Hi Everyone,

2020 was one for the books. It was challenging, humbling, eye-opening, and to go with one of the top words used to describe it, unprecedented.

A positive aspect amid coping with a global pandemic, economic fallout, and racial reckoning, is that Canadians continue to value inclusivity. As reported by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, the pre-existing trends toward openness and inclusion among Canadians continued throughout the past year.

“Strong and increasing majorities of Canadians express comfort with current immigration levels and see immigrants as good for the Canadian economy, not as threats (…) The public continues to believe immigration makes Canada a better country, not a worse one, and they are most likely to say this is because welcoming newcomers makes for a more diverse and multicultural place in which to live”, explains Michael Adams, founder and president of the Environics Institute for Survey Research.

Similarly, last year the Canadian government announced it hopes to welcome over 1.2 million immigrants over the next three years. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) aims to grant 401,000 Canadian permanent residence in 2021, 411,000 in 2022, and 21,000 in 2023.
International students in Canadian universities who remain in the country after graduating represent a valuable pipeline feeding Canadian immigration needs. Canada is the world’s third-leading destination for international students with 642,000 foreign students in 2019. Out of these, approximately 60% have plans to remain in the country after finishing their studies. 
Many Canadian universities and colleges also rely on the influx of international students. The revenues from the international student population help fund their rising operating expenses. Canadian government research estimates that international students contribute over $21 billion annually to the country’s economy and help to sustain over 170,000 jobs.
International students will not only play a key role in helping the government achieve its immigration targets but also in shaping Canada’s population and workforce growth. Yet they face many challenges, which have only become more palpable during the pandemic.
While adapting to their new life in Canada, international students struggle with language barriers, culture shock, lack of social support, isolation, psychological stresses, child-rearing responsibilities, limited knowledge about the services available to them, unemployment, and financial hardships.
Francine Schlosser, Professor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Windsor, and Reza Shahbazi, Executive Director at New Canadians' Centre of Excellence, discussed some solutions to these challenges at the Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE) conference held on November 18, 2020. Moreover, they presented the idea of using international students' talent and Canadian education as a sustainable nation-building strategy. 
According to them, the recruitment of international students could be coordinated with Canadian immigration targets by having the appropriate supports in place. For example, international students’ pathway to a permanent resident status has service gaps that need to be visited by IRCC. Currently, they are not eligible for the settlement services provided by IRCC. The infrastructure and services to serve them already exist, but they need to be made eligible to access it. They also need help to find jobs and successfully enter the labor market after graduation.

The International Student Connect (ISC) Project has been working in close collaboration with settlement agencies and educational institutes to fill these service gaps and provide settlement services to international students in Ontario since 2015.

We are grateful to have a robust online presence and the tools needed to provide settlement support to international students through our partners amid these challenging times. From April to December 2020, we have delivered 130 ISC sessions and served 3,327 students virtually in Ontario. 

We believe that international students are a valuable asset to the country and we are here for you to help you serve them. 

Stay safe and stay positive,
The ISC Project Team

New bilingual chatbot is available on the ISC website

We are proud to announce the launch of the Orientation to Ontario (O2O) Bilingual Chatbot. Funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), and the Province of Ontario, the chatbot is the newest addition to ISC’s client-centered user experience, where newcomers and international students can access standardized information about settling in Ontario and connecting to community services as soon as they arrive while accessing other online resources, like on-demand webinars and fact sheets. 

The chatbot also connects users to local settlement service providers across the province and 211 Ontario. It can be accessed at any time on the ISC website via a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

To learn more about how the chatbot works, watch this video.

Federal Government announced new policy to help former international students work in Canada  

The Government of Canada announced a new policy that allows former international students who hold or held a post-graduation work permit (PGWP) to apply for an open work permit.

The policy will be valid for 18 months and allow former international students to remain in Canada, continue to seek employment, obtain the work experience they need to apply for permanent residence, and build their future in this country. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) estimates that as many as 52,000 graduates with expired or expiring PGWPs could benefit. 

“Young students from abroad who have studied here can stay and find work, while ensuring that Canada meets the urgent needs of our economy for today and tomorrow. Our message to international students and graduates is simple: we don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here", said Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

To apply for an open work permit under the new policy, an applicant must:
  • have a PGWP that expired on or after January 30, 2020, or a PGWP that expires in 4 months or less from the date they apply
  • still be in Canada
  • have a valid temporary status, or be applying to restore their status
Applications will be open from January 27 to July 27, 2021. Details on how to apply will be added to IRCC’s website on January 27, 2021.

