@DouglasTodd Three reasons why rents suddenly dropped in Metro Vancouver

Very good article by Todd regarding the COVID-19 immigration related impacts on rental rates:

The advertised rent for a two-bedroom apartment has plunged by 15 per cent in the city of Vancouver, one of the biggest drops in Canada, as COVID-19 makes its bewildering way through the economy.

Many of the more than 800,000 tenants across Metro Vancouver were riveted when Rental.ca posted the city’s rent-price declines last week. The average rent demanded for a two-bedroom apartment in the city of Vancouver dropped by almost $450, to $2,478 a month.

But why, exactly, have Vancouver and Toronto and their suburbs been slammed?

“A lack of immigration, a decline in international students, a decline in short-term contract employment, and continued affordability concerns because of job losses are to blame,” said Ben Myers, president of Bullpen Research, an affiliate of Rental.ca, in a commentary.

All of which makes sense. But it needs unpacking.

Vancouver and Toronto are subject to some of the same COVID-19 forces — tremendous job loss and swelling household debt — that weakened countless rental markets in the world because of lockdown.

But Metro Vancouver and Toronto also contain some of the world’s highest proportions of foreign-born residents — immigrants and especially temporary residents, such as international students and guest workers. Most are young. And most rent.

That makes these two large Canadian metropolises more vulnerable to global migration patterns and to Canada’s clampdown on its international border, which has abruptly cut inbound flows of people to a trickle.

That lead Paul Danison, another analyst for Rental.ca, to go so far as to imagine the tenants of Vancouver and Toronto possibly being dug out of the hole they have found themselves trapped in: Rental-vacancy rates of less than one per cent.

“Imagine if you can, Toronto and Vancouver with a healthy three per cent vacancy rate, and rents falling by the end of the year rather than rising. A few months ago, that would have been laughable,” said Danison.

“But because of COVID-19, Canada will have less immigration, fewer international students and, with the border closed, not nearly as many seasonal and part-time workers. All typically are renters.”

Several factors are at play.

Tighter borders means landlords who once offered costly short-term rentals, like those on Airbnb, have been hammered in attractive cities like Vancouver, whose economies rely more than most on travellers.

Short-term rental providers have been moving their often-stylish apartments to the long-term rental market, which has been increasing supply, offering tenants more choices.

Rohana Rezel, a housing advocate and past candidate for Vancouver city council, is part of a group monitoring Craigslist and other real-estate forums. They’ve discovered short-term rentals are “collapsing” and hundreds of units are now switching to long-term rentals.

“People offering their places for rent on Craigslist are now blatantly saying it used to be an Airbnb. They’re boasting it was rated five stars,” says Rezel, who adds that many such landlords started off charging outlandish long-term rents, which they were forced to slash.

As in many cities around the world, many owners in Vancouver and Toronto are also feeling pressure to somehow off-load their homes, either because they have lost wages or are going into deeper debt. But they’re in a bind, because it’s no longer a house-seller’s market.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Moody’s and other analysts are predicting double-digit house price declines over the next year or two. So some would-be sellers are trying to wait out the downturn by renting their places, thus also increasing supply.

Thirdly, and perhaps most distinctly for a desirable cosmopolitan city like Vancouver, there are strong indications many of the region’s young temporary residents (foreign- and Canadian-born) have climbed on planes and headed home, often to live with their parents.

That means a hefty drop in demand for rental suites.

A CMHC analyst, Andrew Scott, has found an astonishing 46 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents between the ages of 18 and 44, the group most likely to rent, have been non-permanent migrants — a ratio almost unheard of in other parts of the world.

Until recently, at least 100,000 international students have been living and working in Metro Vancouver, plus another 50,000 so-called “international mobility” employees and temporary foreign workers.

“Many temporary residents just packed up and left,” says Rezel, a high-tech professional who first came to Canada from Sri Lanka as a graduate student.

Like me, when Rezel visits the city’s restaurants, pubs and cafés, he says he often asks friendly servers and others about themselves. Four times out of five such hospitality staff invariably answer that they are in Canada on study or work visas.

As colleges and universities began in March to offer their courses only on the internet and most service jobs disappeared overnight, a large portion of these intrepid young people were compelled to leave behind the country and their rental apartments. Rezel’s Japan-born wife, who is involved in her expatriate community in Vancouver, said that’s what happened in her circle, too.

Who knows when or if most of these temporary residents will return?

All of which goes to suggest Metro Vancouver’s suddenly lower rental rates are likely to remain so for at least the medium term.

Source: Douglas Todd: Three reasons why rents suddenly dropped in Metro Vancouver

No need to show proof of work permit to get CERB, Ottawa tells temporary foreign residents

Generous flexibility:

The federal government has taken new steps to make it easier for international students and other temporary foreign residents to receive emergency benefits, another sign of Ottawa’s determination to disburse the payments quickly and widely.

Such short-term immigrants need only give their word they have a valid work permit or have applied for a renewed one to obtain the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), says a memo sent this week to staff vetting the claims.

Until last Thursday, they had to email Employment and Social Development Canada an image of their valid work or work/study permit, or confirmation they had applied to renew an expired one.

But a memo sent to Employment and Social Development Canada officials handling CERB applications said that condition is waived “effective immediately” and agents “are only required to verbally obtain work permit details.”

The directive applies to everyone who claims to meet the programs other requirements and has a “900-series” social insurance number — people ranging from students to refugee claimants to temporary foreign workers and executives transferred from other countries. None are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

One source familiar with the system said people with valid permits would typically email proof within a few minutes, barely slowing the process. But now there is no way for staff to verify whether someone is in the country legally, the person said.

