International students studying in Canada are being faced with the possibility of having to leave the country due to an ongoing strike by civil servants who process foreign visa applications.
The federal government and the union representing diplomats and immigration officers abroad have been locked in a contract negotiation battle for months. As part of escalating job action measures, diplomats at 15 key visa application centres — including Beijing, Delhi, Sao Paolo and Mexico City — have withdrawn their services.
Cristobal Vasquez is from Peru. Not only does the fourth year political science student study at St. Thomas University, he also works there.
Vasquez is trying to renew his visa but the diplomat’s strike is hampering his application.
"I know that I'm already planning to go back home this December — but I already have to plan for the future because my visa needs to be renewed in order for me to come back — out and in. Now with the strike we have to think forward," he said.
Daniel Coleman, assistant vice-president academic at the University of New Brunswick, said he has concerns but is hoping the strike’s impact will be limited.
"We're most concerned about the students, that it would be really unfortunate if they had to delay their programs. We're anticipating that the majority of our students won't be affected because the majority are returning, and depending on the country of origin they already have a permit for their entire length of their program," he said.
But new students will be impacted the most. Some are already delaying the start of studies until next semester.
International students make up an increasingly important and lucrative part of the university student body in New Brunswick. Nearly 11,000 international students study in the region.
At STU, where classes start this week, director of international recruitment Ryan Sullivan said the school has made special accommodations because of the strike.
"We've made arrangements with professors to get caught up with work at home, get their readings done so that when they arrive they'll be able to just jump right into class and we also extended the deadline later into September, later than normal, so they'll be able to come in once classes have started and hopefully have a seamless transition," he said.
With no end to the strike in sight, it means that visas will continue to backlog. That potentially means more delayed education and at worst, students will just go to other countries