International Student Brain Drain

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There’s a problem with immigration in Canada, one that isn’t always talked about openly. If you were born here you probably aren’t even aware of it. If you go to school as a Canadian you probably don’t notice it either. But if you’re here on a study permit, you’ll know exactly what it is: the international student brain drain. And it’s not pretty.

Imagine a scenario if you will: a post-secondary student from abroad comes to Canada with a study permit. They spend months agonizing over a visa application, go through a rigorous background check, their families spend many thousands of dollars on tuition. International students routinely pay three times more than Canadian born students and struggle with adjusting to a new country and a new culture.

Over the time spent on a four year degree these students learn to integrate into Canadian culture. They make new friends and discover the ins and outs of a foreign education system. The students graduate and many aspire to stay in Canada and begin careers. But then the fairy tale stops and is replaced by a cold, hard reality. Many of these students can’t stay here. They have to leave and head home. Why? Because under the current immigration system, they don’t qualify as skilled workers.

“The perfect candidate for immigration in this country is someone who is twenty five years old with a university degree and ten years experience. Obviously that’s an impossibility,” says Alex Nikotina, Digital Marketing Assistant at Ashton College and an international student. Alex came to Canada nearly four years ago from Russia to attend university. Now, at the tail end of her degree, she wants to stay in Canada and work as a permanent resident but knows that it’s going to be difficult. “The way the points system for Express Entry is set up here….I don’t know. It’s not going to be easy.”

Alex’s case is not unique. In fact similar circumstances affect countless international students in Canada. Considering that Canada’s international student population has more than doubled over the past decade, this means that a substantial number of highly educated young individuals will be graduating from university with an uncertain future ahead of them. “It’s a day to day problem with me” says Alex. “The closer I get to completing my degree, the more I worry about my chances of becoming a permanent resident.”

In a big picture scenario, the difficulties had by international students vying for permanent residency translates into a brain drain of sorts, one that doesn’t bode well for the future of the Canadian economy. Because if Canada won’t take them, someone else will. And this means that a lot of bright, talented individuals who are ready, willing and able to contribute to the Canada of tomorrow might not be able to.

Ashton College is an accredited post-secondary institution offering flexible, professional education options for students and adult learners looking to enhance their skills or change careers.


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