We stopped mass deportations!

55,000 migrant student workers WILL NOT be deported! Why? Because organizing works! Last year when tens of thousands of us were facing deportation for a crisis not in our making, we came together to take action for change. AND WE WON. In direct response to migrant student workers speaking up, the federal government has made post graduate work permits (PGWPs) renewable!

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The fight is not over. Many migrant student workers are in essential jobs, but our work is not valued or counted towards permanent immigration status because it is low-waged and deemed “low-skilled.” We know that it is the work we do — delivery, warehousing, construction, retail, care — which sustains society. We will continue to take action so that all our work is valued.  

This isn’t just a victory for migrant student workers. It’s a victory for all migrant and undocumented people because it shows that together we can organize to win the changes we deserve. Now, more than ever, we must all unite for full and permanent immigration status for all and build the world we want to live in. 

How we fought and won:

In mid-March 2020, as COVID-19 was hitting our communities hard, Migrant Student United (MSU) organized online information sessions for migrant students. Over 2,300 migrant student workers joined in with our concerns. Based on these meetings, MSU sent a letter to the government in April and launched a petition calling for healthcare, income support, and immigration changes. Over 12,000 people signed on. 

Between May and July, MSU held weekly online meetings with hundreds of student workers to share up-to-date information, and identify priorities. MSU supported student workers to establish local Migrant Students United chapters. If you want to start a chapter on your campus or in your city, email us msu@migrantworkersalliance.org. On July 4th, migrant students joined actions for status for all across the country. 

In August, thousands of us met and discussed being unable to complete the work experience required for permanent residency status because of unfair immigration rules. Many of us had lost our jobs because of COVID-19 or couldn’t find work. MSU launched a petition calling on the government to #RenewPGWP. Over 5,000 students signed. On August 23, migrant students joined a full and permanent immigration status for all action in Toronto. 

On September 12, migrant student workers organized a mass rally outside Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office. On September 13, we rallied in Peel. On September 20th, we joined rallies in Toronto. We were featured in CBC National, Global News, the Toronto Star, and our story was shared across multiple major media outlets across Canada. 

On October 25th we rallied in Toronto and installed a giant work permit at immigration headquarters in downtown Toronto.

On November 24, we delivered 16,000 petitions to Immigration Minister Mendicino’s office in Toronto while dozens of student workers and allies took action online. In November, we also postered the offices and the riding of Immigration Minister letting him know that he must stop mass deportations. MSU met with bureaucrats at Immigration Canada.

Faced with our ongoing organizing, the Immigration Minister committed to taking action in Parliament on December 1st. But we didn’t stop. In December, we took our voice to the federal cabinet. We postered the offices of MP Carolyn Bennett, MP Navdeep Bains and MP Maryam Monsef. Hundreds of migrants and allies called and left messages for the Immigration Minister. 

On January 8th, the federal government responded to our demands and made post-graduate work permits renewable. In the past several months, we strengthened our movement – and we will not stop. Migrant student workers will continue to organize alongside all migrant and undocumented people for full and permanent immigration status for all.

Advisory: International Students Left Out in the Cold As Schools Reopen & Unemployment Remains High

Migrant Students United
Media Advisory

International Students Left Out in the Cold As Schools Reopen & Unemployment Remains High

Thousands face deportation, high fees, and lack of healthcare

Toronto and Mississauga, September 10, 2020 — Current and former international students are organizing a weekend of demonstrations in Toronto (Sep 12) and Mississauga (Sep 13) to call for changes to immigration rules to recover from COVID-19. International student tuition fees have increased dramatically during COVID-19 even as students and their families have lost work and wages, and classes have shifted online. Many international graduates on time-restricted work permits are required to complete 12-24 months of continuous high waged work to qualify for permanent resident status. However, with unemployment for racialized workers at 17%, most graduates do not have access to these jobs. Work permits remain non-renewable despite the impact of COVID-19 on the job market, meaning that thousands face deportation in the near future because they cannot fulfill requirements. Delays in permit processing has resulted in thousands without active Social Insurance Numbers. Access to healthcare for former students, even during COVID-19, is tied to having a full-time job, and most students cannot access emergency supports. Over 14,000 people have signed two petitions calling for changes in immigration policy now.

TORONTO – Saturday, September 12, 2:45pm
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office, 344 Bloor Street West

MISSISSAUGA – Sunday, September 13, 2pm 
Westwood Square Mall, 7205 Goreway Drive

There were 572,000 new study permits and 98,470 new post graduate work permits issued in 2019. Many of these permit holders remain in Canada for several years. Over 17,000 one or two-year work permits were issued between September 2019 and June 2020.

