POLITICS

Federal government seeks comments on tighter rules for foreign students

06/29/2012 03:53 EDT | Updated 08/29/2012 05:12 EDT
OTTAWA - The Immigration Department is looking at tightening the rules covering foreign students, and wants to know what Canadians think.

A notice in the latest Canada Gazette asks for written comments from interested parties on proposals that would ensure students from overseas actually go to school, and would prevent them from staying here legally if they quit their studies.

New rules would also ensure that schools drawing foreign students are legitimate operations.

The proposal says the present rules are loose compared with other countries.

There is no formal requirement that students actually go to school once they get here, nor are there rules about what kinds of schools qualify.

The notice says students can attend any kind of institution, regardless of whether it is accredited, or regulated or overseen by a provincial or territorial government or a recognized standard-setting body.

The new regulations would require international students to actually attend school and to leave the country if they drop out. The proposals would also limit the kinds of institutions eligible to take such students.

The notice says the federal government is consulting provinces and territories on eligibility requirements for such institutions.

Foreign study in Canada is growing. The Immigration Department says 98,378 international students entered the country in 2011, an increase of 34 per cent from 2007.

A 2010 study commissioned by Foreign Affairs said international students contributed more than $6.5 billion to the economy in 2008.

The Immigration Department, though, says the international student program is vulnerable to abuse both by phoney students who just want a job; and by phoney schools that want to rip off foreigners with sub-standard courses.

"The goal is to strengthen the integrity of Canada's immigration system by reducing fraud in the international student movement, while improving Canada's standing as a desirable study destination," the Gazette notice said.

Anyone interested in commenting has 30 days to write to the department.

"The proposed changes to the International Student Program are in line with reforms implemented by Canada's key competitor countries for international students," department spokesman Bill Brown said in an email.

"Strengthening aspects of the program that could be abused by fraudulent schools or non-genuine study permit applicants is vitally important to protect Canada's reputation abroad and to ensure that Canada continues to enjoy the tremendous social and economic benefits that the ISP provides."

Brown added: "International students enrich the life of every campus by bringing new ideas and cultures with them."