No-shows, dropouts and asylum requests — these 10 schools have Canada’s highest rates of ‘non-compliance’ among international students

Time for their “designated learning institution” (DLI) status to be reviewed and possibly revoked. Back door immigration, not education stream.

Overly charitable to state that “While it would be unfair to cast doubt over the integrity and legitimacy of these colleges and universities” given that, at a minimum, they and governments are complicit in this abuse of the program.

Great that IRCC has identified this risk, what remains to be seen if IRCC acts on this by revoking their DLI or other measures to curb this abuse:

Ontario is home to seven of the 10 schools flagged by the Canadian government as having the highest rates of “non-compliance” when it comes to international students failing to show up for their registered courses, or instead applying for asylum.

The names of the so-called designated learning institutions, or DLIs — schools approved to host international students — were revealed in an internal report by the Immigration Department’s integrity risk management branch.

The list raises questions about Canada’s rapidly expanding international education industry, which has seen schools bring in hundreds of thousands of foreign students at significantly higher tuition rates than their Canadian peers, and whether it may be experiencing issues around compliance and enforcement.

Seven of the post-secondary schools on the list, compiled in November 2021, were private institutions while the other three are publicly funded universities: Laurentian University in Sudbury, Cape Breton University and Université Sainte-Anne, both in Nova Scotia.

The ratings of the schools were based on the percentages of “no show,” “no record” or “no longer registered/enrolled” among their enrolled international students. The list also cited the number of asylum claims made by enrolled students.

The overall potential non-compliance rates of the 10 schools ranged from 33 per cent to 95 per cent, compared to the overall average of just seven per cent among some 1,600 DLIs across Canada, according to the list obtained under an access to information request by immigration policy analyst and lawyer Richard Kurland.

Evergreen College in Brampton, renamed Eastview College in 2021, and the Academy of Learning College in Toronto topped the list, both scoring 95 per cent.

At Evergreen, where six asylum claims were traced, 274 of the 288 students were deemed non-compliant, including:

  • 132 no-shows, who were offered admission but never confirmed acceptance, registered but never attended class, or presented in class but stopped attending without telling school administration.
  • 140 “no records,” where the administration does not have a record of a letter of acceptance issued to this person or any record of the person being enrolled in the school, despite immigration records saying otherwise. Experts say such discrepancies can be the result of clerical errors. 
  • two who were dismissed, withdrew voluntarily or transferred to another institution.

A spokesperson for Eastview said the “no record” numbers originated from fake acceptance letters that were issued under Evergreen’s name. The spokesperson said the administration had brought the issue to the attention of the Immigration Department but that no action was taken to address it.

The no-shows, she said, could be attributed to those who just came to the college looking for an acceptance letter so they could extend their work permit or to use it as a stepping stone to gain admission to another college.

“With the acceptance letter, they’re supposed to start with the program. But you know what, they do not. We can’t do anything with it,” noted the spokesperson, adding that some of the no-show students didn’t even bother to ask for refunds of fees and tuitions.

While it would be unfair to cast doubt over the integrity and legitimacy of these colleges and universities based on the data, experts say it does suggest some issues around compliance and enforcement.

“Some students may be bona fide or genuine students coming in and then they can fall through the cracks and then start not showing up to their classes. Could it be that they don’t really have the funds to actually pay for the next semester, so they don’t show up and start going under the table and underground?” asked immigration lawyer Lou Janssen Dangzalan.

“You’ve seen the reports of colleges doing strip-mall classes or theatre classes. That could dissuade an international student from attending classes. If I were an international student and paid so much money for tuition, I would be so demoralized attending classes. Basically that’s recorded as a no-show or no-record or no longer registered.”

Michael Sangster, CEO of the National Association of Career Colleges, said he could not comment on specific cases, but said its 450 provincially regulated members work closely to ensure students are supported and have the skills training needed to succeed.