And if an applicant does receive the $2,000-a-month payments inappropriately and then leaves Canada, it would be virtually impossible to recover the money, said the source, who’s not authorized to discuss internal matters and asked not to be named.

Outside experts offered differing opinions, with one immigrant advocate calling it an “excellent” policy that should get important help to temporary residents faster, and an immigration lawyer saying it shows an “astonishing” disregard for taxpayer funds.

Maya Dura, a spokeswoman for Ahmed Hussen, the families, children and social devlopment minister, said such claimants “may be asked to provide additional documentation to verify their eligibility at a future date.”

“The Government of Canada will, whether it be in the upcoming weeks or at tax time next year, reconcile accounts and make sure people did not defraud the CERB,” she added via email.

Asked about 900-series residents generally, Dura provided statistics just for international students, saying 39,319 had applied for CERB through ESDC by May 18, and 30,645 have received payments so far.

The CERB program has wide support from all parties as a way to soften the blow for people left jobless or unable to find work by the pandemic and lockdowns. It provides $500 a week to people who “have stopped working” because of COVID-19, so long as they made $5,000 within the previous 12 months and did not quit voluntarily.

But there has been increasing scrutiny of the program in recent days amid revelations about how it’s being managed. Previous memos, obtained by the National Post, directed staff to approve applicants even if they see evidence of potential abuse, and even if people quit their jobs voluntarily or were fired for alleged misconduct, seemingly contrary to CERB rules.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the government will claw back unwarranted or fraudulent payments later, but had to get cheques out quickly because of the millions of people put out of work.

Sergio Karas, a Toronto immigration lawyer, condemned the latest change, saying it means even an individual who is facing a deportation order or who had already left the country could now obtain CERB.

“It’s truly astonishing,” he said. “The person could potentially be overseas if the payment is going to a Canadian bank account. That is extremely troubling.”

“That money is not free,” he added. “That money is going to have to come out of someone’s pocket at some point. It is going to be the taxpayers of Canada, citizens or not.”

But Debbie Douglas, executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, praised the policy as “an excellent move by the federal government.”

“Many of these individuals through no fault of their own are unable to have their SINs and-or work permits renewed during this health emergency,” she said by email. “At the same time many have lost their jobs or have experienced significant reduction in hours of work. Many were or are vulnerable to evictions. “

Thursday’s directive is “very useful” as it will help speed up CERB cheques for people who haven’t had time to apply for a permit renewal, said Douglas.

The memo last week notes that to be eligible for benefits like Employment Insurance or CERB a temporary resident with a 900-series SIN “must prove they are legally allowed to work in Canada.”

But “due to COVID-19 the 900-series SIN procedures have been simplified,” it said in explaining the change to requiring merely verbal proof,

The government had paid out $39 billion under CERB to more than eight million claimants by May 21.

Source: No need to show proof of work permit to get CERB, Ottawa tells temporary foreign residents

OPTing out of immigration is not an option for India or the United States

Although written for an Indian audience, given the likely significant number of Canadians studying in the US, this change, should it proceed, will have an impact on them:

Although some students return home to India after graduating, for the majority, the US academic journey is premised on continuing pursuit of the ‘American dream’. Their F-1 student visa allows a one-year (three years in case of STEM students) paid Optional Practical Training (OPT) that usually results in a full-time job, typically on an H-1B visa. Separately, tens of thousands of skilled white-collar professionals from India also come to the US on H-1B visa, for short- and long-term projects that often turn into life-long employment in the US. Over decades, these two streams have combined to form the core of a thriving Indian-American community of more than 4 million people that is America’s best educated and highest earning ethnic group.

The pandemic has not only disrupted the annual commencement ritual but also threatens to dismantle the template that led to the formation of this cohort. The destruction of the job market that has rendered some 36 million Americans jobless has all but destroyed the ‘American dream’ of millions of eventually high net worth immigrants who have made the US what it is: a rich, vibrant, innovative melting pot. Thousands of students and guest workers are currently in limbo, not knowing what the future holds, their academic planning, job prospects, and just about everything, including travel plans, on hold.

Their misery is compounded by rising nativist, xenophonic, anti-immigrant sentiment from a Trump base that sees foreign students and guest workers “stealing” American jobs. It’s an understandable sentiment in times of despair, except this was an undercurrent even before the coronavirus struck. There are other issues with this argument: The US by itself does not produce enough qualified graduates, particularly in STEM fields, to meet the needs of its industries and corporations. The reason Microsoft, Google, Apple and other companies back immigration is not because foreign workers come cheap (a fiction that ignores the fact that the labour department requires certification that they are well-paid); they do it because they need global talent.

Such a composite internationalist workforce also gives US companies a foothold into new markets. The entry of Texas Instruments, Hewlett Packard, and other companies into India in the 1980s was spearheaded by Indians working for those companies in America. This globalist engagement is lost on nativists in the US, and even in India, where for the longest time there were complaints about losing its best minds and talent before realisation dawned that “brain drain is better than brain in the drain”. India’s investment in human capital in the US and elsewhere yielded unexpected benefits, among them foreign exchange remittances that offset the $8 billion spent on foreign education and influencing global perception of India.

Of course, US nativists and critics of the guest worker visa are correct that there has been abuse of the programme. Unscrupulous body shoppers and companies have manipulated the system, and this needs cleaning up. But hosting foreign students and guest workers is a net gain for the US and for countries that send their students and workers to America. Physicist and futurist Michio Kaku calls the H-1B visa America’s “secret weapon” without which the US would be an also ran, pointing out that 50% of all PhD candidates in the US are foreign born.

