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Ottawa offers options to international students after college strike

Last Updated Nov 23, 2017 at 10:41 am EST

Ontario’s college students may be back in the classrooms after a record breaking five-week strike but, for some, there’s still some uncertainty over their future. An international student attending Humber College told CityNews the school’s latest email was putting her in a difficult position. Part of that email she shared, read “If you withdraw, we recommend that you leave Canada.”

The student, who did not want to be identified, said she wanted to receive a full refund for the fall 2018 semester and re-enroll in 2018. But she now fears this plan may have an impact on her student visa status in Canada.

A spokesperson from Humber College said the school regrets any confusion the language may have caused, and a followup email will be sent to students on Thursday.

“The intent of the message was to provide further information to international students about the withdrawal process and how to protect their status with IRCC,” Andrew Leopold said.

“According to current IRCC guidelines, if a student chooses to stop attending classes and withdraw from his/her program, the student is required to leave the country. By not complying with IRCC guidelines, the student is risking an impact on his/her current and future status.”


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Colleges in Toronto are operating on a revised schedule, where the Christmas break is shorter and the fall semester extends into the new year, forcing a late start to the winter semester. Some international students, like the student from Humber and Nico Dedocoton, had already purchased flights back home.

“We’re in a trap, I feel like the school doesn’t want to let us go because they’re losing money,” said Dedocoton, who is enrolled in the Bachelor of Technology program at Seneca-York.

Dedocoton, who is from the Ivory Coast and told CityNews he pays $10,000 a semester, must now choose between going back home to Africa in December or continuing his studies. Though students who want to withdraw from classes will be eligible for a full tuition refund, the College Student Alliance, an advocacy group, says international students are expressing concerns over the impacts that will have on their visa status in Canada.

“What international students are hearing from their institutions is that if they withdraw for the tuition refund, they might not be eligible to stay in Canada and they might have to leave the country because they’re no longer in class,” Abdullah Mushtaq, the Director of Advocacy, said.

The province said it has been working alongside the federal government to alleviate the visa impacts the strike had on international students.

“International students are really important and are particularly vulnerable throughout this,” Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Canada, said.

“We’ve worked with federal government, the federal government has provided assurance that students who need an extension to their visa as a result of the strike will be granted that extension.”

When asked about the concerns expressed by international students, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said although it can’t provide case-specific advice, there are a number of possible scenarios for international students to consider:

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Students who continue to remain enrolled and actively pursue their studies following the strike:

“There will be no impact on the immigration status of students who, following the strike, continue to remain enrolled and actively pursue their studies at their designated learning institution. The interruption in studies caused by the strike will not affect a study permit holder’s eventual eligibility for a post-graduation work permit.”

Students who accept the refund and are enrolled at a designated learning institution for the January 2018 semester:

“There will be no impact on the immigration status of students who withdraw from the 2017 Fall semester and are enrolled at a designated learning institution for the January 2018 semester. Students will be eligible for on- or off-campus work after they resume full-time classes in January 2018. The interruption in studies caused by the strike will not affect a study permit holder’s eventual eligibility for a post-graduation work permit.”

Students who accept the refund and are not enrolled at a designated learning institution for the January 2018 semester:

“Students who withdraw from the 2017 Fall semester, and are not enrolled at a designated learning institution for the January 2018 semester, may change their status to “visitor” if they wish to remain in Canada or they may leave Canada altogether. Students who choose this option no longer meet the eligibility requirements for either on- or off-campus work or a co-op work permit, and will not be eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.”

Students who accept the refund and are enrolled at a designated learning institution for the Summer or Fall 2018 semester:

“Students who withdraw from the 2017 Fall semester, and are enrolled at a designated learning institution for the Summer or Fall 2018 semester, may change their status to “visitor” if they wish to remain in Canada. Students who choose this option no longer meet the eligibility requirements for on- or off-campus work or the post-graduation work permit program. Students who change their status to visitor will need to apply for a new study permit from abroad if they wish to return to full-time studies.”

However, if students withdraw from this semester, it doesn’t mean they will automatically be admitted into the program at a future date.

“At Humber, we are able to re-admit most students to their program of study but we cannot guarantee in which semester that will occur,” said Leopold. “While we will do everything possible to help students who want to withdraw and start their program or semester again in the future, some programs have a limited number of spaces and are only offered at certain times throughout the year.”

College students still have time to decide on their enrollment, the deadline to withdraw from lasses without academic penalty is December 5th.