International Students at KPU Speak Out Against Work Hour Limits

Many are critical of a policy that led to the arrest of Jobandeep Singh Sandhu for exceeding working hours

International student Fernando Cilento says that he would choose to work for longer than 20 hours a week if he was legally allowed to. (Braden Klassen)

Jobandeep Singh Sandhu, a mechanical engineering student from India, was driving a truck from Montreal to Toronto in December 2017 when he was pulled over and arrested for exceeding a 20-hour work limit placed on international students.

A year and a half later, he faced deportation. 

A petition was created in an effort to stop Sandhu’s deportation and grant him a temporary residence permit, and was signed by more than 50,000 people before being presented to Ahmed Hussen, the Federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

Sandhu’s arrest has inspired international students across Canada to speak out against the work hours policy. They point to expensive tuition as one of the reasons that they would feel compelled to work past the government-imposed limit.

“Our tuition fees are incompatible with how many hours we are allowed to work,” says Fernando Cilento, an international student who works with KPU on the Surrey campus while also holding a part-time job off campus. 

Cilento came to Canada as an exchange student from Brazil before becoming an international student at KPU. Transitioning from being an exchange student to an international student also granted him the ability to work off campus, which he was unable to do before.

“For my reality, and I assume the reality of most international students, you have to get a job. You have to work,” he says. “In some cases you have to get two jobs. It’s just what you have to do.” 

“When you hear things like ‘Canada is such a welcoming country to immigrants’ and ‘everything is so beautiful and bright, you can come here and you don’t need any money because there are jobs and opportunities’—it’s not so black and white,” he adds.

Cilento says that, while he received a $650 bursary for international students, the amount of financial support specifically for international students can feel limited compared to what’s available for domestic students, despite the fact that international tuition can be up to four times higher.

Starting Sept. 1, international students at KPU will be paying $658.03 per credit, compared to the $141.78 per credit rate that domestic students pay for most undergraduate courses. The rate that international students pay for post-secondary institutions across Canada has been steadily rising over the years, and KPU faced some backlash over the decision to increase the cost of international tuition by 15 per cent in 2018.

Gurdial Dhindsa, Kwantlen Student Association International Student Representative, says that, instead of ensuring that international students have more time to focus on studying, the work hour limits actually put more of a burden on some who find it difficult to pay for tuition and the cost of living in Canada.

“It would help students and would encourage more students to come here. If students can work hard and study, it’s a good thing,” says Dhindsa.

“Mostly, international students here are from China or from India, and there’s a huge currency difference. I would like to appeal to the government, [and I think] that the working hours should be increased,” he adds.

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