Large numbers of international students in Canada claim to have been duped by unscrupulous agents into parting with thousands of dollars in tuition for them to arrange jobs or placements at private colleges as an ‘easy’ way to work toward becoming a permanent resident, an investigation by the Globe and Mail has revealed.
According to the investigation, in some cases, students recruited by agents working with private colleges signed up for courses they “weren’t interested in” or didn’t plan to attend in order to qualify for a student work permit so they could get a job as soon as they arrived.
Instead, the students said they worked more hours than legally allowed while trying to get a Canadian employer to sponsor them, meaning they had to apply for a full-time work permit and pay fees to immigration consultants to do the paperwork.
Canada’s immigration rules currently allow international students to work just 20 hours per week while studying and provide limited opportunities to stay in the country after graduation unless they meet certain requirements and find a sponsor.
However, advocates have called for international students in Canada to be able to work more hours after an Indian student was arrested for working full-time.
A CBIE spokesperson told The PIE News that working during studies is very important for visiting students.
“We know from our latest International Student Survey that the opportunity to work while studying is a key driver for the majority (62%) of students who choose Canada,” they explained.
As part of its investigation, The Globe interviewed more than two dozen former and current international students in British Columbia and Ontario who said they felt “disillusioned” by their overall experience.
Several students said they had hoped their courses would lead to good jobs, but ended up being a waste of time and money because no Canadian employers in their fields of study were willing to hire them afterwards.
One student from India said he had paid CAD$32,500 for courses to maintain his student work permit while trying to persuade his employer to sponsor him.
“The [recruiters] make us fake promises like… you can get your work permit,” he told The Globe.
Another student who was charged $25,000 to enrol in a college in BC said she spent only a few days at her college after an immigration consultant falsely told her she didn’t have to attend her course and is now facing expulsion from Canada.
In response to the investigation, the CEO of the National Association of Career Colleges Denis Sabourin told The PIE that as an institution that represents more than 500 career colleges across Canada, NACC strongly condemns the actions of these immigration consultants.
“Our members have an unwavering commitment to quality education… and we are deeply troubled by the insinuation that this is a widespread issue against regulated career colleges or that it’s an exclusive issue affecting Canada’s private institutions,” he said.
“The experiences of the students brought forth in the report are not representative of the over 160,000 career college students across Canada. Unfortunately, we were not given the opportunity to provide fair comment on this matter.”
Sabourin added that implicating the hundreds of career colleges across the country with such actions does tremendous harm to the students and communities they serve.
“Our members…are aware of their obligation to maintain constant communication with immigration consultants to ensure prospective students are aware of their opportunities once they come to Canada,” he said.
However, immigration consultant Dave Sage told The PIE that a lot of students who apply to Canada’s post-secondary institutions are determined to work rather than study.
“I am hearing from a lot of institutions, private and public, that their schools are getting duped by non-bonafide students, and this clearly creates operational, financial, and reputation risk. One of the most common examples is students seeking refunds quickly after arrival or asking to condense their studies or study online,” he said.
Additionally, Sage said, the “thousands” of unlicensed overseas immigration consultants are perpetuating the problem.
“In our industry, we call them ghost consultants because in order to operate they leave themselves off the forms they complete on behalf of the students,” he added.