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B.C. international students hold protest against permanent resident policy changes

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B.C. international students hold protest against permanent resident policy changes
A protest by international students downtown delivering a message to the provincial government Saturday. They're upset at changes to the provincial nominee program, an economic immigration program meant to help fill job vacancies and operate businesses. Julia Foy reports – Mar 23, 2024

A protest was held in downtown Vancouver by international students, advocates and supporters backing a petition.

The petition, Promise Made, Promise Kept: Secure Future Paths for BC PNP International Students, is urging the B.C. government to halt its changes to the BC Provincial Nominee Program.

According to the petition, normally graduates from designated programs could directly apply for permanent resident status. With the recent update to the program, master’s program graduates must now secure an official one-year skilled job offer and meet certain language criteria for eligibility.

“This sudden policy shift disrupts the paths of both current and future international students, undermining their significant financial, time, and emotional investments in their quest for a stable future in British Columbia,” the petition said.

“Countless international students have made considerable sacrifices, both financially and emotionally, only to face such a sudden and life-altering outcome.”

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The petition has more than 2,050 signatures with a goal of 2,500.

According to the province, the changes made to the nominee program will create “clearer pathways for international workers” and will “make it harder for predatory recruiters and other bad actors.”

The updates include a new three-stream structure for post-secondary graduates, increased language requirements, and continued prioritization for people who work “in-demand” jobs.

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A few hundred people attended the protest which was held at 11 a.m. at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

“I was totally in shock,” Zongwang Wang said, a master’s student in B.C.

“(The old policy) was the very reason I came here. I quit my job in New York City and moved all the way to Vancouver just two months ago because I saw the policy as a clear path … if I study here, I have an opportunity at permanent residency.”

Wang, and many other students at the rally, believe the changes made to the program were done too quickly.

“Now because it has changed with all these new conditions and hurdles, I feel like it is unfair,” Wang said. “I don’t feel like I was properly informed.”

Those at the rally were vocal that they want to see a “grandfather clause” for existing master students.

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Global BC reached out to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Anne Kang, but she was not available for interview.

“I sympathize with those students who may be feeling some uncertainty about what the recently announced changes to the BC Provincial Nominee Program mean for them. I know they face unique challenges as newcomers to our province, and I understand how important these matters are for them as they make career plans and begin choosing a path towards permanent residence in British Columbia,” she said in a statement.

“The BC PNP is a very competitive program, but some have misrepresented it as an easy pathway to permanent residency. We are updating the BC PNP to give people the information they need to make informed decisions about which immigration pathway works best for them and, if they are considering the BC PNP, to ensure they are giving themselves the best chance to be nominated.”

Kang said the province is “committed to working with students, recruiters, employers and institutions to ensure they know about these changes and understand the options available to them.”

There over 62,000 post-graduation work permit holders in B.C., most of whom are seeking a path to permanent residency.

For 2024, there are roughly 3,000 BC PNP nominations spots available.

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