Friday, December 14, 2012

News Release — Making Canada’s Asylum System Faster and Fairer

List of Designated Countries of Origin Announced

Ottawa, December 14, 2012 – The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism announced today the initial list of countries whose citizens will have their asylum claims expedited for processing because they do not normally produce refugees.
“Designating countries is an important step towards a faster and fairer asylum system,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney. “It is remarkable that the European Union – with its democratic tradition of freedom, respect for human rights, and an independent judiciary – has been the top source region for asylum claims made in Canada. What’s more, virtually all EU claimants either withdraw or abandon their own claims or are rejected by the independent Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.”
In 2011, of the total number of asylum claims filed by European Union (EU) nationals around the world, over 80% of were filed in Canada, even though EU nationals have mobility rights within the 27 EU member states. The majority of EU claimants do not appear for their Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) hearing as they withdraw or abandon their own claims. Of all EU claims referred to the IRB, an independent tribunal, 91% were rejected last year.
As part of the improvements to Canada’s asylum system, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act included the authority to designate countries of origin (DCOs) – countries that respect human rights, offer state protection, and based on the historical data from the IRB, do not normally produce refugees.
The initial list of designations covers 27 countries, 25 of which are in the European Union:
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America
Additional countries will be designated in the months following the implementation of the new system, which comes into force tomorrow, December 15, 2012.
All eligible asylum claimants from a DCO will continue to receive a full and fair oral hearing on the individual merits of their claim in front of the independent, quasi-judicial IRB. The new system does not change in any respect the nature of these first instance hearings, which are conducted in a manner consistent with principles of due process and natural justice, and meet the requirements of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as stipulated by the Supreme Court of Canada in its 1985 decision R v. Singh.
Claimants from DCOs will have their asylum claim heard by the IRB within 30-45 days, depending on whether they make their claim at a port of entry or inland. In comparison, all other claimants will have a hearing within 60 days, compared to the current waiting period of 600 days. This means that all claimants will have their cases heard much faster.
Just as they do now, failed DCOs claimants will continue to have the option to seek appeal to the Federal Court to review a negative decision. However, they will not have access to the new Refugee Appeal Division at the IRB.
There will be no automatic stay of removal for DCO claimants should they ask the Federal Court to review a negative decision, which means that they could be removed from Canada while their application for review before the Federal Court is pending. In these circumstances, individuals can ask the Federal Court to stay their removal.
“In order for Canadians to continue to strongly support Canada’s tradition of providing protection to victims of persecution, they must have faith in the integrity of our asylum system,” said Minister Kenney. “With these improvements, we are ensuring that genuine refugees fleeing persecution will receive protection more quickly, while, at the same time, failed asylum claimants from generally safe countries will be removed much faster.”
To be considered for designation, a country must meet objective criteria related to the number of finalized asylum claims Canada receives from that country. For countries with 30 or more claims in any consecutive 12-month period during the three years preceding designation, quantitative criteria are used. At least 60% of claimants from the country must have withdrawn and abandoned their own claims, or least 75% of claims from a country have been withdrawn, abandoned, and rejected by the IRB.
In the case of countries with low numbers of asylum claims (i.e., no consecutive 12-month period with 30 or more finalized claims during the three years prior to designation), objective qualitative criteria are used, including the existence of an independent judicial system, recognition of basic democratic rights and freedoms and the existence of civil society organizations.
If a country meets these triggers, a thorough review is undertaken.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, recognised that “there are indeed Safe Countries of Origin and there are indeed countries in which there is a presumption that refugee claims will probably be not as strong as in other countries.” And he has recognised the legitimacy of providing expedited processing for asylum claimants from those generally safe countries.
Many developed democracies use a similar authority to accelerate asylum procedures for the nationals of countries not normally known to produce refugees. These states include the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium and Finland, among others. Some European Union (EU) states also have accelerated procedures for the nationals of other EU member states.
In fact, within the 27 member states of the EU, asylum claims from other EU nationals are considered to be manifestly unfounded. In many of these countries, claims by other EU nationals are considered inadmissible or are subjected to expedited processing. Among other things, this reflects that fact that EU citizens have mobility rights in all neighbouring EU countries.
The Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act is expected to save provinces and territories $1.6 billion over five years in social assistance and education costs.
“Canada will continue to have the most fair and generous asylum system in the world,” said Minister Kenney. “We welcome 1 in 10 of the world’s resettled refugees, more than almost any other country in the world, and we are increasing that number by 20 percent.”
Canada’s new asylum system is the result of two laws passed by Parliament — the Balanced Refugee Reform Act (June 2010) and the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act (June 2012) – which amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Strengthening Border Security

