Frustration mounts among newly graduated international students as work permit delays continue during this period of inflation and recession.
“This is just a nightmare. I feel entrapped between college and visa forums,” said Avneet Singh, an international student, as his work permit has been delayed by five months.
Avneet Singh, a newly graduated international student in the civil engineering program at Bow Valley College, has been waiting for his work permit for five months after he graduated in August 2022.
Efficient administration and the standard of living is one of the main factors that attracts international students to Canada. Singh said he had high expectations but now feels disappointed as IRCC delays his work permit leaving him in limbo.
According to a study from Statistics Canada, over the period 2008 to 2018, the annual number of new Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) holders increased six-fold, from 10,300 to 64,700. China and India have been the countries of origin of 51 per cent of all PGWP holders since 2008, but by 2018, these two source countries accounted for 66 per cent of all issued PGWPs. In addition, international students from India saw their share increase by more than four times, from 10 per cent in 2008 to 46 per cent in 2018. The reverse trend was observed for China, with a decrease from 41 per cent to 20 per cent over the same period.
As per Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), it is currently taking about 23 weeks for a new work permits to be issued from inside Canada. Maintained status, the ability to continue working while a new work permit application is in process, requires the applicant to remain inside the Canada until the new work permit is issued.
This can severely disrupt any travel plans for leisure or meeting family trips. Also, students are facing problems in finding a job here, as most of companies refuse to hire on applied work status. One needs a valid permit to keep working.
Singh decided to continue his studies after an eight year gap. He came to Canada in Jan. 2020 with a decision to continue a long-distance relationship with his family.
“I had compromised a lot; I am away from my seven-year-old child. Sometimes I just feel like, was this the right decision? Is it all worth it?” said Singh.
Singh has been away from his family from more than two years now. He is grappled with the frustration of seemingly endless wait to see his child again.
“My child cries whenever I Facetime with her. She wants me to attend her parents’ teachers meeting just like other kids’ parents do. I want my family to join me here, but I can’t do anything until I get my work permit,” said Singh.
Lack of communication and updates from IRCC during this waiting period has been maddening candidates.
Pritpal Singh, who currently finished his post-secondary education and had recently applied for work permit. He said he is already demotivated by the circumstances of previously graduated students.
“At least IRCC should communicate and give us regular updates. Such delays leave the applicants terrified and scared. I know many people that are struggling, and they don’t know what they should do about their process, about their status,” said Pritpal, another international student.
“It’s not just about getting things done, it is more about getting treated in a fair manner. We work hard as students and then we expect to get a secure spot in this beautiful country. We are ready to work even harder, but such delays are very demotivating and disappointing,” Pritpal added.
Frustrated with the backlog of open work permit applications the Canadian government is dealing with, Pritpal feels hopeless.
“With recession coming, opportunities for students are going to be reduced. It’s going to get even harder for international students. Many workers who are already at good position are getting laid off. They are going to apply for fresher jobs, which would make it tough for new graduates to enter in the field,” said Pritpal.
“I can’t even plan. I am in a dilemma. I want to get my dream job in project management and plan my career ahead, but I feel helpless. It’s costing me lot of my time. At this point I am just working a regular job. It isn’t adding to my experience as I don’t have a work permit,” said Avneet.
He added that with the passage of time he is feeling hopeless and scared about getting deported. He said he doesn’t want his compromises and struggles to go in vain.
It was very tough decision for me to start studying after eight years. Now if I had overcome that struggle and got a degree, I am here with infinite waiting time to get my work permit approved – Avneet Singh.
During this phase of uncertainty and anxiety, Dashmesh Culture Club have been a great help to him and many more international students as they offer free meals.
“We have a lot of initiatives that we are running to help people in need of food and hampers and support them during their hard time,” said Raj Sidhu, director of operations at Dashmesh Culture Centre .