Foreign student gets second shot at work permit amid ‘distance learning’ flap
A recent court decision has renewed hopes for other international graduates enrolled in online courses and denied work visas.
The federal court has quashed an immigration officer’s decision denying a post-graduation work permit to a foreign student because he took some of his courses online.
In a recent ruling, Justice Richard F. Southcott ordered Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to reconsider the work permit application of Rajendra Prasad Appidy, who studied information security management for a year at Fanshawe College before completing his education at Niagara College.
The court ruling has renewed the hope of other foreign graduates from Niagara College who have taken many of the courses by distance learning and are faced with having to leave Canada early because they’ve been deemed ineligible for work permits — a pathway for future permanent residency in Canada.
“We are encouraged by the judge’s decision,” said Jagrit Sahni, another Niagara graduate, whose work permit application was rejected in October and who has since quit his job as a food and nutrition manager at a Mississauga nursing home.
“It’s really tough for us. I had to ask my parents for money to pay for rent and food,” added the 25-year-old from India, who, like others among a group of rejected graduates, is hoping Immigration Minister John McCallum will hear their pleas for temporary residence permits to let them stay here.
Appidy, also from India, was denied the work permit on the basis that five of the six courses he completed at Niagara College were online courses and “distance learning” does not count.
Appidy, who represented himself in the case in December, argued that he paid the full-time student tuition fee and obtained 42 in-class credits from Fanshawe and three in-class credits from Niagara, which, together, made up 75 per cent of all his course work in Canada.
Niagara College’s full-time general arts and science diploma program normally takes two years to complete. But foreign students with a bachelor’s degree from abroad who finished a year of studies at a Canadian post-secondary school could transfer to Niagara and earn the diploma in one semester.
In Appidy’s case, the immigration officer did not take into account his course work at Fanshawe because that was completed in December 2012, more than 90 days before he applied for the work permit.
“The officer acted unreasonably in relying on the (immigration department) manual to assess the application based only on the courses actually taken from Niagara College, rather than based on all credits that contributed to the applicant meeting the requirement for the course of study completed at Niagara College,” Justice Southcott wrote.
Toronto lawyer Ravi Jain, who represents more than 50 Niagara graduates in their temporary resident permit applications, said the court decision helps shed light on the post-graduation work permit program as online courses are becoming an increasingly mainstream part of higher education.
“I encourage the new federal government to take a hard look at its policy and see if it’s up-to-date and if it is meeting the needs of the reality of education the way it’s going,” Jain said.
Dozens of foreign graduates from Niagara College have already retained lawyer Darcy Merkur for what they hope will become a class-action lawsuit against the school, alleging they were misguided into believing they would be eligible for work permits. The motion of certification is expected to be heard later in 2016.