Facing rejected work permit, student claims to be misled by college
College claims that student can apply for work permit on their own, no promises of outcomes.
Yescenya Bigford and her husband Jordan Bigford are alleging that Anderson College misled them to believe that their students are eligible to apply for post-graduate work permit and stay in Canada after graduation.
Foreign post-graduate students can stay in Canada after their graduate studies in order to obtain work experience by the federal government’s post-graduate work permit program. This experience in working in Canada is useful when applying for permanent Canadian residence. However, students of private non-degree granting educational institutes are not eligible to apply for the post-graduate work program.
Yascenya, an American citizen, learned it the hard way when flagpoled at the border with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to apply for the post-graduate work permit and the border guard told her “Wither we send you home now or I give you two to three days to go home, pack up your stuff and then you go back.”
Yescenya Bigford, 29, an American citizen, and her husband, Jordan Bigford, 25, a Canadian citizen, have been together for 2 years. They decided in February last year that Yescenya would move to Canada permanently and they would build a life for themselves here together. So Yescenya had to get the work experience necessary to receive a permanent Canadian residence and start a career.
Yescenya already had experience in medical lab technology. So she chose to enroll in Anderson College of Health, Business and Technology. Another reason was that the belief that graduating from that institute would make her eligible to apply for post-graduate work program of the federal government.
However, when she went to the CBSA, she was unpleasantly surprised to find out that students of Anderson College, the one she was enrolled in, are not eligible to apply for the program. She was told that she had to leave, and was given the option of leaving immediately or take a week’s time to set things in order and gather her stuff, then leave.
The Canadian media is reporting that the practice of misleading foreign students to believe that they can stay in Canada after studies for work does in fact exist. As earlier mentioned, private institutes that do not have degree granting courses are not eligible to have their students enroll in the post-graduate work program. However, some of such students have been granted permits due to errors by IRCC or CBSA bureaucracy. Even a few students of Anderson College have received such work permits, but it was due to errors and unintentional.
After learning that Yescenya was not eligible for the work program, could have to leave Canada and be separated from her husband, she was grief struck and in tears. Her husband, Jordan, was trying to console her and then he tried to explain the situation to the border official, that they were married and would be forced to live apart if she did not get a permit. The border official sympathized with them and issued her a year-long visitor’s visa to let her stay.
They also learned from the CBSA official that they weren’t the first ones and that they have been getting many such cases of people being misled about getting misled by educational institutes. The CBSA has been looking into many colleges who were responsible for misleading potential students to believe that their students are eligible for the work program when it isn’t true.
The CBC contacted Anderson College but they refused to comment on whether any specific entities are under the scanner.
When asked about it, Anderson College’s director Heather Yang denied all allegations, responding that the college could not be held responsible for misleading anybody to believe that their students are eligible for work permits. She said that their protocol is to refer their students to the IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship) website and ask them to seek advice from immigration consultants. The school is not responsible for handling work permit or immigration affairs of students, they have to take care of it themselves.
When Yang was told about Yescenya’s allegation that the recruiter who got her enrolled said she could apply for a work permit under the post-graduate work program, Yang again dismissed the allegation responding that the said recruiter was a trusted staff member. Sheldon Inkon, the legal counsel for the college, stated in a letter that the allegations made by Yescenya should not be taken seriously since they were accusations ‘made by a disgruntled student’.
However, the language used on its website by Anderson College could be said to suggest otherwise. Before altering their site in response to the CBC article, the website stated “International students are automatically eligible to work while studying, and can possibly work after graduation with a permit.”
When the direct statement from the website as pointed out by CBC to Anderson College, the legal counsel of the college, Inkol, admitted that the website did mention that. She said that the questionable claim was an ‘oversight’ and not a deliberate attempt of deception. She said that that statement on the website was meant to refer to the fact that in the past some of its students have received a permit, and that the college failed to update the statement when it was no longer the case.
She added that any student is free to apply for the post-graduate work program of their own, but the college cannot provide any assurances about the outcomes. The extent of the assistance provided by the college will be limited to providing any documents required such as diploma, transcripts etc. for submitting with the application. Beyond that, it is up to the IRCC to decide if the students are eligible.
The correspondence between Yescenya and the college shows that the college was helpful in providing the documents, but still, it did not help her since the college itself was not qualified for the post-graduate work program.
Tanya Blazina, a spokeswoman for the Ontario Superintendent of Private Career Colleges said that some colleges on their part had been under the illusion that they were eligible for the program, since some of their students were getting their work permits approved. Pointing out some earlier cases of such approvals, Inkol said that this misunderstanding had existed since at least 5 years ago.
Blazina mentioned that in the past when the superintendent had found any colleges at fault, they have worked with the college and the affected students to figure out an amenable solution, which included offering the students the option of a full refund.
Yescenya Bigford is also seeking a refund but her requests have not yielded any results as of yet. Blazina says that her office has not received any complaints about the case, but they are not looking into the issue.
According to the National Association of Career Colleges (NACC), the failure of the government to provide clear requirements for the post-graduate work program is at fault. According to the NACC, the government should provide a clear list of colleges that are qualified for the program, just as they do with colleges for which foreign students can get study permits. Serge Buy, the CEO of NACC mentioned that they recommend that their member institutes clearly mention that they are ineligible for the program. However, he also added that a description of what kind of institutes are eligible is confusing, and a simple list of qualified colleges must be provided.
Responding to such lack of clarity from IRCC, they said that they regularly review their website and if they find any issues with their messaging, they update it as deemed appropriate. They also added that it the responsibility of the applicants who wish to apply to any programs to check if they are completely eligible for the same.
Yescenya blames the deceptive language used by the college on its website, saying they are not supposed to provide assurances of something they are not legally entitled to provide. She said that had she known it from the beginning, she would not have chosen the college since a major reason for choosing the college was getting a work permit. She claims that the college intentionally used half-truths and deceptive language as a sales pitch.