The federal government has lifted a limit on off-campus work for international students.
Sakib Ibn Rashid Rhivu
At a corner table in a St. John’s university cafeteria, three international students compare notes about their work and life balance.
Last week, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada temporarily lifted the restriction on how many hours an international student can work per week. Before the change, study permits only allowed international students to work 20 hours per week while in class.
The new rule will be effective from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31, 2023 with a possibility of an extension.
Ottawa says this change will help combat Canada’s labour shortage as more than 500,000 international students are currently studying in Canada.
Rihan Akbar is a MUN business student from the UAE. He works at Tailwind Drive’s Tim Hortons as a crew member. He says having the permission to work additional hours will help him keep up with his expenses.
“I could not save any money recently as my rent increased,” said Akbar, seated at the non-descript grey table. “My bills were piling up. Now, I can work to pay them off.”
Abrar Fahim Pushon, a MUN engineering student from Bangladesh, disagrees. He says students will have trouble balancing their studies and work life.
“I barely get any time after my studies and work,” Pushon said, looking at Akbar sitting across from him. “I don’t think anyone can practically work 40 hours as a full-time student. It will hamper their studies for sure.”
Pushon landed in Canada two months ago and started his first semester in September. He is currently working at Mr. Souvlaki.
Jeetinder Singh, a second-year MUN business student, attends most of his classes online.
“My father borrowed a large sum of money to send me here,” Singh said, his eyes cast down.
Singh looked over his right shoulder. He appeared to be watching the cars rush along Prince Phillip Drive, but his stare and the three minutes of silence that followed was more about reflection.
“If I have the opportunity, I would rather work every hour after my studies so that I can help (pay) him back.”
To lighten the mood, Akbar started joking about Pushon’s inexperience. He says being strategic with class scheduling helps him balance work and school.
“I scheduled all my classes (over) three days,” said Akbar. “I have four full days to work and complete my assignments. I (have) already requested my supervisor to give me more hours.”
“They have (to have) a life outside work and study. Money is not everything.”Abrar Fahim Pushon
The supervisor at Akbar’s store, Ashiqur Rahman, says international students are willing to work longer hours. It saves them time and resources from having to hire and train new employees.
“Every foreign student has informed us that they want to work more,” said Rahman. “It’s a huge relief for us as an employer. Hiring and training new people is costly and time-consuming.”
Back at the MUN cafeteria, Pushon maintains that the extra work hours will deter students from getting involved in recreational and extra-curricular activities.
“Students will be (a) working bot,” Pushon said. “They have (to have) a life outside work and study. Money is not everything.”
Singh says the lifting of restrictions does not force anyone to work more than 20 hours.
“Those who don’t need (to work), (they) might choose not to work,” said Singh. “It’s good to have it there. For someone like me and my family, it can be a lifesaver.”