By Mohamed Omar
Like most students, mechanical engineering student Hamed Sayah needs money to pay for rent, food, clothes, books and social life. But for the international student in third-year getting a job off campus means an expensive process and frustrating limitations that domestic students might know little about.
“Students can work on campus anywhere they want without a work permit from Citizenship and Immigration Canada,” said Keitha Prospere, International Student Services administrator. “For off-campus work permits they have to apply for and obtain a work permit from the CIC that costs $150.”
Ryerson President Sheldon Levy said the university receives the same amount of funds from each student and doesn’t think it would be right to prioritize international students for on-campus work placements.
“That would be unfair to non-international students,” Levy said. “It’s one issue for the university to do what it can to expedite and support international students both in the processing of forms and to provide them with the opportunity to work on campus. It’s an entirely different issue to say we would choose an international student ahead of a Canadian.”
Students can apply for a work permit online and by mail. But the online application takes twice the processing time.
“Once the online process was launched, most people gravitated towards online applications, so now it’s fully booked,” Prospere said. “The processing time is
30 days by mail, and if it’s online it’s about 60 days or more.”
Sayah is only allowed to work 20 hours a week during the school year, but cashes in on his chance to work full-time during the summer and holidays.
“I wasted most of my holidays and weekends working when I could have been at least having some fun or
Sayah, who lives on his own, cannot pay for tuition or rent with a part-time job.
“Work covers food, clothes, that kind of stuff, but I can’t pay $20,000 while working for minimum wage. I have to rely on my family,” he said.
“For the amount of money we pay, you’d expect them to help us out more.”
A student applying online or by mail must first apply at the CIC website first, wait for his or her student status to be verified with the ISS office at Ryerson,
and finally obtain a verification letter which is used for the actual application.
The student then takes this verification letter and applies for the work permit
either online or by mail.
Unfortunately, even after all of this is done and taken care of, things don’t get that much better for international
students who pay roughly $20,000 a year in tuition fees.
Additionally, international students cannot apply for a work permit as soon as they start their studies.
“Students have to wait six months
before they can apply for the work permit from CIC,” Prospere said. “They want you to come and easily transition to the Canadian education system. So six months is a good amount of time for a student to adjust, be comfortable and focus on studies.”
Prospere said the university is encouraging international students to apply for the work permit and gain important
Canadian work experience.
“You made it to Ryerson. Take advantage of any opportunities you find. You need Canadian experience and this is one of the best ways to get that experience,” she said.
And for the next 4 years of an international student’s life, it’s the only way.
Photo: Chelsea Pottage