Canada’s immigration policy recognizes international students as a vital source of highly skilled workers and ideal candidates for this two-step system. The path from temporary to permanent residence and social and economic integration should be reasonably easy for international students with a Canadian education, work experience, and proficiency in at least one official language. Instead, data and information show that they experience low transition rates, underemployment, and lower median income after graduation compared to their Canadian-born counterparts and a significant gap exists between policy assumptions and actual experiences. This gap has grown during the ongoing pandemic, revealing their vulnerable and precarious migration status and employment conditions.
To better understand international students’ transition and integration challenges, we must acknowledge that most go through, not two, but three steps in the immigration process, from study permit to postgraduate work permit, and then to permanent residency. This lengthy process involves not just migration transitions but also life transitions from school to work, and often changes in family status, which has important gender and intersectional dimensions. The project examines this three-stage migration and integration process of international students analyzing gender and intersectional identities, life-course events and institutional policies. The study contributes to theorizing concepts of time, life course and transition in migration, looking at interactions between migration status, specific life phases, employment and social and institutional factors (such as migration policies, roles of educational institutions and labour market barriers).