Canada Denies Work Permit Over Online Courses
Posted on July 22, 2015
A section of international students in Canada have been reportedly denied work permit. The foreign students at Niagara College have been “unfairly denied” permits after their graduation for the reason that they had taken online courses, which Citizenship and Immigration Canada deems as “distance learning.” Students say it is mandatory to take parts of the course through online lessons.
Niagara College, with its three campuses in Niagara Region, runs a satellite program in Saudi Arabia, offers more than 100 diploma, bachelor and advanced programs and admits 9,000 students each year. The denial of work permit has shocked the students and many are worried that they will be sent home. Their frustration is compounded by the fact that their families have incurred thousands of dollars in educating them abroad.
According to immigration lawyer Ravi Jain of Green & Spiegel LLP, who is defending more than 50 students, the difficulties are linked with applications for post-graduate work permits. Normally, foreign students are entitled to work in Canada for three years. But Jain said 30 of his clients faced rejection of work permits so far and 25 more fear such an action.
All the students are graduates from their respective home countries, including India, and have done at least one year additional education in Canada, for which they were given transfer credits. While international students have been receiving work permits in the past without any hassles upon completing the program. The sudden refusal, because some of their coursework was done online, has surprised them. The ministry says online course will disqualify applicants seeking work permit because it is “distance learning.”
These students at the Niagara College program delivered three-quarters of the course work online, besides attending the program in-class at least once a week. “We all came with a dream of getting a good education and getting work experience, and we made sure our school was recognized by immigration,” lamented Jagrit Sahni whose study visa expired in May.
Online courses are common in universities and colleges across Canada. Steven Hudson, vice president academic at Niagara College, said he was surprised that it has become a problem. “I would be very surprised if students in most programs in Ontario now, at either the college or university level, did not take online courses as part of completing their credential,” Hudson said.
Some lawyers have pointed out that despite the Immigration department’s position that its website is clear that distance learning is ineligible for post-graduation work permits, it has not defined what constitutes distance learning. Nancy Caron, spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, in a statement reiterated that students who did programs by distance learning, whether inside or outside Canada will not be eligible for a post-graduate work permit and all work permit applications are being considered on a case-by-case basis. “We continuously review our regulations and guidelines for officers to ensure they serve Canada’s best interests,” she said.
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