International students in Quebec who can’t speak French will now face new barriers in attaining Canadian citizenship, after recent changes to the province’s immigration laws.
In accordance with changes made to Quebec’s immigration policies in February, people looking to study at universities in Canada and ultimately become permanent residents are now required to have an intermediate level of oral French before getting a Quebec Selection Certificate, a document that allows a holder to immigrate to the province. The new changes, effective immediately, will make it increasingly difficult for international students at Concordia and other universities to become citizens, which is the ultimate goal for many students according to Walter Tom, the CSU Legal Information Clinic coordinator.
“How fair is that to people that are finishing their studies now?” Tom asked. “These people studied three years here thinking they’d be all right, they’re graduating in a few weeks and now they discover their French they thought was good enough isn’t.”
Without an intermediate level of French, immigrants will either need 24 months of full-time work experience, or will need to have a child here, which Tom points out is difficult for students who are already spending tens of thousands of dollars on their tuition.
Tom also expressed concern that the changes have not been widely publicized, so the students affected at Quebec institutions may not even know about the changes. “I think the anglophone universities are probably not aware of this, or if they are aware of it they don’t think it’s a priority.”
Those who do know are clearly concerned by the policy modifications. The CSU Legal Information Clinic held an information session about the changes last Wednesday which saw 60 people pack into a small room, spilling out into the hallway to listen to lawyer Hugues Langlais discuss the changes and voice their own concerns.
A statement released by the Legal Information Clinic explained that because of the changes to the French requirement, students will have to apply under a new Quebec Skilled Worker selection criteria, which rates immigrants using a point system to determine whether or not they qualify for permanent status. Fifty-five points is the new pass mark for single applicants but significant changes have been made to points allocated based on education, age and previous stays in Quebec.
Notably, university bachelor programs of three years or more have been reduced in value from 11 to 10 points. Also, applicants used to be awarded six points for having obtained a degree, diploma or certificate in Quebec, no matter what their field of education. This criterion has now been eliminated, and replaced by a system of preferred areas of training, which Tom says gives precedence to extremely challenging fields like biochemistry, aerospace and dentistry.
“I think the bottom line is that Quebec’s message is essentially, “University is not good enough, we want francophone university students,'” he said.