A recent tweet by federal Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland calling for the release of Raif and Samar Badawi, currently being detained in Saudi Arabia, has sparked strong reactions from the Saudi government. One response has been the Saudi Arabian government’s decision to cancel the King Abdullah scholarship program which supported Saudi Arabian students studying in Canada.
Recipients of the scholarship have their flights, tuition, and accommodations paid for by the Saudi Arabian government. They also receive a monthly allowance to cover living expenses. This decision by the Saudi Arabian government leaves an estimated 20,000 students currently enrolled in Canadian post-secondary institutions and their accompanying family members uncertain about their future.
So, what can Saudi Arabian students do?
Saudi students and their spouses may work to support themselves
Although many universities have issued statements indicating their support for Saudi students, some students’ options may remain limited.
One requirement of a study permit application is to provide Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) with proof of financial support for the duration of the study program. For Saudi Arabian students, evidence of this support was provided by the Saudi government. The Saudi Arabian government’s decision to cancel the scholarship program means Saudi students in Canada will no longer have a supporting letter to submit with their applications. Those wishing to stay in Canada without the benefit of the scholarship will now have to provide proof they can independently support themselves and their accompanying family members. International students are not eligible for funding under the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).
Saudi Arabian students with sufficient personal savings to pay their own tuition may be able to stay in Canada if their current study permit has not yet expired. Saudi students enrolled in full-time studies at eligible institutions are authorized to work for any employer for up to 20 hours a week during academic term and full time if not studying. Additionally, spouses of these students may be eligible for an open work permit valid for the same length as their spouse’s study permit. Further, students who are about to complete their studies and meet the program requirements, may apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit which could allow them to work in Canada for up to 3 years after they graduate. Saudi students wishing to stay may take advantage of these work opportunities to support themselves during their stay in Canada.
Unfortunately, for those students who cannot afford to independently pay for their tuition it may prove more difficult to remain in Canada. In addition to potentially securing employment during their study-term, these students may apply for bursaries or scholarships from their respective universities but are not eligible for any public funding. Those who are unable to secure alternative funding for their studies will likely be forced to return home or take up the Saudi Arabian government’s offer to place them in a school outside of Canada.
For additional information about study and work permit applications please contact us directly.