Two University of Saskatchewan PhD students and a recent grad - all in science and engineering - say although they want to stay in Saskatchewan, they may have to leave the country.
A federal bureaucratic change on Jan. 1 lumped international graduates in the same category as every applicant with Canadian work experience applying for permanent residency.
"That's when it started becoming complicated," says Siddharth Suresh, a 25-yearold University of Saskatchewan graduate who obtained a master's degree in chemical engineering. When he first came to Saskatchewan in 2011, the rules stipulated he should have a full-time job after graduation to be eligible to apply for permanent residency.
Now, that job offer must be in his field of study and must be a permanent job.
"I'm losing hope," he said.
Technically, he could apply without a job offer. However, the points-based system make his chances slim. To apply as a provincial nominee through the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP), an international graduate must have a job offer for more than two years in their field of study.
There are few permanent jobs in the province for chemical engineers, Suresh says.
For now, staying on a three-year postgraduate visa, Suresh works as a machine operator at Saputo Dairy Products - a job that pays the bills and has nothing to do with his training. Most of his friends who studied in Saskatchewan have moved to Alberta, where after working for one year, they can apply to be permanent residents through that province's nominee program, which includes a special stream for engineering jobs.
"I want to stay in Saskatchewan, but I can hardly find a job in Saskatchewan," he said, saying the rules have become too strict.
Shakhawath Hossain, a PhD student in mechanical engineering, says the federal and provincial rules are also stacked against students who want a career in academics.
"They don't really want us here. We don't have any options," he said.
Set to graduate in the spring, Hossain, 29, would like to apply for post-doctoral fellowships. That's the route many people take before seeking a job as a university faculty member. The problem? A post-doctoral fellowship is not considered a permanent job, making him ineligible to apply for residency through the federal program. Jobs eligible for the provincial program must last longer than two years, which some fellowships do not exceed.
"I'm not sure if anyone really cares about the students," Hossain said. "This PhD and masters work, it might not have any immediate impact, but maybe these projects, this work, will create hundreds of jobs at one point. But not now. So they're not giving this any value."
B.C.'s immigrant nominee program has a category for international post-graduates in the sciences to apply for residency. Anyone who has graduated from a B.C. post-secondary institution with a graduate degree in sciences within the past two years is eligible, whether or not they have a job offer.
Furthermore, permanent residents and citizens are eligible for many more research grants than an immigrant on a work permit or a visa.
Hossain's wife lives in Bangladesh and is holding off applying for PhD programs in Canada because Hossain doesn't know where he'll be.