Quebec is playing the citizenship card in a bid to recruit to Canada foreign students who might otherwise be tempted to study in Australia, Britain, or the United States.
The province's premier, Jean Charest, who is leading a delegation of university heads on a visit to India, told a packed meeting at the University of Mumbai on Monday that, starting on February 14, foreign students who graduated from universities in Quebec would get "a certificate of selection" that would put them on a fast track to Canadian citizenship.
"Any student who secures a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from any university in Quebec will obtain a certificate of selection to become a citizen of Canada ," said Mr. Charest, according to The Times of India. "We have the right to select our own citizens. We are doing this because we have a shortage of skilled labor."
Mr. Charest said that once foreign students had the certificate, the federal government would then carry out security and health checks before awarding citizenship.
The premier's announcement is likely to encourage Indian students to think about Canada, especially in the wake of a surprise report over the weekend that British authorities had temporarily suspended all student-visa applications from northern India, Nepal, and Bangladesh because of suspicions that not all applicants were genuine students. British visa offices were inundated with an unusually large number of applications from the region, a development that set off fears of fraud.
Recent racial violence against Indian students in Australia as well as the sudden closure of four Australian colleges that left thousands of Indian students out of pocket and without credentials may be cooling the attraction of studying in Australia. And Canadian universities believe they can significantly increase their enrollments from India.
The Quebec universities, like their counterparts in other provinces, already have a number of partnerships with Indian institutions. "Over the last few years, we've seen, right across the country, Canadian universities showing an increased interest in strategic engagement with India," said Pari Johnston, international director of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. "They've stepped up efforts in terms of recruitment, joint research partnerships, joint program development, and sending our own students to India for exchanges and internships."
A pilot project run by Canadian immigration authorities and community colleges to speed up applications from India has doubled the acceptance rate, according to a report released by the government last Friday. It showed that processing visas took an average of about two and a half weeks. The program is designed to uncover any fraud with a variety of checks, including a requirement that applicants provide verifiable documentation and a feedback mechanism in which colleges report back on whether students show up.