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Double Whammy for Indian students’ Canada dream: Housing crises in Canada and sharp dip in Visa clearance

ANM correspondent (India inputs from Binny Yadav)

An exclusive on how a cap on students’ visa due to housing crises and significant dip in clearance of visa applications majorly impacts Canadian dream of Indian students

A 42 per cent dip in the clearance of students’ visa application to Canada is a major blow to the students from India aspiring to study in Canada. Although this dip in visa clearance is attributed to various reasons after the diplomatic row between India and Canada, the recent cap on international students in Canada due to housing crises has doubled the crises for Indian students aspiring to study in Canada. According to information available on Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) portal compare to October-December 2022, 2023 there were significantly less visas applications approved.

A cap on international students to Canada, in a bid to address the housing crisis in the country by the Canadian federal government slashing it to 35 percent, will considerably impact Indian students who constitute 40% of the international student population.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller recently announced that the cap aims to limit the number of new permits to 364,000 in 2024, a substantial reduction from the 900,000 visas granted the previous year.

Housing crises impedes Canadian dream of Indian Students

While the cap impacts students worldwide seeking entry to Canada, it disproportionately affects Indian students. A significant number of these students arrive in Canada with the aim of obtaining permanent resident status post their work permits. The proposed changes also impose restrictions on the issuance of work permits for international students’ post-graduation, which has been considered a streamlined path to achieving permanent residency.

Notably, individuals pursuing master’s or post-doctorate programs will remain eligible for a three-year work permit. The housing crisis, exacerbated by the surge in international students, has seen a 7.7% rise in rents in 2023, according to a Statscan report. This situation has prompted a public outcry on platforms like Twitter or X, where individuals share their struggles, drawing attention to the challenges faced by international students.

While housing crisis within the country certainly is precarious, Brampton based political commentator Darshan Maharaja feels, it is mostly public awareness that has prompted the government to take some action. Says he, “X is flooded with people posting about their situations and the conditions these international students are living in. Today most people get their news from twitter and mainstream journalists don’t go into the root of the problem. They will talk about an individual and their problem, without analyzing the real issue.”

Managing study in Canada, a constant struggle for students

Darshan says that the problem is at subterranean level and it is multifaceted. “I am saying it is subterranean because many students are living in subhuman  conditions in basements and at times, even sharing a mattress. May be paying as much as $500 a month for just using the mattress just for sleeping. Of course, housing is a big issue and this is affecting the local population too, who have to compete with the international students.

The problem starts with the unscrupulous agents in India who promise them a seat in a college and eventually a work permit. Just last year about 700 students from India faced deportation just because one immigration agent in India gave fake admission letters to the students. After the students landed in Canada, the agent would call the students to tell them to try to gain admission in another college. It was when these students had applied for work permit, the fraud was detected. According to reports, the unscrupulous agent is still at large and might have fled India.

Federal Immigration minister Marc Miller said last week that provinces and territories would have to decide how permits are distributed in the academic institutions in their jurisdictions. Said he, “The cap is now for two years and in 2025, this will be reassessed. It’s unacceptable that some private institutions have taken advantage of international students by operating under-resourced campuses, lacking supports for students and charging high tuition fees all the while significantly increasing their intake of international students.”

Miller said that by imposing the cap, the federal government is taking action against some small private colleges. According to him, the decision will affect the hundreds of private fly-by-night colleges, whose numbers have only gone up recently.

Says Darshan, “Once these ‘fly by night’ colleges are closed, the demand for visa applications will automatically go down as most students who come to Canada are here to gain permanent resident status. Those students who are here to study seriously and who gain admission in recognized universities and colleges will not be affected as those students are here to gain education. These students are not interested in working but gaining knowledge and certificates. International students pay a very high fees, as much as Rs 1.5 crore in the 4-5 years in a recognized colleges or university. These students belong to well off families and if they come here, they are serious in studies and they have their credentials to back them up.”

It is unfortunate but true that students leaving their countries are looking for international experience and learning about different cultures. “But they land up living, studying and working with people from their own countries. A student once told me that in his class of 37 students, 24 were from Punjab and rest from Gujarat. The only person in the class who spoke English was the teacher who too later started speaking Hindi,” laughs Darshan.

Work permits a bone of contention!

When it comes to looking for work, roles are reversed, says Darshan. Instead of employers paying salaries to the employees, the employees pay up to $50,000 to the employer, so they can get work permit. “For employers, it is a win win situation. They are getting paid to have someone work for them. You go to any coffee shop or big box stores in BC or Ontario, you will find Indian students working there and this creates acrimony within the communities as those people who have been living in Canada and are Canadian citizens, are not able to get jobs as employers prefer these students.”

While international students contribute significantly to the Canadian economy, with estimates reaching $22 million, businesses warn that the cap will adversely affect them. International students make up 4.6% of the workforce, and some banks anticipate reduced investment with the cap in place. Despite potential economic repercussions, the government aims to safeguard students from exploitative practices and ensure proper support, especially in the face of population growth straining housing, healthcare, and resources. The two-year cap is envisioned as a measure to bring order and protect students from unscrupulous actors, signaling a commitment to fostering a more sustainable environment for future international students.

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