The salience of immigrants has been particularly striking during the pandemic, when they have been on the frontlines. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, while 16% of the US workforce is foreign born, immigrants account for nearly 25% of physicians and dentists, 20% of engineers, 23.5% of computer specialists and almost 30% of scientists.

The skills that H-1B workers bring with them can be critical in responding to national emergencies, argues the American Immigration Council, pointing out that over the past decade eight companies currently trying to develop a coronavirus vaccine – Gilead Sciences, Moderna Therapeutics, GlaxoSmithKline, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Vir Biotechnology, and Sanofi – received approvals for 3,310 biochemists, biophysicists, chemists, and other scientists through the H-1B programme.

So opting out of immigration is not an option for the US, or for countries such as India that thrive in a myriad ways on US immigration. April was the cruellest month for travel, tourism and immigration. Rough winds did shake the darling buds of May, but may June restore reason and sanity.

Source: Darling buds of may: OPTing out of immigration is not an option for India or the United States

ICYMI: International students studying online will still qualify for Canadian work permits

Appropriate flexibility. Looking forward to reviewing monthly data on study permits to assess impact:

International students who are forced to enrol in online courses this fall due to COVID-19 will still be eligible for postgraduate work permits, the federal government has announced.

The news is being welcomed by Canada’s education sector and experts, who say the move can help the country retain international students in uncertain times as borders are closed and commercial flights are reduced as a result of the pandemic.

“This is terrific news for students and for our province. It ensures students outside Canada who want to pursue the quality programs at Ontario’s colleges will get that opportunity this fall,” said Linda Franklin, president and CEO of Colleges Ontario, which represents the province’s 24 public colleges.

“We’re grateful the federal and provincial governments are supporting us during these challenging times.”

International education is a significant source of revenues for Canada, with international students contributing $21.6 billion in tuition and spending to the country’s GDP and supporting nearly 170,000 jobs in 2018.

As of Dec. 31, 2019, there were 498,735 post-secondary international students in Canada, which is a popular destination because it allows international students to work part-time during the school year and grants them work permits when they graduate as a pathway for permanent residence.

Under normal circumstances, international students from government-designated schools are issued postgraduate work permits that are good for one to three years, depending on the length of their studies. However, distance learning and time spent studying outside Canada don’t count.

Due to COVID, all post-secondary schools from coast to coast have moved their programs online and Ottawa had no choice but changed its criteria in order to retain international student enrolment and save its lucrative international education sector.

The confusion and uncertainty hanging over their studies already led many current and prospective international students to put their plan on hold and delay admissions for the May/June and summer term.

“International students who wish to eventually apply for Canadian immigration will want to capitalize on the opportunity to complete a portion of their studies in their countries of origin, while still being able to access the same benefits (the work permits) had they been required to physically study in Canada,” said immigration policy analyst Kareem El-Assal.

“The cost to study in Canada will decline for them, since they will not have to incur additional living expenses at the outset of their Canadian education.”

The Immigration Department announcement will be a boon for the slowing Canadan economy ravaged by the pandemic, said El-Assal, director of policy and digital strategy at CanadaVisa, an immigration website run by a Montreal-based law firm.

“The tuition that international students will pay will help to support jobs at colleges and universities across Canada,” he said. “International students will support economic activity in a number of ways once they arrive to Canada, through their spending, labour, and the taxes they will pay as workers.”

The Immigration Department said international students may begin their classes while outside Canada and can complete up to 50 per cent of their program via distance learning if they cannot travel to Canada sooner.

Students in this situation won’t have time deducted from the length of a future post-graduation work permit for studies completed outside of Canada up to Dec. 31, it said.

Source: International students studying online will still qualify for Canadian work permits

Leveraging international education for a globally connected and prosperous Canada

The education industry view. Will need a major rethink of their business model’s dependence on international students. Their business case would benefit from more rigorous evaluations of the longer-term contributions, not just the more short-term contributions while at college or university:

Canadians understand the importance of welcoming individuals from all around the world to our country. Canada is a desirable destination for trade, travel, study and immigration. We know that our prosperity and international competitiveness rely on being open to people and opportunity from every corner of the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis without modern equivalent. The actions Canada takes post-emergency can set the foundation for a sustainable growth and recovery with global opportunity in mind.

We believe that Canada’s colleges and universities– and the network of business and community leaders who came to Canada as international students– can play an essential role in responding to this crisis, and in helping Canada recover and thrive in a post-COVID-19 world.

Universities and colleges are already key drivers of Canada’s international agenda. In 2019 alone, international students contributed over $21.6 billion to the Canadian economy, more than the value of automotive parts, lumber, or aircraft exports. These contributions are made in communities all across the country, and support employment and innovation in every province and territory.

The more than 600,000 international students at the postsecondary level also bring new perspectives, ideas, and valuable networks abroad. International students become highly trained individuals who contribute to their local Canadian economies, and then either immigrate to Canada and join our labour market or return home with an appreciation for what Canada has to offer as a business partner.

Canada’s response to the economic impact of the crisis to date has been commendable. Still, we need to ensure international students feel welcome and supported so that Canadian PSE remains competitive in these uncertain times and we can continue to be leaders in a global marketplace.

Canada needs:

Responsive and informed study permit processing — Ease of obtaining a study permit is a key factor in international student decision making. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has already shown a lot of flexibility in responding to the pandemic. To remain competitive, we need IRCC to be nimble and to allow, on an exceptional basis, international students to start programs online this fall without jeopardizing their eligibility for a post-graduate work permit.

Strengthening IRCC’s capacity to facilitate business resumption — Once health and travel restrictions start to be lifted in Canada and around the world, we must ensure that there is capacity to address large volumes of new study permit applications, quickly. Measures must be put in place now to ensure that disruptions to processing for the fall intake will be minimized.