Ottawa, December 13, 2012 — In another step toward improving border security, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney and United States Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson signed today the Immigration Information Sharing Treaty, a key part of the Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan.  
“Today’s important agreement builds on our countries’ mutual efforts to protect our common borders and the surrounding perimeter, through improved screening of immigrants and visitors, before they enter Canada and the United States,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney. “Enhanced information sharing of foreign nationals will protect the safety and security of Canadians by helping us prevent terrorists, violent criminals, and others, who pose a risk, from entering Canada or the United States in the first place.”
“This important agreement is the culmination of ten years of effort to advance the security of the United States and Canada, and to ensure the integrity of our immigration and visa systems. It reflects the commitment of President Obama and Prime Minister Harper to the Beyond the Border process, which will enhance North American security while facilitating the efficient movement of safe goods and well-intentioned travellers,” said David Jacobson, United States Ambassador to Canada.
Under the Immigration Information Sharing Treaty, no information will be shared on Canadian or American citizens or permanent residents.
The historic Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan was signed in 2011 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama. The Action Plan will accelerate the vital flow of people and goods between both countries, promoting job creation and economic competitiveness, while strengthening the security of both countries.
As part of the Action Plan, Canada and the United States committed to share immigration information to improve border efficiency and security, by establishing and verifying the identities of foreign nationals, and identifying those who are inadmissible at the earliest opportunity.
The adoption of the Treaty enables our two countries to share systematically information from third-country nationals who apply for a visa or a permit to travel to either country. The Treaty also provides an additional tool for regular, systematic information sharing on inland asylum claimants, which already occurs on a case-by-case basis under an existing agreement between Canada and the United States.
Biographic immigration information sharing is set to begin in 2013 and biometric sharing in 2014.
“Increased information sharing on immigration and refugee applicants will support better decision making by both countries in order to confirm identities, and identify risks and inadmissible persons before they reach our borders,” said Minister Kenney. “The requirement to provide biometrics in our temporary resident immigration program will bring Canada in line with many of our international partners. Coupled with enhanced information sharing with the United States, our ability to screen out people who try to abuse our respective immigration programs will be significantly strengthened.”
Any information shared on travellers and asylum seekers will be handled responsibly and, as with other information sharing agreements, exchanged in accordance with relevant Canadian laws including the Privacy Act to ensure individuals’ privacy rights are considered and protected.
Even with increased information sharing, Canada retains its sovereignty in making admissibility decisions. Canadian visa officers and border services officers will continue to consider all information presented before making admissibility decisions in accordance with Canadian immigration law. 
Enhanced screening initiatives, including systematic immigration information sharing and the Electronic Travel Authorization system, were agreed to in the Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan to achieve the security and economic competitiveness goals outlined in the Beyond the Border Declaration. The Declaration articulates a shared vision in which both countries work together to address threats at the earliest point possible while facilitating the legitimate movement of people, goods and services across our shared border.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Attracting the best and brightest skilled workers

