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The Black Hole

Good news from the border – Keeping international PhDs in Canada


For those that missed it, I’ll be chairing a session on the Education and Training of Scientists at this year’s Canadian Science Policy Conference in Ottawa next week.  I posted on the topic a few weeks back and would love to get more feedback from people on additional items or proposed solutions to how Canada should best deal with the increase in highly trained specialised scientists and their changing demographic.   (thanks to all those that have sent emails and commented so far – great stuff!)

Good news from the Border – Keeping international PhDs in Canada
Last week the federal government announced that they will expand the skilled workers category to include PhD students in particular disciplines (mostly science and technology) in order to fill gaps in the work force.    This news is most welcome for current PhD students looking to extend their stay in Canada post-degree.  As the CBC article quoted Immigration Minister Jason Kenney “these are folks who are pre-integrated, they are set for success” – so of course it makes sense to let them jump the queue.  It does seem reasonable, however, that the logic being used here could easily apply to PhD students in all disciplines, but for right now, I think beggars can’t be choosers and we tackle one issue at a time.

Where the water is a little murkier is what happens to postdoctoral fellows after their first work visa expires.  A ripple went through the postdoc community when Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced that a four year maximum term was to be instated and must be followed by a four year term outside of Canada before re-application.  From what I’ve been hearing from various administrative sources, it appears that academic research falls under one of the exceptions on their site.  Whether or not research positions will always be viewed as creating or maintaining “significant social, cultural or economic benefits or opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents” remains to be seen.

Interestingly, and moving in nearly the complete opposite direction, the UK government is making it quite difficult for highly trained individuals to call the UK their home – an interesting commentary on this by the UK Visa Bureau is here.  In essence though, the border in the UK is becoming increasingly tight even for highly skilled migrants.

Hopefully Canada continues on the road its currently on and keeps encouraging highly skilled labourers to make their home in Canada.

David Kent
Dr. David Kent is a principal investigator at the York Biomedical Research Institute at the University of York, York, UK. He trained at Western University and the University of British Columbia before spending 10 years at the University of Cambridge, UK where he ran his research group until 2019. His laboratory's research focuses on the fundamental biology of blood stem cells and how changes in their regulation lead to cancers. David has a long history of public engagement and outreach including the creation of The Black Hole in 2009.
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  1. SB / November 9, 2011 at 16:06

    I just wanted to point out that for international MSc or PhD graduates in the sciences who studied in BC, there is probably a faster way to immigrate to Canada through the Provincial Nominee Program. The application processing time for the skilled worker category is 21 months, according to the most recent data available, whereas it’s 13 months for provincial nominees. (see for more information)
    I think it makes fiscal sense for Canada to retain international grad students; in addition to contributing to a highly skilled, diverse workforce etc. etc., many of these people will have received tax-free stipends as well as specialized training for the duration of their grad studies, so it makes sense to allow those who wish to remain in the country to contribute back to the economy, and to the training of new people.

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