Two-way mobility and international cooperation — As part of comprehensive federal government support to the Canadian postsecondary education sector, it is also imperative to maintain our commitment to a national outbound mobility program for Canadian postsecondary students to support Canada’s goals around trade diversification, skills development and the future of work.

We’ve seen colleges and universities across Canada stepping up and supporting their communities in this time of need, donating medical equipment and retooling processes to manufacture more. We’ve seen our students, recent graduates, in medical fields rushing to be of service in support of our health care systems. With the right investments, universities and colleges can also continue to play a critical role in building skills and increasing global competitiveness, helping Canada thrive in a post-COVID-19 world. Education opens doors, for students and for Canadian companies — across all sectors — looking to do business internationally. Leveraging international education, and the people-to-people ties it generates is a sound investment towards a more globally connected and prosperous Canada.

Source: Leveraging international education for a globally connected and prosperous Canada

They hoped for jobs and to immigrate to Canada. For international students, the pandemic has dimmed that hope

Will be interesting if the government relaxes the one-year requirement given COVID-19 and if so, how and under what conditions:

The dream of becoming a Canadian was within reach for Joyce de Paula until COVID-19 hit in March. All she needed was four more months.

Instead, that dream is now shattered after she was laid off as a marketing analyst, just four months shy of the one year of Canadian work experience she required to be eligible for permanent residence in Canada.

The Brazilian woman is among tens of thousands of former international students whose immigration plans are now in limbo because they are running out of time to secure a job in the midst of massive layoffs and an economic slowdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of us, but there is nothing we can do,” lamented de Paula, 28, who graduated from Centennial College with a postgraduate certificate in market research and analytics last May before landing a 12-month contract with Dufflet Pastries in July.

Studying in Canada has become a shortcut to immigration in recent years, with Ottawa putting more emphasis on Canadian education and work experience in the selection process.

Those who graduate from a Canadian college or university are granted a postgraduate work permit that lasts between one and three years, depending on the duration of their academic programs.

Immigration candidates must have at least one year of Canadian work experience before their work permits expire in order to get the bonus points for their applications. Anything short of that threshold won’t count.

Attaining the coveted permanent residence status should have been smooth sailing for de Paula, who would’ve had her 12-month experience under her belt when her work permit expires in August.

“It’s so hard to get any job now. Who is going to hire someone with a work permit expiring in four months?” asked de Paula, who has started an online petition urging Ottawa to extend the postgrad work permits of international graduates affected by COVID-19. The petition has already collected more than 1,270 signatures.

Phil Lao, who just finished the one-year construction project management postgrad program at London’s Fanshawe College in April, said the window for getting a relevant job in his field is narrowing.

“For many of the international students, our end goal is permanent residence. This is very disconcerting and we need more time to wait out the storm,” said the 29-year-old, who has an undergrad degree in architecture from the Philippines and earlier this month started working in a factory assembling respiratory equipment like nebulizers and inhalers. “This is so stressful.”

The pandemic has also wreaked havoc for international students seeking internship opportunities, which many had hoped could lead to jobs upon graduation.

Ashton Samson, also from the Philippines, was supposed to start a placement at a visual effects studio in Toronto in late March, but it was cancelled. Now, he has finished the visual effects and editing for contemporary media program at Fanshawe without any Canadian experience.

He said most productions have shut down their offices and there are few job openings even in graphic design, something he used to do in the Philippines.

Some graduating international students have chosen to take more courses or enrol in another program to buy time to delay applying for a postgrad work permit, but Samson said he has already spent $28,000 studying here — including $17,000 in tuition — and has no money left.

“The pressure is immense,” said the 24-year-old. “We have invested so much in this country that we hope Canada can see our effort and help us in any way it can. We just need to buy more time.”

Marcelo Moraes, who completed his postgrad certificate in digital media content strategy at Humber College in April, was fortunate enough to secure a paid co-op placement at the school, but said trying to find a job will be a tall order even after the pandemic is over, let alone for someone on a work permit.

“I have sent out more than 70 resumes. Everyone is putting their hirings on hold,” said the 46-year-old Brazilian, who has years of experience in assessing, implementing and managing media content strategies. “It’s a challenging job market. COVID just makes everything that much more difficult.”

For Meenal Devgan, going back to school is not an option because she is already on her work permit, which is only given out to an international student once.

The 28-year-old, who has a degree in legal studies from India, enrolled in the human resources management program at Conestoga College in Kitchener in 2018 and started a job as a restaurant supervisor last August before her layoff on March 22. She has since applied to 100 jobs, but is still unemployed.

“This is a big deal for our future. It is not our fault that businesses are closed,” said Devgan, whose work permit expires in August. “A lot of people are in the same boat. We have no options. I just hope immigration (officials) can count our layoff time toward our permanent residence applications.”

Source: They hoped for jobs and to immigrate to Canada. For international students, the pandemic has dimmed that hope

Douglas Todd: COVID-19 lockdown triggers foreign-student flight from Canada

Good article by Todd and likely more realistic than the overly optimistic International students determined to study in Canada despite coronavirus, with some initial data highlighting the difficulties facing the current business models of universities:

Jenny Kwak, an international student from South Korea, remembers in March how four of five young people in her university dorm packed their luggage and just disappeared.

“They went home to China, India, the Philippines, Brazil, the U.S. — you name it,” said Kwak, a 21-year-old arts student interviewed on the large empty campus of the University of B.C., which last year enrolled more than 17,000 international students.