Transition to permanent residence now faster, more flexible

Ottawa, December 11, 2012 — Skilled temporary foreign workers will soon be able to transition to permanent residence faster than ever before, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today.
Beginning January 2, 2013, skilled worker applicants may apply to the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program with 12 months of Canadian work experience, a year sooner than the previously required 24 months. In addition, graduates now have more time to earn their one year of work experience – up to 36 months, compared to only 24 months previously.
“The CEC helps Canada attract the immigrants our economy requires: individuals who have valuable Canadian work experience and the necessary skills to benefit our country’s current labour market needs,” said Minister Kenney. “These skilled workers are set for success and expediting their transition to permanent residence will help Canada to respond to ongoing labour market challenges.”
This improvement makes the program more flexible for applicants, particularly for skilled worker applicants who will be eligible to qualify for permanent residency more quickly. International students will benefit by gaining more time to acquire the necessary experience to apply for permanent residency.
Through the CEC, which was created in 2008, Canada has admitted more than 20,000 international students and skilled workers. In 2013, CIC intends to accept a record high of up to 10,000 permanent residents through this program. This is a significant increase from the 2545 who were admitted in 2009.
“The government is committed to creating a fast and flexible immigration system that works for Canada’s economy,” added Minister Kenney. “The CEC has become Canada’s fastest growing economic immigration program and is part of our plan to attract the best and brightest from around the world.”
Further details about the Canadian Experience Class.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Building an Immigration System that Works for Canada

New Federal Skilled Trades Stream to Begin Accepting Applications on January 2, 2013

Mississauga, December 10, 2012 — To address Canada’s growing demand for skilled tradespersons, a new Federal Skilled Trades Program is being launched on January 2, 2013, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today.
“The new Skilled Trades Stream will help address serious labour shortages in some regions of the country, and support economic growth,” Minister Kenney said. “For too long, Canada’s immigration system has not been open to these in-demand skilled workers. These changes are long overdue and will help us move to a fast and flexible immigration system that works for Canada’s economy.”
The program criteria are built around four requirements that ensure applicants will have the right skills and experience needed to succeed here in Canada. In order to qualify, applicants will need to:
  1. have an offer of employment in Canada or a certificate of qualification from a province or territory to ensure that applicants are “job ready” upon arrival;
  2. meet a basic language requirement;
  3. have a minimum of two years of work experience as a skilled tradesperson, to ensure that the applicant has recent and relevant practice as a qualified journeyman; and
  4. have the skills and experience that match those set out in the National Occupational Classification (NOC B) system, showing that they have performed the essential duties of the occupation.
In order to manage intake, avoid backlogs and ensure fast processing times, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will accept up to a maximum of 3,000 applications in the first year of the Federal Skilled Trades Program.
Minister Kenney was joined at today’s announcement by Michael Atkinson, President of the Canadian Construction Association. “The introduction of a dedicated and streamlined program for skilled trades addresses many of the shortcomings from the current Federal Skilled Worker Program,” said Michael Atkinson. “The new program ensures greater consideration is given to the needs of industry when processing eligible immigration applications.”
“Ensuring Canada’s immigration system works for small employers in need of skilled trades’ people has been a concern for some time,” said Dan Kelly, President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “With the shortage of qualified labour in many parts of Canada growing once again, the launch of the Skilled Trades immigration stream is very welcome news.”
Eligible occupations will include electricians, welders, heavy-duty equipment mechanics, and pipefitters, among others. CIC is currently working with the provinces, territories and federal government partners on the list of skilled trades’ occupations that are experiencing acute labour shortages and which will qualify under the program. This list will be announced prior to the program opening on January 2, 2013.
The Federal Skilled Trades Program will complement other avenues already in place for skilled tradespersons to immigrate to Canada, such as the Canadian Experience Class and Provincial Nominee Programs.
“As promised in Economic Action Plan 2012, we are creating a new immigration stream to facilitate entry of skilled tradespersons,” added Minister Kenney. “The Federal Skilled Trades Program will help transform Canada’s immigration system into a fast and flexible system focused on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.”