 ISC Online Resources

The ISC project offers information and orientation resources to international students found on the ISC website. These resources are available at no cost in English and French and include a Handbook for International Students in Ontario, Ontario International Students Guide, fact sheets, and webinars on various settlement topics such as housing, employment, and immigration. Click on the video below to learn more!

Scholarship opportunities for
students from Southeast Asia

Global Affairs Canada is offering short-term scholarships to students from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for study or research opportunities with Canadian post-secondary academic institutions.

The Canada-ASEAN Scholarships and Educational Exchanges for Development (SEED) will provide approximately 125 scholarships in 2021-2022 for study or research in fields that are aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Canadian post-secondary academic institutions can now submit scholarship applications on behalf of students from eligible countries by March 4, 2021. Only applications submitted directly by Canadian post-secondary academic institutions will be considered.

Interested candidates are invited to contact their home institution’s international office to learn about institutional partnerships and collaborations with Canadian institutions. Home institutions in ASEAN member states will then provide the eligible candidates’ documentation to the Canadian institutions.
  • Program name: Canada-ASEAN Scholarships and Educational Exchanges for Development (SEED)
  • Funding organization: Global Affairs Canada
  • Target audiences: Students at the college, undergraduate and graduate levels in Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand or Vietnam
  • Number of scholarships: approximately 125
  • Duration: 4 to 8 months at the college and undergraduate level; 4 to 6 months at the graduate level
  • Inclusions: Visa and/or study/work permit fees, airfare, health insurance, living expenses, ground transportation expenses, books, and supplies
For full program and application details, visit

What's in the news?

Post-coronavirus recovery starts with immigrants and international students
Canadian immigration policy ranked among top five in the world
COVID-19 changed everything, except Canada’s values of inclusiveness
How the pandemic has disrupted the lives of international students in Canada

Invisible challenges faced by francophone students

There is a minority group on all Canadian campuses: the francophone students. It can be hard to identify them. They are enrolled in courses delivered in English, working on projects and assignments in English, and speaking to their professors and classmates in English. Because of this invisibility, there are not many services catered to them and they do not have a lot of opportunities to practice their French on the campus.

Many elementary schools and high schools in Ontario have French courses or offer the French immersion program. But once they decide to further their studies, the opportunities to learn, improve, and practice French are not vastly available. Some of these students have written essays in French their whole life, and now, they need to write them in English. There will be a period of linguistic adaptation at the beginning of their degree that can affect their grades and even have an impact on their scholarships.

International francophone students face similar challenges. Some of the programs that they are interested in may not be available in French in Ontario. This leaves them with two options available: to study the program of their choice in English or to choose another province. It can be a difficult choice to make, thus, many international francophone students decide to complete their studies in English in Ontario.

Valérie Caron, Regional Project Coordinator at Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) presented some solutions to these challenges at the Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE) conference held on November 17, 2020. Caron advised organizations and institutions to develop partnerships for students with other francophone or bilingual universities within Canada.

Since there are very few French language activities on the English campuses, universities or colleges could develop a summer program in French or allow students to work with a French-speaking professor on a research project. Institutions could also use the Francophonie network as a tool for internalization and offer virtualization in education to allow francophone students to remain in their province and expand their programs to international francophone students around the world. Organizations and institutions should also have a dedicated person for Francophonie and francophone students amongst their staff.

What could your organization do to increase the opportunities for your domestic and international francophone students to study in French? How can you help them overcome these challenges and provide them with more opportunities in French? Please share your input with us via email at

What is International Student Connect (ISC)?

International Student Connect (ISC) is a bilingual pilot project that provides settlement support and orientation to international students pursuing post-secondary education in Ontario. It is coordinated by COSTI Immigrant Services and funded by the Government of Ontario.

Our goal is to help international students integrate successfully should they choose to settle in Ontario after graduation. Information is provided through one to two hours Let’s Connect sessions or One-On-one sessions at Colleges and Universities.

Check out the ISC Handbook and learn more about the project here.

We want to hear from you!


Your feedback is important to us. Send us an email to and let us know what information you would like to receive in the next ISC Newsletter.
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COSTI Immigrant Services
2301 Keele Street, Unit 102
Toronto, ON
M6N 3Z9

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International Student Connect · 2301 Keele Street · Unit 102 · Toronto, On M6N 3Z9 · Canada

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