Affiliate college students are not eligible for post-grad work permits. Why?

When Daniel Martin was nearing graduation, he began to think about applying for a post-graduate work permit.

But when the recent grad of the Vancouver School of Theology (VST) and former AMS councillor looked into applying, and was shocked to learn he was not eligible.

Typically, students who graduate from post-secondary institutions are eligible to apply for a post-graduate work permit to stay in the country after they are done with their studies. In BC, students who attend theological institutes are not eligible to apply for that permit.

“We learned previously we were eligible until 2017 when they suddenly just stopped getting approved. There was no communication, nothing different, nothing changed,” said Martin.

At UBC, this problem concerns VST students, but also students of other UBC affiliate colleges Corpus Christi College, St. Mark's and Regent.

Students at theological institutes in other provinces — McMaster Divinity in Hamilton, Ontario and Taylor Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta — are eligible for post-graduate work permits, making BC potentially an exception on this issue.

The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training said in a statement to The Ubyssey that post-grad work permits are set by federal policy and private legislation authorizes theological institutions to grant degrees in theology.

“The Province does not review and/or authorize individual programs of study leading to a degree in theology which is different than other degrees offered at public institutions like UBC which are required to submit all academic programming through the Ministry for a quality review and Ministerial approval,” said a representative from the ministry.

“Because the Province does not review or authorize individual theological degree programs, graduates from these degrees do not meet federal eligibility requirements for the post graduate work permits.”

Upon discovering that affiliate college students were left out, Martin sought help from VST and International Student Advising, but ended up navigating the process himself.

“[When I turned] to the international student’s office … I found out that affiliate students are not eligible to talk to anyone at the international students office,” he said.

“So here I am, not eligible for the permit [and] I had already accepted a job assuming that I will get it and I had nowhere to turn. I actually had to figure out all the information myself and make the contacts myself,” Martin said.

Martin brought the issue up with the AMS, saying that “as a student, [he] had nowhere to turn.”

Since then, AMS VP External Saad Shoaib has committed to including this issue in the student society’s advocacy going forward.

“The AMS is going to continue work with affiliated college representatives and the students that have been affected to ensure that those students are being given equitable opportunities to stay in Canada after their graduation,” Shoaib said.

But Martin stressed the responsibility of UBC to communicate what services are available to affiliate students, as he was surprised to find out he was not able to access International Student Advising.

“It is another one of these services that I had assumed we would have access to and [came] to find out that we didn’t.”

Shoaib said the AMS Advocacy Committee and his office have been working on how to address this issue — in the context of a new move by the AMS to represent affiliate colleges more in its advocacy to external bodies and the university.

“We have recently just started meeting with the folks from the administration and also the student representatives. We are going to continue to evaluate what areas of advocacy are needed and where advocacy efforts are headed,” he said.

“The AMS is going to continue to strengthen those relationships with the affiliate colleges and to make sure that they feel represented by their AMS.”