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Liberals to temporarily lift cap on off-campus work hours for international students

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser, pictured at an event in June, announced the temporary removal of the cap on hours international students are allowed to work off-campus each week.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser, pictured at an event in June, announced the temporary removal of the cap on hours international students are allowed to work off-campus each week.

Photo: La Presse canadienne / Patrick Doyle

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International students previously not allowed to work more than 20 hours outside school each week

The Liberal government is lifting the limit on the number of hours international students are allowed to work off-campus each week in an effort to address Canada's labour shortage.

It's a pilot project and it will run from Nov. 15, 2022 to Dec. 31, 2023, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Friday.

International students in Canada who are authorized to work off-campus under the terms of their study permits previously were limited to 20 hours of paid work outside their studies for each week class was in session. These students could work full-time during scheduled breaks.

I don't expect that every international student is going to suddenly start working full-time hours, Fraser said. It's going to give them the flexibility to do so and it's going to help employers tap into a new pool of labour.

Fraser estimated around 500,000 students would be eligible for the program.

WATCH |  International students permitted to work more than 20 hours a week:

Canada to temporarily lift work restrictions for international students

3 hours agoDuration1:42Minister of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Sean Fraser announced authorized international students will be permitted to work more than 20 hours a week.

Student, labour groups welcome 'first step'

Advocacy group Migrant Workers Alliance for Change said in a press release Friday it has been organizing against the 20-hour work limit since international student Jobandeep Singh Sandhu was arrested in 2019 and eventually deported for working too many hours (new window) outside school.

Today's announcement isn't about labour shortage. It's about labour mobility, the alliance's organizer Sarom Rho said in a statement.

Christian Fotang, chair of the board of directors for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, told CBC News the change is a welcome first step.

Groceries are going up. Textbooks are going up. And especially for international students, their tuition has been skyrocketing more than their domestic counterparts, Fotang said.

Increasing these work hours allows them to earn more while they're studying and also provides them the opportunity to gain more work experience.

Fotang said he would like to see more changes beyond the temporary pilot program. He called on Ottawa to reduce barriers for international students seeking social insurance numbers and recognize educational extracurricular work experience under the federal government's express entry program.

Vacancies up, unemployment down

Job vacancies reached a record high in the first quarter of 2022, according to Statistics Canada. The health-care, social assistance, construction and manufacturing sectors were hit especially hard.

Rising vacancies combined with a shrinking supply of unemployed workers is posing hiring challenges for many businesses.

The labour shortage is being driven in part by Canadians aged 55 and older exiting the workforce faster than young people can replace them, economists told CBC (new window).

In the mandate letter sent by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Fraser late last year, Trudeau called on the minister to build on existing pilot programs to further explore ways of regularizing status for undocumented workers who are contributing to Canadian communities.

Fraser also announced the introduction of an automatic approval process for students seeking study permit extensions. Any applications that are denied will be reviewed by a human agent.

CBC News

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