This October marked a full year since the Federal Government announced the temporary lifting of the 20-hour-per-week cap placed on international students for off-campus work. For years, international students were limited in their ability to seek safe, appropriate, and well-paying jobs to provide for themselves while studying.  

The announcement of the temporary lifting of the off-campus work limit was welcome news for international students across BC. However, this policy is expiring on December 31, 2023. That is why, the BC Federation of Students is calling for an indefinite extension to the temporary lifting of the work-week cap for international students. Today, the BCFS submitted a letter to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Honourable Marc Miller, calling him to continue to support international students wanting to participate in Canada’s labour force.

When the lifting of the cap was announced in October of 2022, the benefits to international students and to the Canadian economy were clear: with employers facing “unprecedented challenges in finding and retaining the workers they need”, the measure addressed short-term labour shortages, while allowing international students to gain more Canadian work experience. The impact to rural communities was also clear: this measure made good on the promise made in the Federal Government’s 2019 International Education Strategy to more equitably distribute the benefits of international education across regions and institution-type. Especially in rural communities, international students represent an untapped labour pool, with a desire to fully participate in the communities where they live.

The simultaneous benefit of lifting this work restriction has been a reduction in the employment and financial precarity faced by international students; increasing their earning capacity of makes them less vulnerable to bad actors and exploitation, particularly as it impacts their choice of job and housing options.

The call for an extension of the unrestricted off-campus work policy for international students in Canada is grounded in the recognition of the unique challenges they face, particularly as they weather an inflation crisis. By providing more flexibility in terms of work hours, the government can help international students overcome financial challenges, but also foster a more inclusive and welcoming environment for those who choose to study in Canada. Making this change permanent would yield substantial benefits for students, the labour force, and ultimately strengthening Canada's long-term prosperity.

As international students, we are the best suited to speak about our experiences, needs and the obstacles we face while we are studying. Student advocacy has long been a vehicle for change and influencing policy. Students working together has resulted in numerous victories over the years, and we will continue to fight to make international students’ experiences studying in BC and Canada fairer and more affordable.

Learn more about the Federation’s advocacy priorities including our calls to cap international tuition fee increases at 2% annually by checking out our new RISE UP campaign and reading our blog post about the Federation’s Advocacy Week.   

Jessie Niikoi