It’s hard to forecast how many international students will return, either to Canada or other nations. But the mass exodus of foreign students is brewing into a crisis for colleges and universities in the West that rely on their high fees to hire faculty and staff and construct new edifices.There were 642,000 foreign students in Canada at the end of 2019, double the number of five years earlier. International students account for 20 per cent of post-secondary enrolment in Canada, where many politicians view them as essential to the country’s economic expansion.

Foreign-students programs around the Western world will take “a massive hit” from the coronavirus, says Oxford University professor Simon Marginson, director of the Centre for Global Higher Education.

Post-secondary schools can expect at least 12 months of “abnormal conditions” from the COVID-19 pandemic, with at least five years before global student mobility recovers, says Marginson, whose centre is a partnership of 14 major universities.

Many smaller private colleges, especially those that rely almost entirely on foreign-student fees, will likely collapse, predict higher education specialists Philip Altbach, of Boston College, and Hans de Wit, from the Netherlands. Large respected universities, many of which continue to draw taxpayers’ dollars, will likely survive.

Even though the state of affairs will be different for each nation, Altbach and de Wit say global competition will become fiercer for what will remain of what was until last year the 5.2 million students studying abroad, the largest cohort coming from China.

There are lessons to be culled from the contrasting ways the leaders of Canada and Australia — which take in the most foreign students per capita, including from China — are responding to the dramatic exit of so many.While Canada’s immigration department and schools are not providing much information on how many foreign students have left or may not come back because of the pandemic, Australia’s politicians are more frank. They say many of the 720,000 foreign students in the country have left, in droves.Australia’s acting immigration minister says 300,000 people on study visas (and temporary work visas) departed since January. And a former senior immigration official in Australia, Abul Rizvi, predicts one-quarter more foreign students and workers will depart by year’s end.

It’s not surprising. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told non-Australians to return to their home countries if they could not financially support themselves during the coronavirus crisis. Like most nations, he did not offer wage subsidies to foreign nationals.Politicians in Australia and elsewhere are worried international students will compete for jobs with the millions of citizens who have been frozen out of work due to COVID-19. And a segment of Australians appreciate the departure of many could lead to reduced house and rental costs.In contrast, Canada is more generous to foreign students.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has quietly confirmed foreign students with a SIN number can apply for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which gives up to $2,000 a month to residents of Canada who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19.The government also removed the 20-hour-per-week limit on how much international students could work during their term. Ottawa will now allow them to work unlimited hours if it is with an essential service. In B.C., foreign students also receive subsidized government medical care.Unfortunately, in Canada it’s almost impossible to obtain solid data on how many students have left Canada or don’t intend to return. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told Postmedia it doesn’t keep “exit” information. And media officials from both UBC and Simon Fraser University said their numbers don’t indicate any change, adding they won’t speculate about the fall.

Canada stopped issuing study visas on March 18, but will let anyone who had a visa before then return. The only data the immigration department offered about how COVID-19 has affected study visa holders comes from before Canada locked down.That data shows, during January and February, when COVID-19 was exploding out of Wuhan in China, the number of students from China applying for Canadian study visas dropped by almost half — to 5,164 from 9,495, compared to the same period a year earlier. Applications from South Korean also fell sharply.The decline in study visa applications is a sign of a more permanent trend for the next five years, according to Marginson. He warned student movement patterns will shift for East Asians, with fewer opting for North America, Western Europe, the U.K. and Australia — and more deciding to stay closer to home and study in Japan, South Korea or China.

How Canada and Australia will handle their foreign-student relationship with East Asian countries, especially China, will be telling. At the end of 2019, Australia had 212,000 students from China and Canada had 142,000.But while Australia is not afraid to talk bluntly to China, including about wanting an international investigation into how COVID-19 broke out in Wuhan, Canada’s Liberal government stays silent about China’s transgressions.Ottawa goes out of its way to encourage international students because its aim, rarely discussed, is to give them preferential treatment as future permanent residents, moving into Canadian jobs and housing.

Since the impact of foreign students on Canada’s cities is profound, one would hope the country’s public officials would be more transparent about a strategy that is now seriously in jeopardy.

Source: Douglas Todd: COVID-19 lockdown triggers foreign-student flight from Canada

International students determined to study in Canada despite coronavirus

One survey. We shall see what the numbers show in the fall, both with respect to existing students as well as new ones.

But hard to see how the call for international students to access the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) would be supported by the government as called for by David Dingwal, president of Cape Breton University, given the likely outcry by many Canadians struggling through the pandemic and the other supports provided:

Most aspiring international students in a recent survey say the coronavirus pandemic is not stopping them from pursuing their post-secondary education abroad.

That being said, many would still prefer the face-to-face study experience over online learning, according to the survey conducted by international education specialists at IDP Connect, the B2B division of IDP Education.

Some 69 per cent of the 6,900 international student applicants surveyed intend to commence their studies as planned. Only five per cent said they would no longer continue studying. Most of the participants were from India, China, and Bangladesh, among other Asian countries, who were interested in pursuing study in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, United States, and New Zealand.

The majority of people said they would prefer to defer their study plans until face-to-face classes were available, mainly because the online option lacks the international exposure most were hoping to gain.

The CEO of IDP Connect, Simon Emmett, noted that just over half of participants, 54 per cent, would be willing to defer their studies up to 12 months or less before pursuing other options.

“Thirty-one per cent of respondents stated they would be willing to start their course online and move to face-to-face learning at a later date, but by far the greatest preference was to defer to January 2021 if this meant face-to-face learning would be possible,” Emmett said in a media release.

Based on the results, IDP recommended that post-secondary institutions provide clarity on how and when face-to-face teaching will resume, and to prepare for large cohorts of students commencing face-to-face studies from January to May, 2021.

Survey participants got to rank destination countries on a scale of 1-10 based on their pre-conceived perceptions.