Friday, December 7, 2012

Facilitating Travel to Canada – Canada to Begin Collecting Biometrics from Certain Foreign Nationals

Ottawa, December 7, 2012 — In order to facilitate legitimate travel, nationals of twenty‑nine countries and one territory will soon need to provide their biometrics to come to Canada to visit, study or work, under regulations proposed today by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.
“Biometrics has proven to be one of the most effective ways to identify individuals entering the country,” said Minister Kenney. “By providing immigration officials with greater certainty, biometrics will facilitate legitimate travel to Canada.”
Starting in 2013, persons from the following countries and territory who apply for a visitor visa, study permit or work permit will be required to provide their fingerprints and photograph at the time of application: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Yemen.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents will not have to submit biometrics to enter the country. Minors under the age of 14, the elderly over the age of 79, and diplomats travelling on official business and their family members will also be exempt.
Once an individual arrives in Canada, their biometric data will be checked to ensure that the individual who was approved to travel is in fact the same person who is entering Canada.
The use of biometrics as an identity management tool will bring Canada in line with many other countries that are now using, or preparing to use, biometrics in immigration and border management. These include the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, countries in the European Union Schengen Zone, Japan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia.
Accordingly, many nationals from the selected twenty-nine countries and one territory will already be familiar with the requirement. In addition, the governments of 20 of the 29 countries already collect biometrics from their citizens for the issuance of documents, such as identity cards and passports, or they plan to do so.
“Biometrics will strengthen and modernize Canada’s immigration system,” said Minister Kenney. “Our doors are open to legitimate travellers and, through the use of biometrics, we will also be able to protect the safety and security of Canadians.”
Citizenship and Immigration Canada, along with its partners, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, continue to work closely with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to ensure adequate privacy protection measures for an applicant’s personal information. Applicants’ privacy will be protected in accordance with Canada’s Privacy Act.

News Release — Facilitating Travel to Canada – Canada to Begin Collecting Biometrics from Certain Foreign Nationals

Friday, October 26, 2012

New immigration restrictions for newlyweds

OTTAWA - Some newlyweds who bring a spouse to Canada from abroad now face a new rule that the government says is designed to combat marriage fraud.
They'll have to live together in what the government calls a legitimate relationship for two years or the sponsored spouse could lose permanent resident status.
The rule will only apply to those who have been married less than two years and have no children together at the time of their application.
"We will not tolerate people who seek to abuse Canadians who've sponsored them in or violate Canada's laws and to treat marriage like some cynical, commercial transaction just to bring people into Canada into what constitutes a form of human smuggling," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in a conference call on Friday.
The rules were developed over two years of consultations during which the government heard concerns from dozens of groups that victims of domestic violence could be unfairly penalized.
The conditional status will be waived in cases where there is evidence of abuse or neglect or where the spouse already in Canada dies.
But the Canadian Council for Refugees said the exemptions won't solve the problem.
“Making permanent residence conditional for sponsored spouses gives power to the sponsor who may use the threat of deportation to manipulate their spouse," Loly Rico, the president of the organization, said in a statement. "In situations of domestic abuse or violence, this measure will be a gift to an abuser."
Kenney said he is sensitive to that criticism but also sees potential for sponsored spouses to end up as victims of human trafficking.
"Sometimes, fraudulent immigration marriage facilitates violence against women," Kenney said, citing cases of women being brought over by gangs for bogus marriages and possibly then pressed into sexual slavery.
The new rules will be complaint-based, meaning it will be up to those caught up in fraudulent marriages to report possible violations to the Canada Border Services Agency.
"The CBSA is not going to be going into people's bedrooms," Kenney said.
Officials will receive extra training on how to assess the validity of marriages, he said.
The new regulation will apply to all applications received after Friday.
It follows measures introduced earlier this year also aimed at sponsored spouses.
Those rules require a sponsored spouse to be a permanent resident for five years before they can bring a partner or spouse to Canada.
Kenney said it was too early to tell whether those new rules have had any affect.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

News Release — Canadian citizenship not for sale: Minister Kenney provides update on residence fraud investigations

