Most international students get no immigration support from their Canadian college or university.
That’s the finding of doctoral student Alexandra Bozheva, who decided to find out how much on-campus help international students get with things like study permits, temporary resident visas, post-graduation work permits and the transition to permanent residency.
“The provision of service is very uneven,” she said. “Some universities have five or six (regulated Canadian immigration consultants) and some have none. What are students supposed to do, go to another school to find help?”
Fewer than a quarter of all Canadian universities and only 15 per cent of all Canadian colleges have an immigration consultant on staff, she found. Fewer than 30 per cent of Canadian colleges and universities have an immigration advisor on campus. (Immigration consultants can help with any immigration issue. Advisors cannot help students plan or apply for permanent resident status.)
Bozheva says that on-campus immigration advice is the missing link in the drive to retain international students as permanent Canadian residents.
“If we want to streamline retention of international students, we should have RCICs available to them across the country.
“Technically, universities aren’t mandated to help with retention, but they need to do this. They need to step up.”
Federal law states that only regulated consultants, paralegals and lawyers can offer immigration advice in Canada. In 2013, Ottawa warned schools, colleges and universities that they should stop helping their students with immigration issues unless they had a regulated consultant or lawyer on staff to do so. The crackdown on helping students with immigration advice came just as international enrolments began to skyrocket in Canada.
International enrolments are up 73 per cent since 2013. Currently, more than 523,175 international students hold a valid study permit to attend classes in Canada.
Some institutions responded to the crackdown by hiring regulated immigration consultants or sending school staff to train as regulated immigration advisors. Other colleges and universities withdrew completely from helping international students with immigration issues.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has said repeatedly that he wants to retain more international students in Canada as permanent residents.
Bozheva is a doctoral student in the Geography department at the University of Western Ontario. She presented her findings at the Pathways to Prosperity conference in Victoria, British Columbia, in April, 2018.
 IRCC_M_TRStudy_0006_E: Study permit holders by province/territory of intended destination, study level and calendar year, January 2015 – March 2018. This can be found on the IRCC Open Data Portal, or email [email protected] to request a copy of the original data table by email.