Though Australia and Canada were the preferred destination countries of the overwhelming majority of participants, Canada was highly regarded for its welfare of international students, and the economic stability of the nation. Canada was also seen as having the least prohibitive travel restrictions.

University activity as provinces loosen coronavirus restrictions

As Canadian provinces start pulling back coronavirus measures, some universities are also opening their facilities.

McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, will commence the first stage of its phase-in to operation on May 11, allowing some on-campus researchers to go back to work. Researchers will be required to follow the university’s directives, which includes adhering to safety protocols, being prepared to shut down in case of changes at the institution or government level, among others.

The Université du Québec à Montréal is also welcoming back researchers.

The University of Prince Edward Island will also allow researchers, faculty, and graduate students to conduct research on campus as of May 25. They are also allowing some key staff and the management team to meet on campus, while encouraging social distancing and working from home when possible. The second phase is set to begin June 15, upon evaluation of the first phase, where they may expand the number of people allowed on campus. The third phase, another expansion, is scheduled to begin August 1, where they will prepare for the fall academic semester.

How Canadians are helping international students

Canada is helping international students a number of ways such as increasing the number of working hours allowed from 20 to 40 for certain occupations, and opening up the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to them, which provides recipients $2,000 per month. Quebec will automatically extend the Quebec Acceptance Certificates of international students if they are set to expire before December 31, 2020.

For those international students who still fall through the cracks, advocates are pressuring the federal government to do more. David Dingwall, president of Cape Breton University in Sydney, Nova Scotia, recently called on the federal government to open up the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) to international students as well as Canadian students. Introduced in late April, the CESB will provide up to $1,750 in monthly income assistance to eligible students, but international students are excluded from the program.

“Eligibility for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit is aligned with the Canada Student Loans Program in that it is aimed at Canadian citizens and permanent residents,” a spokesperson with Employment and Social Development Canada wrote CIC News in an email.

Though Dingwall’s media release said the student benefit “acknowledges the contributions that [Canadian] post-secondary students make to our country,” he also said “it fails to recognize the contributions that international students make to Canada.”

Nova Scotia was home to 11,817 international students in October, 2019, according to the Association of Atlantic Universities.

“The impact on our small province is enormous,” Dingwall said in the release. “I am confident that Universities Canada and its members will continue to advocate for our international students.”

Source: International students determined to study in Canada despite coronavirus

‘Billions of dollars are at risk.’ Colleges and universities scramble to protect international student sector amid COVID-19 pandemic

The “education industry” concerns along with the students affected:

When Maria Olaifa was accepted into Fanshawe College’s marketing management program for May she was thrilled, eager to pack her belongings and leave her native Philippines.

But her plans to study at the London, Ont., college were abruptly halted due to travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the global COVID-19 health crisis.

“My country has closed its borders and flights are not available,” said Olaifa, 32, of Cebu City. Even if she could come, she’s not sure she would.

“I am afraid to be in a country where I do not know anyone and have nowhere to go during this pandemic,” she told the Star. “I don’t think it would be mentally healthy for me to go to a place for the first time, alone with all these problems.”

Olaifa is among a growing number of international students who intended to come to Canada in the next few months, but are now deferring study plans.

Border closures, flight cancellations, shuttered language testing sites and closed visa offices are posing major challenges. It’s too early to say how many students have deferred or outright cancelled study plans — even those with valid study permits. But a significant decrease in the number of international students at Canadian colleges and universities — a segment that’s been booming in recent years — would deliver a financial blow to schools that rely on their hefty tuition fees as a revenue source.

International students contribute $6 billion a year just in tuition at Canadian universities, but their economic impact extends beyond the campus. Government figures show that in 2018 they pumped $21.6 billion into schools, communities and the broader Canadian economy. As of Dec. 31, 2019, there were 498,735 post-secondary international students in Canada, a 14.5 per cent increase from 2018.

As the health crisis drags on, colleges and universities are asking the federal government to allow international students to do online courses while in their own country.

The federal policy typically stipulates that international students must attend most classes in-person to receive a Post-Graduation Work Permit — but there have been recent updates. Those currently in Canada can now do e-learning and have it count towards their work permit, since in-person classes are temporarily cancelled. And on Tuesday the federal government said international students with a study permit for a program starting in May or June, but who can’t get here because of travel restrictions, can complete up to 50 per cent of it online without it impacting eligibility for a work permit.

Kevin Lemkay, press secretary for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, told the Star officials will continue assessing the impact of the current situation and make further adjustments as needed.

President and CEO Denise Amyot of Colleges and Institutes Canada, which represents publicly funded colleges, institutes, CEGEPs and polytechnics, said “important decisions” can now be made about the spring/summer intake. But the fact students can only complete up to 50 per cent of their program outside Canada is too limiting, she said. That means a student in an eight-month postgraduate program would need to be in Canada by the fall.

“We are all faced with a high degree of uncertainty as to how long the pandemic will last and when borders will open, and so we are asking students to make important decisions with incomplete information,” she said, adding they shouldn’t be penalized if unable to travel to Canada.

Amyot’s focus is on supporting international students here or on their way over — those approved for a study permit by March 18 when travel restrictions took effect can still enter Canada if they can get here. But she’s also keeping a close watch abroad, where some language testing and visa offices are closed and has asked the government to loosen testing rules and relax biometric requirements at visa application centres.

“The evolving nature of the situation requires that we engage in constructive dialogue and quickly find solutions to emerging issues, including those related to the ongoing processing of study permits given continued service disruptions.”

For those hoping to start college in September, wondering if they too can do e-learning, Amyot will continue asking the government “for flexibility and for similar measures to be put in place for the fall.”

