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Work to Residency Pathways for Foreign Students in Canada and the U.S.

Study your options because while you wait, you add years to your age which reduces the points and preference to pursue permanent work and residency.


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Work to Residency Pathways for Foreign Students in Canada and the U.S.
Written by Crispin Aranda.
Updated May 1, 2018 | CanadaUnited States of America

First the job market.

From December 2016 to December 2017, Statistics Canada reported that “Canada’s economy created 427,300 jobs on a seasonally-adjusted basis -  modestly higher than the initially reported increase of 422,500 jobs.” 

The U.S. Labor Department, on the other hand the U.S. added 103,000 jobs just in March 2018. While the figure was lower than what Wall Street economists expected – 185,000 according to Bloomberg – the U.S. added 2 million jobs in 2017.

The jobs created in 2017 may be less than in 2014 (3 million); 2.7M in 2015 and 2.2 million in 2016 but the trend shows a long economic expansion.

Slowdown in wages and worker shortage

The gray cloud that accompanied the job creation was the fact that wage growth slowed from 2016 and economists scramble to provide possible – “from globalization to weak productivity growth.”

There was no mention of foreign worker hiring or that international students were depressing wages – specifically in the H-1B visa category.  The H-1B visa is specifically designed for occupations that at the minimum require a bachelor’s degree.

The combined total visas issued for H-1B and H-2B for 2016 appear to be just a small portion of jobs created whether the job was filled by local American workers and residents or through overseas recruitment.

In 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reported 365,682 H-1-B petitions approved. While there is a cap of 65,000 for the regular H-1B categories and an additional 20,000 for the cap-exempt (individuals with Masters degrees obtained in the U.S., those already in the U.S. extending their H-1B status as well as H-1B visa holders waiting for decisions on their application for permanent residency are not counted towards the annual cap.

The latest figures provided by USCIS in 2016 show a total of 84,626 H-2B visas approved. If we add the 85,000 H-1B petition petitions approved in the same year the total number of temporary workers would have been only 169,626 – a small amount of the 2.2 million jobs created in 2016.  

H-1B and H-2B visa holders extending their stay are theoretically being rehired hence they are not taking away new jobs created.

The wages or salaries of these temporary workers must meet prevailing wages set by the U.S. Department of Labor and do not hamper wage growth.

Seeking Workers

At the same time, millions of jobs were reportedly created, the U.S. labor force shrank by 158,000 people, the US DOL report continues.

The scarcity of available workers helps justify sponsorship of foreign workers for the H-1B and H-2B visas. With available workers increasingly scarce, companies are going to greater lengths to find potential employees. A New York Times report say “some are hiring people with criminal records, or loosening hiring requirements. Others are trying to entice people previously on the economy’s sidelines, like at-home parents and recent retirees.”

International students authorized to work

USCIS records show almost “364,000 foreign students with F-1 visas were newly enrolled at a U.S. college or university in 2016, double the number at the outset of the Great Recession.”  The increase in the number of new foreign students has been attributed to the budget cuts during the Great Recession prompting public colleges and universities to attract and recruit foreign students.

Canada recorded 317,670 international students in 2017. However, more and more international students prefer Canada to the U.S. because of perceived bias against immigrants and the fact that  (1) foreign students are not allowed to work during the first academic year; (2) spouses of foreign students are not allowed to work; (3) an H-1B visa holder cannot include a common-law-partner as dependent – only spouses are; (4) the transition from student to working and working to residency is a tedious and more expensive that what Canada offers.

Work to Residency Pathways

An H-1B visa holder whose employer is willing to sponsor the foreign worker could pursue permanent residency.  The current waiting period for the EB3 and Other Worker categories is less than two years.

The uncertainty though is changing status from F-1 academic student visa to H-1B category because of the existing lottery system. Then there are the stringent requirements set by the Trump administration for U.S. Employers sponsoring H-1B visa employees.

International students in Canada are allowed to work 20 hours a week during school periods. The spouse or partner of the student is also allowed to work full-time for the entire duration that the international student is pursuing full-time academic studies.

While in Canada, the international student or the spouse/partner can apply for permanent residency through Express Entry, Canada’s points-based immigrant selection system.

Completion of a one-year diploma course adds points to the Express Entry candidate. So does a job offer. Since the international student – and spouse or common-law-partner – have direct access to employers, the probability of getting an arranged offer of employment is much better.

Skilled Workers, Occupations Shortage

The traditional list of occupations in short supply in the U.S. called the Schedule A occupations divided into two groups. Group I includes Registered Nurses and Physical Therapists.

Group II covers occupations in the sciences or art as well as aliens in the performing arts. In both cases, the applicant must have exceptional ability in the specific field.

Occupations under Schedule A are already determined by the U.S. Department of Labor as occupations where there are no sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, available and qualified for the position,.  Hence, the employer need not file a Permanent Labor Certification before filing the I-140 Immigrant Petition.

Canada has a. more extensive listing of occupations and skilled workers the country will need for the period 2017-3026.

The Skill Types are categorized as Natural and Applied Sciences and Related Occupations; Health occupations; Occupations in Social Science, Education, Government Service and Religion; Occupations in Art, Culture, Recreation and Sport; Trades Transport and Equipment Operators and Related Occupations.

The two groups with the most number of professionals and skilled workers needed are Natural and Applied Sciences and Related Occupations; Health occupations, below:

Natural and Applied Sciences and Related Occupations

Aerospace engineers & Other professional engineers, n.e.c.,; Mathematicians, statisticians and actuaries;  Information systems analysts and consultants; Database analysts and data administrators; Software engineers and designers; Computer programmers and interactive media developers; Mechanical engineering technologists and technicians; ndustrial engineering and manufacturing technologists and technician; Transportation officers and controllers.

Health occupations

Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses; Specialist physicians; General practitioners and family physicians; Dentists; Optometrists, chiropractors and other health diagnosing and treating professionals; Audiologists and speech-language pathologists; Physiotherapists; Occupational therapists & Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment, Respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists & Medical radiation technologists & Medical sonographers; Opticians; Practitioners of natural healing, Massage therapists & Other technical occs. in therapy and assessment; Licensed practical nurses

Psychologists, Interior designers and interior decorators as well as transport truck drivers complete the list of the remaining Skill Types.

Critical Criteria

Canada’s Express Entry puts premium to younger applicants (20 to 29 years old) with high language proficiency – a score of 8.0 in Listening and 7.5 in speaking, reading and writing plus bonus points for a second language (French).

An Express Entry applicant’s candidate profile remains in the pool for a year after which the applicant must submit a new Expression Of Interest (EOI)  profile.  However, the applicant would have lower point s for age. After another year, the same applicant must submit a new language proficiency test result.  If English or French is not used in daily conversation, chances are, the applicant’s proficiency would deteriorate resulting in a lower score.

Second, Express Entry applicants outside Canada are less likely to get job offers. International students and those in temporary work status get the first crack. Unless an applicant has a relative or friend who could get an arranged offer of employment, an overseas applicant is handicapped.

Third, employers, the federal and provincial governments also prefer Express Entry candidates who are already in Canada.

An international student in Canada, therefore, has an edge over a foreign student in the U.S. 

About the Author

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.

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