The Government of Canada’s investigation into residence fraud continues to grow, with nearly 11,000 individuals potentially implicated in lying to apply for citizenship or maintain permanent resident status.
“We are applying the full strength of Canadian law to those who have obtained citizenship fraudulently,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney. “Canadian citizenship is not for sale. We are taking action to strip citizenship and permanent residence status from people who don’t play by the rules and who lie or cheat to become a Canadian citizen.”
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has begun the process to revoke the citizenship of up to 3,100 citizens who obtained it fraudulently. Minister Kenney first announced the investigations last year. CIC is working closely with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and Canadian offices abroad to tackle this fraud.
“Today’s announcement is the end-result of the hard work done by the RCMP and CBSA, and they should be congratulated for their dedicated effort in bringing these charges forward,” said Canada’s Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. “These efforts reinforce our government’s commitment to protecting the integrity of our immigration system.”
The Department has also been working on cases of those who are not yet citizens. Nearly 5,000 people with permanent resident status who are known to be implicated in residence fraud have been flagged for additional scrutiny should they attempt to enter Canada or obtain citizenship. The majority of these individuals are believed to be outside the country.
Permanent residents must reside in Canada for three years out of four years prior to applying for Canadian citizenship. To retain their status as permanent residents, they must be physically present in Canada for two out of five years with few exceptions.
In typical cases, permanent residents will use the services of an unscrupulous immigration representative to fraudulently establish evidence of residence in Canada while living abroad most, if not all, of the time. This is perpetrated so that individuals can fraudulently maintain their permanent residence status and later apply for citizenship.RCMP and CBSA criminal investigations have found that a family of five may pay upwards of $25,000 over four or more years to create the illusion of Canadian residence.
Finally, CIC has flagged the files of another 2,500 individuals where, for various reasons, there are concerns. These individuals will be watched closely should they make future applications. This makes a total of nearly 11,000 individuals tied to citizenship and residence fraud investigations.
To date, CIC and its partners have removed or denied admittance to over 600 former permanent residents linked to the investigations, and have denied about 500 citizenship applications where the applicants do not meet the residence requirements. Almost 1,800 applicants linked to the investigations have abandoned their citizenship applications as word about these investigations spreads.
“We will not stand by and allow people to lie and cheat their way into becoming citizens,” added Minister Kenney. “I encourage anyone who has information regarding citizenship fraud to call our tip line to report it. There is no time limit for investigating this type of fraud.”
Over the past six years, Canada has had the highest sustained level of immigration in Canadian history. The Government of Canada is committed to creating an immigration system that brings the world's best and brightest to Canada while protecting our immigration system against those who would abuse our generosity.
Cases involving false representation, fraud or knowingly concealing material circumstances in the citizenship process—for example, pretending to be present in Canada to meet the residence requirements for obtaining citizenship—should be referred to the citizenship fraud tip line at CIC’s Call Centre at 1-888-242-2100 (in Canada only, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. local time, Monday through Friday). Tips may also be reported by email at Those overseas can also contact the nearest Canadian visa office.
All other types of immigration fraud can be reported to the CBSA’s Border Watch Tip Lineat 1-888-502-9060. Tips accepted by the Border Watch Tip Line include, but are not limited to, suspicious cross-border activity, marriages of convenience, misrepresentation in any temporary or permanent immigration application, or the whereabouts of any person wanted on an immigration warrant.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dips welcome international education report | Embassy - Canada's Foreign Policy Newspaper

Dips welcome international education report | Embassy - Canada's Foreign Policy Newspaper

