Foreign students skip class in order to work; Immigration official blows the whistle on abuses of the federal work/study program
Canwest News Service
Monday, September 14th, 2009 | 1:32 am
With Canadas youth battling near record jobless rates, some foreign students are apparently subverting a federal program that allows them to study and work in this country, by skipping the studying part of the equation in favour of taking jobs.
A veteran Canadian immigration official in South Korea has blown the whistle on the scheme, alerting his superiors in Ottawa to reports a majority of prospective Korean students destined for private language schools in Canada do not actually attend a single course.
Instead, they use the work permits they get as part of the deal to land jobs, Martin Mundel says in a memo obtained by Vancouver lawyer Richard Kurland under Access to Information legislation.
Mundel, an immigration counsellor and program manager at the Canadian Embassy in Seoul, said work permits allow them to compete for and take jobs sought by Canadians and use that work experience to enhance their prospect of obtaining permanent residency.
“The tuition fees paid in the private language schools effectively become the cost of purchasing a work permit, the value of which has recently increased given the prospect of obtaining work despite the global economic downturn and being able to apply for PR [permanent resident] status on the basis of the work experience,” Mundel wrote.
Young Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 have been among the hardest hit by the recession. Statistics Canada says the average unemployment rate for the summer was 19.2 per cent, the second highest rate since comparable data was available in 1977.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada, alerted to the problem by Mundel in his May memo, told Canwest News Service in an e-mail it takes such allegations of fraud seriously and the government is “looking closely at this issue with a view to taking action against abuse.”
But it said education institutions in Canada are not required to report absences to the government, meaning it relies on intelligence to learn of cases of abuse. The government will take such information into consideration when study and work permit applications are submitted, it said.
Mundel said the popularity of the scheme is reflected in the significant jump in demand for internship and co-op placement in Canadian schools from less than 10 per cent of Korean university and college students in 2007 to more than 40 per cent in the first four months of 2009.
Despite the abuse, Mundel said his office remains supportive of the governments efforts to promote Canada as a destination for Korean students, who in turn wind up pumping more than $1 billion into the economy each year.
“The value to Canada of Korean students is in excess of $1 billion per year, approximately equal to the value to Korea of their automotive sales to Canada,” he wrote.
Students from South Korea a total of 13,9442 accounted for the largest number of foreigners studying in Canada last year. China was second with 13,668, according to government figures.