“As all post-secondary institutions experience, there are many personal reasons why prospective students may ultimately make the decision not to pursue their studies, particularly over the last three years,” he said in a statement.

Other private colleges that made the non-compliant list included the Academy of Learning Career and Business College in Owen Sound, with an 87 per cent rate; Flair College of Management and Technology in Vaughan (82 per cent); Canadian Institute of Management and Technology in Ontario (62 per cent); BITTS International Career College in Mississauga (60 per cent); and Pacific Link College in Surrey, B.C. (47 per cent).

The Star reached out to all 10 institutions on the list. Four had responded by time of publication.

Sandip Dhakecha, Flair College’s campus administrator, said some private institutions do have lower admission criteria than their publicly funded counterparts. Sometimes, international students stop showing up when they realize their programs won’t earn them postgraduate work permits and coveted permanent residence in Canada.

“This is a pressing issue for us also because, you know, it looks bad on our name. We want to provide the quality education. But the thing is, we don’t have any control over our students,” he explained. “If a student comes before the program starts and asks for a refund, we 100 per cent refund them.”

In a statement to the Star, BITTS International said it was surprised by the report because it always follows all procedures for reporting and registration as required by different federal and provincial ministries of all DLIs.

“The non-compliance percentage of students are (those) who obtain their admissions at BITTS and then never continue with their enrolment and full-time studies. Many of these students obtain multiple admissions and then enrol where they find it convenient,” it said.

“Whatever information, that has been obtained in this report, we would like to review all of it, in detail, and respond accordingly.”

At Laurentian University, which has a 39 per cent non-compliant rate (with 321 of the 828 students potentially breaching the rules), registrar Serge Demers said post-secondary classes don’t take attendance and the registration system has become a proxy to monitor students.

“We’re talking about people who are not here, so it’s difficult to ask them why they’re not here,” said Demers. “There’s all of these levels of privacy that exist. In a world where everyone was in good faith, we wouldn’t need this system. I think the system is in place because there are people that are working their way through the cracks.”

A total of 197 asylum claims were reported from students enrolled in the top 10 DLIs — an issue that Dangzalan blames partially on the fact that not all international students have access to permanent residence, as often marketed by unscrupulous recruiters.

“If you run out of your postgraduate work permit, you are able to get a work permit while you’re waiting for your refugee determination,” said Dangzalan. “It’s an offshoot of the problem of overmarketing Canada. The system is just overwhelmed and now they’re trying to use alternative avenues to stay and remain in Canada.”

Source: No-shows, dropouts and asylum requests — these 10 schools have Canada’s highest rates of ‘non-compliance’ among international students

Dangzalan: Half-Cooked, and Under-Seasoned: IRCC’s Haste To Move to Online Applications for Permanent Residence

More on the online hopefully teething problems:

Before the pandemic, I stumbled into a pub and ordered their buttermilk fried chicken with waffles. The server happily took my order, and after about ten minutes, the order arrived. I was impressed with the speed. When I took my first bite, I suddenly spit it out – it was raw, with blood gushing through the undercooked flesh. It was not at all ready. It was clearly done in a hurry. In life, most things that are rushed do not end well. This is also true for institutions.

On September 1, 2022, IRCC came out with a news release, “Transitioning to online applications for permanent residence.” The announcement was promising until you read on: “…Starting on September 23, 2022 … IRCC will begin transitioning to 100% digital applications for most permanent residence programs.”

Twitter went into a frenzy – in just three weeks, applications for Permanent Residence will only be accepted through IRCC’s application portal. While the portal was soft-launched on March 31, 2021, the impression at the time was that IRCC would continue to iron out the problems with the online infrastructure. In the meantime, the department continued to accept paper applications for permanent residence.

We in the immigration bar understood this to be a good sign: IRCC appeared committed to ensuring that the transition to a digital application platform will have minimal technical issues at best. The backstop was there – in that people who have technical issues or are simply unsure if they trust the new platforms had the choice to submit a paper application.

