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Surge in interest in Canadian universities after Trump's win

College applications from foreign students are up ahead of a key January 2017 enrollment deadline at major Canadian universities.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   06-12-2016
Students at the University of Saskatchewan

The move-to-Canada memes started spreading like wildfire on the internet shortly after it became clear that Donald Trump would win Florida on November 8. It was all very playful, but now Trump’s victory has boosted Canadian universities looking to recruit international students from America and other parts of the world.

“Visits to our undergraduate website from US sources and other countries have increased by 100% in the timeframe of November 6 to 12, 2016, compared to last year,” said Santa J. Ono, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of British Columbia (UBC), in Vancouver.

“A single graduate program website at UBC received 30,000 hits between midnight and 3 am Pacific Time after the US election,” Ono wrote on Twitter a day after the US election.

Beyond college website visits, the number of undergraduate applications to the University of British Columbia from US students has shot up by 26%, ahead of a January 2017 application deadline at major Canadian universities.

US applications to McGill University in Montreal were up by 30% on Nov 18, compared to 2015. Similarly, international applications to McGill University fueled by countries like China, India, and France have spiked 16%, reflecting a dramatic shift in the trajectory of enrollment enquiries and applications at Canadian universities after the shock Trump victory.

Applications have also poured into the University of Toronto which has educated at least four Canadian prime ministers, scores of foreign leaders and 10 Nobel laureates. The University of Toronto saw traffic to its admissions websites spike, with nearly 10,000 US visitors on November 9.

“Canada is a model for tolerance and inclusivity, and many students are looking for an opportunity to study in that environment,” Richard Levin, executive director for enrollment services and registrar at the University of Toronto, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Graduating from a Canadian university with in-demand work experience has long been seen as a path to permanent residency for hard-working Indian students.

“Canada is a warm and immigrant-friendly country. That’s what is most important to me,” said Ranjit Lal who has applied to do his Masters in engineering at McGill University. “I have relatives in Canada who can hopefully help me with my job search after I finish my engineering studies.”

On 1 January 2015, new federal rules came into effect that no longer give international students with Canadian work experience an automatic leg-up when they apply to stay in Canada permanently. Before, international students didn’t have to compete with skilled workers and their applications were simply processed under the Canadian “Experience Class” program.

Now under the new Canadian rules, international students with a degree or diploma from a Canadian institution are placed with other groups of skilled workers in a pool, and their applications are processed by Canadian immigration officials under the “Express Entry” program.

People hoping to migrate to Canada receive invitations based on a scoring system: A positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), showing there is no Canadian worker available to do the job, is worth 600 points. Another 600 points are available for things like education, age, and personal attributes. Canadian employers can legally hire international graduates without applying for LMIA certificates. But it is in a student’s best interest to press his or her employer to get a LMIA certificate to muster up enough points to score a residency interview with Canadian immigration officials.

Going to study in Canada or the United States is the easiest pathway for many foreigners to find jobs in both the countries. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency hands out sought-after H-1B visas every year. There is an 85,000 cap on H-1B visas every year, with 65,000 visas for foreign workers and 20,000 for students graduating from US colleges with a Master degree or higher.

“I chose Canada over the US because with Trump taking office in January there are too many uncertainties about US immigration policies. Too many hassle in betting a future on winning a H-1B visa lottery versus decent opportunities in Canada,” said Lal.

In the 2014-2015 academic year, 263,000 international students were enrolled in Canadian institutions, drawn by Ottawa’s liberal post-college work permit, showed figures compiled by the Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE). China sent the largest number of students to Canada at 83,900 in 2014-2015, followed by India which sent 44,695 students. China, India, France, the United States and South Korea rounded out the top five countries sending students to Canada.

Bhangra performance at the University of Ottawa (still from video)

Uttara Choudhury is a writer for Forbes India and The Wire. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London. 
Trump win unnerves Indian students as backlash rocks US campuses
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