Paul Davidson, president and CEO of Universities Canada, which advocates for Canadian universities at the federal level, is looking to the fall intake. That’s when 50 per cent of international students enrol in universities and because now is when many are making decisions about where they’ll study in September.

“(If the infection) curve is not flattened, and in the event that visa processing takes a little longer, we would very much like to be able to onboard students online in the fall — its in the realm of contingency planning at this point,” said Davidson. “We want to do everything we can to make sure that Canada is a welcoming place … These next six to eight weeks are critical in terms of what the onboarding and the pipeline will look like for the fall for international students.”

“Billions of dollars are at risk if we’re not able to enrol international students in September,” he said, noting for some universities international students contribute 50 per cent of tuition revenue.

Online registration “will keep the door open to international students to come when it is safe to do so and feasible to do so, in terms of permits and processing.” And, he said, international student enrolment allows schools to offer more courses and labs, which also benefits domestic students.

Cindy McIntyre, assistant director of international relations for Universities Canada, called Tuesday’s announcement a “good first step,” but noted it doesn’t address the fall intake. She said she expects a decision about that cohort will be made “within weeks.”

The British company QS Quacquarelli Symonds, which analyzes global higher education, surveyed 14,416 prospective international students worldwide on the impact of the coronavirus. Among the 2,846 originally planning to come to Canada, 54 per cent intended to defer entry by a year, 9 per cent wanted to study in a different country and 6 per cent wanted to stay in their home country. Cumulatively, the number of lost applicants for Canada — those choosing another country or opting to remain home — is 15 per cent, which is similar to the United Kingdom. By comparison, it is 26 per cent for the European Union, 14 per cent for the United States, and 13 per cent for Australia.

In recent weeks Earl Blaney, a London, Ont., immigration consultant who is an education agent in the Philippines, has had several dozen clients request deferrals for the spring/summer and fall intakes. They were set to attend colleges such as Niagara, Lambton, Georgian, Conestoga, Seneca and Centennial.

He commended the government for giving students set to begin their programs in May or June the flexibility of doing online studies, but noted “it would have been a sensible announcement three weeks ago.”

The “late notice” means many students have likely already made arrangements to travel here and quit jobs back home, while many schools have “initiated a flood of deferral offers to students from May to September.”

“Had this option been available three weeks ago, it would have prevented large losses to the education industry. Schools no longer have the time to market May intake under these circumstances.”

For many international students, one of their biggest concerns is being eligible for a work permit. Blaney suggested Canada — a top choice worldwide — can remain competitive by temporarily letting students enrol in programs from abroad and still issuing work permits upon completion so they can eventually come and work here.

“(That) would allow tuition revenue to keep flowing during this time, and keep everyone safe … It is not meant to be long-term, rather a model of accommodation for both sides.”

A longer-term decision should be made as quickly as possible, he added, because it could impact whether prospective students see Canada as a viable option for 2021 since many start thinking of possible countries, schools and programs a year in advance.

Even for students who can enter Canada — those issued permits before March 18 — Blaney questioned if it’s wise to come, saying it will be tough for schools to accommodate them for the upcoming spring/summer intake because residences are closed and there’s limited staff to assist them.

“International intakes are usually all-hands-on-deck affairs,” said Blaney, referring to in-depth orientation sessions. “In this set of circumstances, students arrive blind and struggle to find their own accommodation. What’s the advantage? Schools get to cash student admission cheques, while the new students get to sit in isolation while taking online studies? Brutal welcome.”

Centennial College teacher RM Kennedy, also chair of the faculty division at OPSEU representing 17,000 unionized college faculty, worries about potential job loss, noting “If enrolment is down, we could see hundreds of contract faculty not being re-employed.”

There’s also a concern about revenue loss, said Kennedy, adding, “We’ve had decades of underfunding and the whole international strategy was designed to make up that shortfall…Without that revenue the colleges are going to take an enormous hit.”

The policy update on Tuesday “may alleviate some short-term financial pressure but it doesn’t address the need to properly fund and rebuild the college system going forward,” said Kennedy, pointing out it’s unclear if international students will even enrol in online programs.

Another concern is that international students invest a great deal in Canadian education and the opportunity to eventually get work permits and permanent residency.

“The exception is currently only for the summer semester, but what if shutdowns continue through the fall?” asked Kennedy. “If we accept international students, we have an ethical responsibility to support them through the completion of their studies with the ability to enter the country and get (work permits).”

International student Amey Jadhav, 27, who is doing a bachelor of business administration program at a Toronto college, was visiting family in India when Canada closed its borders. He could have returned, but decided to skip the upcoming term, despite not knowing how that would impact eligibility for a work permit, which is key because it will help him recoup study costs. He’s completed about half of his program, which costs about $54,000 in total.

“Online courses are a very thoughtful and viable option as it saves time that otherwise would have (been) wasted,” he said, but noted that in-person learning is “much more interactive.”

As for Olaifa, she’s “very happy” those scheduled to start in May or June can do online learning that’s eligible for a work permit. But she’s frustrated the announcement was just made, saying she couldn’t afford to wait for a decision and had to defer study plans until September.

Olaifa has a bachelor’s degree from the University of the Philippines Diliman and is currently working as a project director at an advertising agency. Her dream was to complete the one-year graduate certificate program at Fanshawe, which costs $16,000, then get a work permit, and apply for residency. It’s unclear if that dream will become a reality — or if she’ll even pursue her studies in the fall.

“As for online classes, personally, it is not the best time for me to study right now because of the uncertainties.”

