Anxious parents of Punjabi students in Canada say can only wait and watch
Canada popular study destination with Punjab youngsters due to easier immigration and large Punjabi population there with a political say; of the 5.51 lakh new international students in 2022, as many as 2.26 lakh (41%) were from India.
With India suspending visa services to Canadian citizens for “operational reasons” on Thursday as a fallout of the tense ties between the two countries after Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged Indian involvement in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June, there is anxiety and panic among parents in Punjab whose children are on study permit in the North American country.
Canada is the top choice among Punjabi youngsters due to its flexible education policy, work opportunities, easier post-graduation immigration possibilities and because of the large Punjabi population there with a political say. The route to first study in Canada and then become a permanent resident (PR) is the most popular.
Such is the craze that the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) welcomed 5.51 lakh new international students in 2022, of which 2.26 lakh (41%) were from India. It was followed by applicants from China, The Philippines, France and Nigeria.
As many as 3.19 lakh Indian students were already living and studying in Canada as on December 31, 2022.
However, with tension escalating between the two countries, a sense of insecurity prevails among those who have applied for Canadian study visa for the January intake. The parents and aspirants want the governments of both the countries to resolve the crisis in a diplomatic manner instead of using stringent measures.
While some parents say that there is no cause for worry as their wards have travelled on genuine documents and are working part-time according to norms, many are keeping their fingers crossed hoping for an early end to the crisis.
“My daughter is in Canada on study permit for the past two years. After Thursday’s development, I called her up to check on her. She said there is no sense of panic among foreign Indian students in Canada despite the crisis after PM Justin Trudeau’s remarks on wanted terrorist Nijjar’s killing,” said Gurbachan Singh, a retired Punjab Police inspector.
Security amid hate crime threat concern: Parents
Another Jalandhar resident, Ranjit Singh, who is in Canada to visit his son Raunak Singh, said most parents are only concerned about the security of their children. “The children have got their Canadian study visas on genuine documents, therefore, there are no worries about their future. The only issue is the security of Indian students as there are apprehensions of increasing hate crime among Indians students in the coming days,” he said.
Simranpreet Kaur of Mand village in Jalandhar said she had recently applied for study visa to take admission in a Brampton-based college for the January intake. “I am worried that the tension between the two countries could hamper my visa prospects. I have also contacted an immigration consultant to gather more information on any sort of changes in the process of granting study visas,” she said.
‘Invested all we had, hope no curbs on work permit’
Narinder Singh, another parent, whose son Jashanjot Singh recently migrated to Canada, said the family is worried and has been checking on him several times in the day. “We have spent all their investments to send him to Canada on study permit. Our concern is that the Canadian authorities should not impose restrictions on work permits, making the process of acquiring PR status complicated in the coming days. For now, we can only wait and watch,” he said.
In 2021, 35% of the foreign students who arrived in Canada on study permit were Indians. Of the 6.17 lakh study visas granted by Canada, 2.17 lakh were given to Indian students, most of them Punjabis.
Even in 2020, a year hit by Covid-19, India contributed the highest number of foreign students with 1.8 lakh (34%) study visas of the 5.30 lakh visas granted.