Visa delays expected to prevent timely arrival of many foreign students
MONTREAL - A strike by Canada’s Foreign Service workers is creating headaches for many foreign students, as not all of those who require student visas to enter the country can get them in time.
Many of Canada’s estimated 100,000 foreign students study in Montreal and their timely arrival is appearing to be increasingly unlikely.
At McGill over 8,000 students come from abroad and if they cannot arrive by mid-September, major inconveniences would ensue.
Normally at McGill, students who can't start by mid-September would have to defer their applications by as much as a full year.
“Because of this particular issue with international students this year we're making special accommodations so that students in any program can start in January,” said McGill Dean of Students Andre Costopoulos.
McGill estimates that several hundred students might fall into that category.
At Concordia University, students and staff are busy with orientation week adjusting to another year on campus but some have already written off their semester from afar, as one student from Nigeria reports about other students from her country.
“They've applied like four months ago but there's nothing happening and they've had to postpone their resumption to January,” said Jane Ogbonna a student of Economics at Concordia.
The bureaucrats are on strike in response to a decision made last year at the federal level to close 10 international offices and lay off 285 employees, as the Harper Conservatives aim to put the system online to allow such applications to be treated in Canada.
Concordia has made similar arrangements as McGill but the consequences of the situation are expected to resonate well beyond the realm of academia.
“International students bring in eight billion dollars to the Canadian economy and that translates into well over 80,000 jobs,” said Gail Bowker of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.