Immigration strike may delay Canada student visas

The Dean of Students at Canada's prestigious McGill University says that the strike by Canadian immigration officers posted overseas may prevent some students from successfully enrolling before the start of the academic year in September.

The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) has been holding a series of days of industrial action since June 6th. They say that they are paid less than their colleagues based in Canada and are demanding compensating pay rises. PAFSO says that its members, who include government economists, diplomats and lawyers as well as immigration staff, are paid between CAN$3,000 and CAN$14,000 less than their equivalents in Canada.

There has been strike action at offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Delhi, Chandigarh, Mexico City and Manila in the Philippines.

Canadian government refusing to negotiate

The Canadian government is currently refusing to compromise. It says that PAFSO staff get perks such as car allowances and dry cleaning allowances which make up for the lower pay.

McGill's Dean of Students Andre Costopoulos has told Canadian broadcaster CBC that many international students may have to join their courses a term late. In the case of engineering students they may have to defer their courses until the next academic year of 2014/15.

McGill is concerned that this may cause a hole in its finances if hundreds or even thousands' of students are unable to begin their courses.

International students important for Canadian economy

Jonathan Champagne of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations said that international students were 'really important to the economy and to Canada's international landscape as a whole'. Mr Champagne said that international students contribute CAN$8bn per year to Canada's economy.

'Now students from around the world are potentially having to go look at other places to study such as the UK or Australia' Mr Champagne said.

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