Several of the countries named in a new report as key target international student markets for Canada are welcoming the report's recommendations, which encourage Canada to boost the number of Canadians studying abroad and brand Canada via scholarships for international undergraduate students.
Diplomats from Brazil, India, and China say they were encouraged to read the 14 recommendations an advisory panel gave to the government in the panel's report on Canada's international education strategy released Aug. 14. Their comments echoed the generally positive feedback the report received from groups representing students and schools.
Piquing the diplomats' interest were proposals such as: doubling the number of international students studying in Canada by 2022; boosting the number of Canadian students abroad to 50,000 per year by 2022; federal co-funding for 8,000 new scholarships for international undergraduates to study in Canada; improved visa processing; and expanding training for Canadian embassy staff to understand what Canada's education system has to offer.
The panel, which included post-secondary school presidents and the head of Quebec aluminum producer Rio Tinto Alcan, also stated that besides maintaining recruitment efforts in "mature markets" such as the United States, Canada should specifically target markets with the biggest potential for growth: China, India, Brazil, the Middle East and North Africa, Vietnam, and Mexico.
International students represent a big business opportunity for Canada. A 2012 study presented to the government indicated that foreign students spent more than $7.7 billion, created more than 81,000 jobs, and funnelled more than $445 million into government coffers in 2010.
The panel report also noted that international students could be a great fit as immigrants for a country facing labour shortages; and if they don't stay, they act as ambassadors promoting Canada to the world.
Recognizing these potential benefits, Canada has been busy. The government assembled the panel after deciding in the 2011 budget to devote $10 million over two years to set up and implement an international education strategy.
The government named the group's members in October 2011. The panel heard from interested people at meetings across the country, and visited India and China.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper inked a bilateral education co-operation agreement with India in June 2010. During Mr. Harper's February trip to China, the two sides agreed to work toward seeing 100,000 Chinese and Canadian students study in the other's country within five years. And Governor General David Johnston led a large group of Canadian university presidents to Brazil last spring, where Canada secured its piece of a new Brazilian scholarship program. Mr. Johnston announced that 12,000 Brazilian students would study in Canada as part of the program.
The panel recommended the government develop bilateral agreements with priority countries focused on graduate education and research, and backed up with funding to make those deals a reality.
50,000 in 10
But diplomats from some of the target market countries say they were pleased to see the panel recognize that international education goes both ways. One of the few numbers-based recommendations it set was that 50,000 Canadians per year should be studying abroad within 10 years.
That led Renato Leonardi, a Brazilian Embassy second secretary who works on education, to tell Embassy by email that Brazil is encouraged not only that the panel is looking for Canadian institutions to receive more foreign students, but also for more Canadian researchers to study and work abroad.
"In our understanding, international education must be seen as a two-way street," he wrote.
Zhang Lanchun, a minister-counsellor for education affairs at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa, also noted the recommendation, in the report he called "constructive" and "positive."
Yet while Canada and China have set a goal of 100,000 students studying in each other's country in the next five years, the flow is currently "very unbalanced," said Mr. Zhang.
He said more than 70,000 Chinese study in Canada, but only more than 2,000 Canadians study in China (Canadian figures suggest more than 60,000 Chinese students attend Canadian colleges and universities).
China has more than 2,000 post-secondary schools that could accommodate Canadian students, he said. "So I think we have big capacity or great potential to welcome Canadian students to study in China," he said through an interpreter on Aug. 21.
Although 50,000 is a jump from the number of Canadians studying abroad now, Canada could go even further, said Jennifer Humphries, vice-president of membership, public policy, and communications with the Canadian Bureau for International Education, an association of educational institutions.
She also spoke for the Canadian Consortium for International Education Marketing, which represents the CBIE and school groups from elementary to post-secondary.
Although numbers are not always clear, Amit Chakma, the advisory panel chair and president of Western University, estimated that less than three per cent of Canadian university students now study abroad.
Based on her own calculations covering universities alone, Ms. Humphries said that if Canadian universities grow by 10 per cent over the next few years, 50,000 studying abroad would represent only about 3.8 per cent of the total student population. She said Canada could aim for 15 per cent.
Visa processing and scholarships
On the other side, Mr. Zhang suggested more international students, including those from China, would come to Canada if it improved student visa processing.
The panel said that while the integrity and quality of Canada's immigration system should be maintained, "[Citizenship and Immigration Canada] must be supported in efforts to ensure competitive processing times and client service in the face of growing volumes. Meeting this processing demand will put pressure on visa officers, requiring an increase in staffing levels and a need for accurate training."