We have also experienced nightmare scenarios where applicants needed to submit their applications on the same day but were not able to because of technical issues. The list of reasons is long, but it includes issues ranging from the website crashing, to the lack of space to submit complex humanitarian and compassionate applications that require heavy papering of evidence, to sudden portal outages, to files not being accepted due to ill-explained formatting issues.

Folks who have been trapped in these nightmare scenarios stand to lose a lot: they lose their status in Canada and endure long family separations. Sometimes the remedy involves filing a separate application that increases the ever-growing inventory of applications. Transitioning so recklessly to a zero-sum online intake system may have the unintended consequence of exacerbating the already politically toxic immigration backlog. Surely the Minister or the Prime Minister’s Office will not want this.

Make no mistake: this transition is a critical part of IRCC’s push for digital transformation in the department. Converting applications from paper to digital will accelerate the collection of big data that will allow IRCC to develop further its deployment of advanced analytics and machine learning in triaging an ever-growing pile of applications. Let’s also be very clear: electronic application platforms allow for a more accessible government. E-governance is generally a good thing. But this requires a proper and well-thought-out strategy for the deployment of technology. What is not good is a forcible ramming through the door of a system that has no emergency backstops.

To be sure, a lot of advocates have long pushed for online applications for Permanent Resident candidates. Yet the manner of hurried and almost cloak-and-dagger execution, with portals still riddled by technical problems, does not bode well among advocates and members of the bar.

It’s not too late. IRCC and Minister Sean Fraser can still put a pause to this. Minister Fraser should delay the compulsory implementation until a dialogue can be opened between the department and its stakeholders to hear what the issues are. As always, we at CILA are open to collaborating with the department to ensure that this project enjoys the highest possible chance of success.

Source: Half-Cooked, and Under-Seasoned: IRCC’s Haste To Move to Online Applications for Permanent Residence

With more than 2.4M immigration applications in Canada’s backlog, many here and overseas feel lost – Excerpt Need for race-based data

Not convinced by the additional value of obtaining race-based data given that country of citizenship provides enough information in most cases to assess trends and impacts.

It would, of course, be interesting, particularly with USA and European immigrants, given that many of those may be visible minorities.

The practicality of how it would be collected (visible minority definitions, ethnic ancestry or other?) is another is another issue. More tick boxes on an already long form and process?

A higher priority, IMO, is to have regularly monthly updates on backlogs, broken down by citizenship (IRCC used to provide updates on “inventory” but this stopped with the shift to monthly data):

Many applicants raised concerns about IRCC taking longer to process their applications based on their country of citizenship.

CBC News obtained data from IRCC breaking down more than 2.4 million applications by country of citizenship.

Of more than two million temporary and permanent residence applications, nearly a million came from India.

“In the case of India, country-specific restrictions during the pandemic made it harder for individuals to submit documents, obtain medical appointments, provide us with their biometrics and for us to finalize applications,” IRCC said.

Aside from France, Ukraine and the U.S., the 30 countries with the most pending applications are in the global south.

India also has the most temporary residence applications in the backlog with 430,286, followed by Ukraine at 329,920.

“There’s systemic racism and discrimination within IRCC,” Amir Attaran, professor of law at the University of Ottawa, said.

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Lou Janssen Dangzalan said the department lacks transparency and accountability. He said since many countries have very diverse ethnic and racial demographics, “collecting race-based data is very important.”

A report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration released in May recommended that IRCC collect race-based data.

Source: With more than 2.4M immigration applications in Canada’s backlog, many here and overseas feel lost

Canada needs a permanent fix for its abuse-prone caregiver programs

Lou Janssen Dangzalan is an immigration lawyer who works with home care workers, healthcare workers, and international students.

Possible expansion of Express Entry stream for caregivers?