Source: ‘Billions of dollars are at risk.’ Colleges and universities scramble to protect international student sector amid COVID-19 pandemic

For Chinese, US visa halt puts jobs, citizen hopes at risk

More impact of the travel ban on some highly skilled immigrants:

Courtney Huang fell in love with the U.S. as a nursing student in Texas. She ended up staying 13 years and wants to become a U.S. citizen.

But Huang now finds her job, future, and dreams of citizenship on the line since the Trump administration barred entry last month to non-U.S. citizens and residents flying in from China over the coronavirus outbreak.

With crucial deadlines looming, her plans look increasingly at risk.

“I’m really scared,” Huang said. “I have a lot there. If I don’t go back, it’s just going to be very difficult.”

The U.S. suspended visa processing in China on Feb. 3, citing limited staffing during the virus outbreak. No deadline extensions have been announced and it’s not known when the suspension will be lifted. That’s put hundreds of Chinese citizens applying for U.S. work visas in limbo, fretting as their jobs look increasingly at risk.

Huang had returned to China to see her parents over the Lunar New Year holiday in late January. She had recently landed a new job in California and her work visa was on the verge of approval when the American Consulate in Shanghai announced it was returning everyone’s passports.

After weeks of fretting and weighing her options at her parent’s home in eastern China, Huang flew to Thailand. She now plans to wait out a mandated 14-day self-quarantine before seeing if she can get her visa from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

Though Huang was born and raised in China, her whole life is now in Oakland, California, where she has an apartment, car, friends and job. With her Christian faith and gregarious, outspoken manner, the U.S. feels like home.

“I feel like I fit in better there. Free speech, free religion,” Huang said. Clean air, better career opportunities for women and a liberal social environment were also draws, she added.

Huang obtained a nursing degree in Texas, then a master’s degree in bioengineering from U.C. Berkeley. She’s on the verge of completing an M.B.A., with an eye toward settling permanently.

Now, Huang is concerned those plans could fall apart. Though her new employers, a company that provides clinical support for physicians, are understanding, Huang worries that as the months go by, there’s a possibility she may lose her job — and with it, her right to work in the U.S.

Like Huang, Kevin Yang, a Chinese doctoral student researching immunology at an American university, is also reconsidering his options. After moving to the U.s. eight years ago, Yang has returned home each winter holiday and had his student visa renewed without a hitch.

This year, though, Yang became one of many Chinese citizens caught up in the brutal tussle between Beijing and Washington over trade and technology.

When Yang applied for a visa in December, the State Department told him it was being delayed while they investigated his background for ties to the Chinese government. American officials have in recent years grown alarmed over the alleged theft of U.S. technology by China, casting a cloud of suspicion on Chinese citizens like Yang who work in the sciences.

Told the check would take four weeks, Yang changed his flights and prepared to stay longer.

Then in late January, the Chinese government began locking down whole cities to contain the virus. Soon after, Trump announced the U.S. travel ban. Yang got his passport back in the mail with no visa.

American officials told Yang’s academic adviser that since Yang no longer had a visa, they could no longer pay his stipend or fund his research with federal grant money. Hospital surveys that Yang said he spent “thousands of dollars and thousands of hours” over two years to set up were now in peril, something he described as a crushing blow.

“Maybe it’s time for me to start thinking about an alternative career,” Yang said, mulling the possibility he won’t be able to finish his Ph.D. “It’s like restarting my life.”

Discouraging high-skilled foreigners from immigrating could undermine the U.S. economy and its global prominence, said Anastasia Tonello, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Nearly 2.5 million Chinese were in the U.S. as of 2018, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, and most are significantly better educated than the average American. China is also the main source of foreign students enrolled in U.S. higher education.

While health and safety are legitimate concerns, blanket travel bans aren’t the answer, Tonello said.

“I just don’t think this was thought through,” she said. “These are just such broad strokes and can cause so much damage.”

The U.S. isn’t the only country currently restricting entry from China. Travelers face restrictions across the globe, from neighboring North Korea to far-flung New Zealand, Somalia, and Guatemala. Australia, a major destination for Chinese students and immigrants, also has banned arrivals and stopped issuing visas.

Such restrictions have been loudly criticized by China’s Foreign Ministry, though Beijing frequently singles out the United States.

Yang and Huang both say they understand why a travel ban could help contain the virus. But they say the U.S. halt on new visas — with no deadline extensions or other accommodations — is frustrating and unreasonable.

Even more frustrating for Huang is the sense that the U.S. is trying to bar her from coming back.

“I’m not being respected. I work in the states as a talent; I pay my taxes diligently,” Huang said. “This just makes me feel like, ‘Oh, maybe I’m just not welcome in the states.’”

Even for Chinese with visas, the clock is ticking. Tom, a programmer from the epicenter of the outbreak, the city of Wuhan, had just obtained a master’s degree in computer science from Emory University in Georgia. He has a U.S. visa but got stuck in Wuhan after the city was quarantined.

Under American law, foreign students have 90 days after graduation to start new jobs if they want to stay and work in the U.S. If Tom is still trapped in Wuhan by May, he’ll lose both his new job at Amazon and his chance to work in America altogether.

“I’d have to start all over again,” Tom said, declining to provide his last name for fear it could affect his visa and career prospects. “I just worry every day about whether I can go back to America.”

Tom says his family spent around $70,000 to send him to Emory for a shot at a better life in the U.S. He didn’t want to work in China, deterred by the Chinese tech industry’s notoriously-long hours, popularly known as “996” –9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.

U.S. officials told him there was nothing he could do.

“We just want some help or advice,” Tom said. “Please don’t ignore us, it’s something completely out of our control. That’s the worst thing.”

Source: For Chinese, US visa halt puts jobs, citizen hopes at risk