Alberta is killing one of the easiest ways for international students to immigrate to Canada.
The Alberta Post-Graduate Worker Category allowed international students to apply for permanent resident status right after graduation from an Alberta college or university. Unlike other provinces, Alberta didn’t require work experience and allowed graduates to apply with an employment offer for an entry–level job.
The old program will be replaced by a new program – the Alberta Opportunity Stream – in January. The new program eliminates all advantages for Alberta graduates.
“This may result in students either leaving the province of Alberta, for a majority of other provinces have international graduate streams, or prevent them from starting courses here to begin with,” Bree Huene, a regulated immigration consultant at the University of Calgary, wrote in an email to Polestar News.
Huene predicted the change will be particularly difficult for students who do short programs and therefore only receive a Post-Graduation Work Permit valid for one year.
“When the changes come out, students will no longer have the ‘easy route’ of applying with their Post-Graduation Work Permit alone. They will need to gain at least 12 months of full-time work experience, and, if they want to apply directly to the province, will require an LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment) – which are very complex to obtain.”
Nicole Appleton, a spokesperson for the province of Alberta, predicted the new system will be more equitable, more responsive to the economic needs of Alberta, and faster for applicants.
“We have consolidated eligibility criteria to ensure all applicants are treated equally.”
One international student at the University of Alberta said he hadn’t heard about the change, but isn’t worried about it.
Chandler Xiong, 25, expects to receive a bachelor of computer science in the spring of 2019. He chose University of Alberta because he was told of the booming economy, low tax rate and low tuition compared to other major universities. He hopes to stay in Canada and become a permanent resident after graduation.
Xiong said he knew that Alberta has a good program to help recent graduates become permanent residents, but that won’t determine if he stays in the province.
“If I can find a good job in any province, I will consider the job first,” he said.
“I’m familiar with the environment here and I will look for a job in Alberta, but many of my friends who graduated here have had a hard time finding a job. I will go where I can get a job.”
Huene said many details about the change are still unclear.
The federal government decides who can immigrate to Canada, but provinces can nominate people who will help fill local labour or economic needs. Provincial nominees are granted permanent residence in Canada as long as they pass a federal screening for things like past criminal behaviour, public health concerns or a record of human rights violations.
Many provincial nominee programs open to international students require that they work for at least one year in a job considered managerial, professional or skilled. The job category is determined by the National Occupation Classification system. However, many entry-level jobs available to recent graduates – both Canadians and international students – do not fit the definition of managerial, professional or skilled. For example, recent graduates who are hired as bank tellers often can’t use that work experience to apply for permanent resident status.
Alberta’s new immigration stream still offers an immigration path for people who are in entry-level jobs, but the applicant must work the job for at least one year, and the employer must go through a complicated process to prove that no Canadian worker was available to do the job.