Canada is the fourth top destination for Chinese students, after the US, UK, and Australia, said Mr. Zhang.
"With the assistance of scholarships to be provided by your side, as well as the visa processing improvement, I think there would be a big increase of international students, including those from China," he said, seated before a cup of tea in his office, a stone's throw away from the University of Ottawa.
Canada has in recent years seen a backlash from some countries against perceived long study-permit processing times. Saudi Arabia last year deliberately slowed the processing of Canadian visas to protest what it said were too-slow processing times of Saudi visas to Canada. Saudi students part of a Saudi government scholarship program were being affected.
Ms. Humphries said Oman used to send many students to Canada but numbers dropped off as students have the perception it takes a long time to get a Canadian study visa. In fact, wait times have improved recently, "but the perception takes forever to erode," she said.
Narinder Chauhan, India's acting high commissioner to Canada, said visa processing times for Indian students have gotten faster in recent years, and that has helped boost the numbers studying in Canada.
She spoke positively of the report overall, and echoed Mr. Zhang's comments that more scholarship opportunities would help bring more foreign students to Canada.
"We...very much welcome the fact that Canada would be increasing its international undergrad student scholarships, because that is perhaps one of the reasons why the Indian student intake in Canada has not kept pace with your southern neighbour and with some of the other countries," she said.
While school and student groups like the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and Canadian Federation of Students spoke largely positively about the report's proposals, the CFS's Brent Farrington took issue with the panel's suggestion that Canada should boost scholarship opportunities for international students rather than just lower their tuition fees.
International students pay on average between $10,000 and $15,000 more than domestic students per year, depending on the province, he said.
Will it be implemented?
Trade Minister Ed Fast accepted the panel's report at an Aug. 14 news conference, noting that his government looks forward to reviewing its recommendations.
Another government document said the Harper government would "carefully review" the panel's proposals "over the coming months," and a "formal response and implementation plan for Canada's International Education Strategy is forthcoming."
Indeed, observers are optimistic that the federal government won't just leave the recommendations on a shelf to collect dust. They sense the political will to act.
Ms. Humphries said it's positive that the trade minister launched the report with some fanfare. Plus, she said it's good that the government linked international education to Canada's prosperity; it announced the report's release at the same time it declared the start of consultations on the government's renewed Global Commerce Strategy.
"We are very optimistic that the government will take this on board," said Ms. Humphries. "And we do have two very keen ministers that struck the panel: Minister Flaherty and Minister Fast."
The Canadian Bureau for International Education called the recommendations "bold yet achievable." The panel's chair, Mr. Chakma, said stakeholders at the provincial, institutional, and association levels are aligned in their support for international education, which helps to make the report's proposals "very much attainable."
Mr. Zhang said he thought the recommendations were "practical" but will require "painstaking efforts."
The panel didn't attach a dollar figure to implementing its proposals—partly because it just didn't have the time, said Mr. Chakma.
He said the federal government has up until recently been spending about $1 million a year on promoting education abroad. Australia, by contrast, is estimated to be spending more than $20 million a year.
The panel's recommendations
• Double the number of international students choosing Canada by 2022
• Introduce an international mobility program for Canadian Students to serve 50,000 students per year by 2022
• Make internationalizing education in Canada a strategic component of government of Canada official policies and plans
• Create a council on international education and research to provide policy advice to the ministers of international trade, finance, citizenship and immigration, and industry
• Maintain and enhance the quality of the education systems and ensure their sustainability
• Focus Canada's promotional efforts on a limited number of priority markets for targeted resource allocation
• Increase marketing of Canada's brand
• Develop a sophisticated and comprehensive e-communication system that will serve as a national portal for international students interested in education in Canada
• Brand Canada through scholarships for international undergraduate students
• Regroup grants and scholarships available to international graduate students and post-doctoral fellows under one label/brand, with a focus on priority areas aligned with Canada's innovation and prosperity agenda
• Develop comprehensive and multifaceted bilateral agreements with priority countries that focus on all aspects of graduate education and research, supported by appropriate levels of funding
• Improve education visa processing to provide consistent and timely processing of high-quality candidates
• Expand and facilitate comprehensive training for embassy staff on Canada's diverse education offerings and study pathways. Training opportunities should also be available for stakeholders to gain a deeper understanding of both the programs and cultural support required by international students
• Support the expansion and promotion of the existing Canadian Experience Class program to contribute to Canada's skilled immigrant and labour market needs
—Source: Advisory Panel on Canada's International Education Strategy Final Report