International students with work permits expiring this year demanding 18-month extension

“Everyone is confused what to do next,” says Montrealer Om Prasad Konda, an international student whose work permit is expiring this month. He is one of the many demanding the Canadian government extends the permits. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

Some international students whose post-graduation work permits are expiring this year are asking federal immigration minister Marc Miller to extend them by 18 months. Nearly 3,000 have signed a petition demanding this change.

Om Prasad Konda is one of them. He came to Montreal to study from India and graduated in 2020. His work permit was issued in 2021 and is due to expire at the end of January, but he lost his job last month.

He says navigating the job market during and post-COVID has been challenging.

“Two to three years we faced that very difficult situation that we couldn’t find a better job than what we have studied at the time,” he said. “Last year, we got few jobs, but even the jobs weren’t helpful for our [permanent residency] situations.

Om Prasad Konda is hoping to get an extension on his post-graduation work permit. (Credit: Alyssia Rubertucci, CityNews image)

The federal government has extended post-graduation work permits if they expired in the last three years due to the pandemic.

“The instructions and information that we have is that there will not be an extension on post-graduation work permits. The time that you got is the time that you have,” said Viviane Albuquerque, a Canada and U.S. immigration lawyer. “This was the original policy that was in place before the pandemic but the economic circumstances, the social circumstances have changed.

“Having the individual students here, they did that financial investment to be here, to study in Canada. And now they have no option to go back home because they cannot extend their work permits.”

Canada & U.S. immigration lawyer, Viviane Albuquerque. (Credit: Alyssia Rubertucci, CityNews image)

Konda says his peers whose permits expired just last month are able to benefit from the 18-month extension because it fell in the 2023 exemption. But others, like him, are facing a different situation.

“Some of them got the extension, but some of them not, but we came at the same time, the same situation, but some might leave country,” he said.

Minister Miller recently said in the next few months he’ll be looking at the possibility of putting a cap on the number of international students living in Canada.

“The overall message the government is sending with international students who are in Canada is that they are disposable,” said Albuquerque.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) tells CityNews in a statement: “The Department is undertaking a review of the program to examine how we can support international students in Canada. […] IRCC is currently looking at a number options and will continue to work closely with provinces and territories, educational institutions and other key partners to address the ongoing challenges faced by International students.”

The IRCC also implemented changes as of Jan. 1, including doubling the cost-of-living financial requirement for incoming international students, by showing they have savings of $20,635, in addition to their first year of tuition and travel costs. 

“The main intent of this change is to protect students who arrive in Canada without enough money to support themselves. International students choosing to come to this country need to be aware of the costs associated with life in Canada,” the statement reads.

In regards to demands for an extension of work permits, the IRCC says measures that allowed people with expiring post-graduation work permits to apply for an additional open work permit of up to 18 months were introduced during the height of the pandemic.

“It provided former students with the opportunity to gain the work experience necessary to apply for permanent residence after their work was disrupted by pandemic-related closures,” the IRCC wrote in a statement.

They say that the reason it was extended twice more as due to post-pandemic labour shortages.

“This facilitative measure will not be extended again, marking a return to the pre-pandemic policy that a person may only get one PGWP in their lifetime.”

The government says those with a PGWP expiring in 2024 who wish to continue working in Canada can apply for any other kind of work permit they are eligible for.

If Konda’s work permit isn’t extended, his options are staying in Canada for an extra six months as a visitor only or finding an employer soon that would extend the permit.

“There are a lot of people that are facing these issue and everyone is confused what to do next,” he said. “If I finish my work permit right now, I have to start my career again from scratch.”

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