assert that Canada should have taken proactive measures earlier to address the escalating issues.
Quansheng Zhu, a 44-year-old student from China, recently completed the English for Academic Purpose (EAP) program at Algonquin College. He applied to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada to transition from a tourist visa to a study permit in mid-December, but has yet to receive any updates.
“Theoretically, there shouldn’t be any problem with my study permit. It might just need some more time. But, the trends of Canada’s immigration policies have got me a bit worried,” said Zhu. “Even if I graduate from Algonquin College in two years, there’s no guarantee the immigration folks won’t throw in new restrictions for mature international students like me.”
In December 2023, Australia’s Migration Strategy document highlighted the maximum eligible age for a Temporary Graduate Visa with work rights will be reduced from 50 to 35 in the coming future. Zhu was concerned that Canada may soon introduce visa restrictions related to the age of international students similar to those implemented by Australia.
“Even though I’m currently just about meeting the bottom line for many regulations, it could get dicey in the coming two years,” Zhu said with a resigned smile.
In reaction to the new policies, international student Shivang Bimalkumar Jani expressed understanding and support. He sees it as Canada’s proactive response to the societal challenges stemming from the significant rise in international students in recent years.
“I totally understand it, and if this initiative was started like a couple of years ago, then Canada wouldn’t be facing such a high crisis,” he said.
Jani, a second-level international student studying project management at Algonquin College, noted the dramatic changes in housing and employment that have occurred over the past year. He believes the new policies will contribute to alleviating these issues, providing a better opportunity for international students planning a long-term stay in Canada to find their footing.
“I can see the concerns of older international students about the future, but I think Canada needs a young generation with creative ideas to know about the modern world right now,” Jani said. “So, I also can understand why this kind of policy might be implemented in the future.”
Santiago Lopez Sanchez, an international student raised in Colombia, is pursuing business marketing at Algonquin College. He was told about the success he could expect in a country like Canada. “We will find jobs here,” Sanchez said people around him told him. “We will get hired.”
However, Sanchez now discovered that the reality was “not like that way as they told us.” He contends that despite the hopes of thousands of international students arriving in Canada, the reality is that there are no jobs for that many people.
“Although it will be harder for international students to come here, they will continue coming within different conditions,” Sanchez said. “But for international students like us who have already faced many challenges to be here, this policy can help us to be part of the community faster.”