Last week, Migrant Rights Network, an advocacy group advancing the cause of migrant justice, published a report titled Behind Closed Doors, which documented the challenges faced by Canada’s foreign care workers. The abuses are not new, but the pandemic has made them worse: accounts ranged from gruelling 12-hour work shifts with no days off, to wage theft. Some involved workers barred from leaving their employer’s house – becoming virtual prisoners – for fear of bringing COVID home. As these temporary-work permit holders depend on their employers to secure permanent residence (PR), they generally do not speak up.

The report advocates PR status for all migrant workers, which would give them more options to work for other employers, but it’s unlikely that this will happen owing to the current high bar to qualify. But there are concrete steps the government can take to prevent these abuses by creating clear and predictable pathways to permanent residence for our care workers.

Many governments in the past have unsuccessfully tried to find a solution to the abuses faced by migrant care workers, who will endure mind-boggling abuses for PR status because this allows them to bring their family to Canada These abuses remain a black eye on Canada’s reputation as a country that claims to uphold human rights and fight modern-day slavery.

The Live-In Caregiver Program introduced in 1992 allowed a foreign national to apply for PR after working in Canada as a caregiver for two years. It remained until 2014, when the Harper government introduced two pilot programs – Caring for Children and People, and Caring for People with High Medical Needs – to address the abuses that had started to be uncovered by the media. These pilots removed the “live-in” requirement, meaning that caregivers were no longer required to reside with their employers, which was thought to be one of the major causes of abuse. The Harper pilots also introduced higher language and education requirements.

Confused with all the changes? So are the caregivers – and there’s more. The latest occurred in 2019, when the Trudeau government implemented new pilots: Home Child Care Provider, and Home Support Worker. These programs prescreen would-be caregivers for permanent residence before they receive their work permits. The purpose is to sift out caregiver candidates who would not qualify for PR through some form of inadmissibility. They also implemented an interim program designed to eliminate the backlog from the legacy Live-In Caregiver Program. However, the Interim Pathway for Caregivers’ introduction was abrupt and it was open only for two brief windows of three months each in 2019, and did not clear the backlog. Reintroducing this program in a meaningful way would address that problem and buy the government some time to put together a more effective immigration program for caregivers.

Today, the Trudeau pilot programs prescreen caregiver applicants for permanent resident status, allowing workers who complete the two-year program to quickly qualify. However, this new requirement is leading to longer processing times. PR screening requires a stricter security, background, and health check compared with those applying for a work permit. Depending on the visa office in a caregiver’s home country, the time added to process an application could be in the order of months, or worse, years. This renders the programs untenable for most employers. Someone who needs a caregiver cannot wait that long.

Two days after the release of the Migrant Rights Network report, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced Canada’s plan to welcome 1.2 million permanent residents in the next three years. As the government will undoubtedly have trouble fulfilling its ambitious target of 400,000 new PRs in 2021, they should prioritize those who are already in Canada, including caregivers, who do not enjoy PR status. Such a move would increase Ottawa’s chance of meeting that target.

A clear and sustainable long-term caregiver program must be developed. Government must do away with flimsy pilot programs that only confuse our caregivers. There is a clear demand for caregivers in Canada and the vocationdeserves its own permanent place in the immigration system.

One approach would be to piggy-back the caregiver program under the Express Entry system. Express Entry, Canada’s main intake system for economic immigration, is seen as a huge success, especially from the government’s perspective. The government can create a class or program under the system similar to the Federal Skilled Trades program and ensure that there are caregiver-specific Express Entry draws from the general pool of candidates.

This would create predictability and transparency in the system. Successful government programs already exist that can serve as blueprints to ensure quick deployment. Mr. Mendicino has shown an openness to revamping our immigration system in the face of once-in-a-century challenges such as COVID. If he succeeds in finding a tenable solution to the caregiver immigration mess, it would be a legacy he would leave that ends decades of abuses, exploitation and failed pilot programs.