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Feds extend 20-hour work week exemption for current international students

The Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has announced a work-week extension and other policy changes for future international students.  

Last year, the federal government paused its policy that prohibited international students from working more than 20 hours a week off-campus, instead allowing students to work up to 40 hours a week. 

It had planned to resume the policy at the end of 2023, stating on the Government of Canada’s website that the goal of the exemption was to try and address the labor shortage coming out of the pandemic. 

However, last week Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced that the policy exemption will be extended to the end of April, but only for current students. 

According to the Ministry’s website, the exemption will only apply to students already in Canada and for students who submitted their study permit on or before Dec. 7. 

When the feds announced plans to resume the workweek policy at the end of this year, international students nationwide expressed their concern about the decision. 

Selkirk College student union president Mahendra Tumar, who is from India, was one of the students who rallied the ministry to reconsider. He says that while he feels some relief by the ministry’s changes, he hopes they consider removing the 20-hour workweek policy altogether in the future. 

“We feel relaxed about the situation; at least they have noticed how big of an issue it would have been for us and that they identified that 20 hours per week is not sufficient to survive. But I hope they consider extending it beyond April 2024.” 

In addition to the workweek extension, the ministry also changed financial requirements for new international applicants. 

Until now, the cost-of-living requirement for an international student applicant was set at $10,000. The requirement hasn’t changed since the early 2000s, which the ministry states has not kept up with the inflation rate, resulting in students arriving in Canada only to realize their funds aren’t adequate to survive. 

As a result, the ministry changed the requirements to $20,635, in addition to the first year of tuition and travel expenses. The changes will be applied for applicants on and after Jan. 1. 

On the ministry’s website, Miller states that they are exploring other options to ensure international students succeed in their studies, including the potential of implementing the policy exemption permanently and investigating housing options for future international students. 

“International students provide significant cultural, social, and economic benefits to their communities, but they have also faced challenges navigating life in Canada. We are revising the cost-of-living threshold so that international students understand the true cost of living here,” he said. 

“This measure is key to their success in Canada. We are also exploring options to ensure that students find adequate housing. These long-overdue changes will protect international students from financially vulnerable situations and exploitation.” 

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