Migrant students are calling on the federal and provincial government to:

  • FIX RULES AROUND WORK: Make post-graduate work permits renewable so former students can complete requirements for Permanent Residency (PR) in the COVID-19 job market; Remove time-limits and industry restrictions on work;
  • GIVE REAL ACCESS TO PR: Lower points requirements for PR (CRS); Count work that is part-time, in-school, in any occupation, including with gaps towards PR; and Ensure full and permanent immigration status for all migrants;
  • LOWER TUITION & ENSURE FULL SERVICES: Ensure migrant students pay domestic tuition; Full access to all services including healthcare, housing, jobs, scholarships, pandemic emergency benefits, and in-school support; Immediate access to Social Insurance Numbers
  • UNITE FAMILIES: Allow families to travel, ensure work permits for family members

Media Liaison: Sarom Rho, 647-858-2854, sarom@migrantworkersalliance.org, Migrant Students United 

Petition: International Students Need Support! #FixPGWP

Millions of people lost work and wages during COVID-19. But there’s an added cost to migrant students –  without these jobs, we can’t apply for permanent residency (PR). Now post graduate work permits (PGWP) are expiring, and thousands of us are in crisis. If work permits remain non-renewable, students will lose status and the ability to get PR. Fill in your information below to send an email to Prime Minister Trudeau and Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino to #FixPGWP and ensure #StatusforAll.

We need the government to make immediate changes:
(1) Make Work Permits Renewable, so we have more time.
(2) Value all work to count for PR, including part-time, NOC C & D.
(3) Real access to PR: Lower the Comprehensive Ranking System score.
(4) Unite Families, so our family members can get work permits.
(5) Status for All: All migrants deserve full and permanent status.
(6) Lower Tuition Fees & Universal Services: We want the same rights as everyone else.

Read the letter we sent to Minister Mendicino on Friday October 30, 2020 here.

Release: Migrant Students United & Canadian Federation of Students call on Canada to expand income supports to International Students


Media Contact: Sarom Rho, 647-858-2854, Migrant Students United; Geneviève Charest, g.charest@cfs-fcee.ca, Canadian Federation of Students 

Ottawa & Toronto, April 30, 2020 – Migrant Students United, a cross-Canada organization of international students, and the Canadian Federation of Students, Canada’s largest and oldest national student organization, are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to expand income supports, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) to all students, regardless of immigration status or active Social Insurance Number (SIN). Migrant students have taken to social media today calling for emergency supports, using #MigrantStudentsUnited. Follow students speaking out online by clicking here

“Approximately 1 in 5 postsecondary students in Canada are migrants and excluding them from the CESB is unfair and puts many of these students at risk of hunger and homelessness. We urge the federal government to extend the CESB and CERB to all migrant students, including those without valid SIN or stuck outside the country, and ensure $500 per week in income supports,” says Sarom Rho, Coordinator of Migrant Students United. 

“Welcoming students into Canada must be paired with the necessary support mechanisms to ensure that their health, safety, and income security are being prioritized; that is the responsible thing to do. Most importantly, migrant students are people, just like anyone else, who feel scared at a time of uncertainty and who are being overlooked by the government,” said Sofia Descalzi, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. 


  • On average migrant students pay triple in fees over their domestic counterparts with a national average of $29,714 in tuition fees in 2019. The additional barrier on work restrictions, has placed students in a financial situation where many are struggling to pay for their cost of education, rent, groceries, and other bills. 
  • Migrant students contributed $15.5 billion to the Canadian economy in 2016, making them vital contributors to Canadian society. 
  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has lifted the limitation on working hours for international students in essential industries – but this does not resolve problems. Migrant students in public post-secondary institutions start their summer breaks in April, when the limitation on hours of work already does not apply. Many students are engaged in academic research, which has not been deemed essential. Giving the option to work does not comprehensively address the need of migrant students for income support now, and does not take into account migrant students who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed or are living with people with these conditions. In a decimated job market, it is incredibly hard to find work considering migrant students are not included in the Canada Summer Jobs program. 
  • In a global pandemic and economic downturn, many students have families back home that are struggling to make ends meet and financial support they would normally have is no longer available. 

Release: A million students potentially excluded from emergency income support


Contact: Sarom Rho, Migrant Students United Organizer, 647-858-2854, sarom@migrantworkersalliance.org

A million students potentially excluded from emergency income support 

Toronto, April 22, 2020 – Migrant Students United is calling on the federal government to expand Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) and Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to migrant students. Already, CERB is inaccessible to migrants without a valid Social Insurance Number, which impacts hundreds of thousands of students who cannot renew their work or study permits because of COVID-19 related delays. Now CESB seems to excludes migrant students on a study permit. Over 7,000 migrant students have signed a petition for income supports, worker protections, healthcare and permanent resident status on arrival. 

“Approximately 1 in 5 postsecondary students in Canada are migrants. Excluding them from emergency income supports is unfair. In a pandemic, it is a public health imperative to ensure everyone can stay at home safely, but if migrant students are left out, they are forced to work or face hunger and homelessness. Migrant students pay incredibly high tuition fees and are in the country without their families – they need more support, not less. Everyone, regardless of immigration status must get income supports!” – Sarom Rho, Organizer, Migrant Students United!


  • There are nearly 1 million study and post-graduate work permit holders in Canada. Their SIN begins with ‘9’ and expires along with their immigration permits. To renew SIN, immigration permits must be renewed. COVID-19 has created enormous delays in permit processing, and hundreds of thousands of workers are without income supports. 
  • Migrant students in public institutions are allowed to only work 20 hours off campus during the school term, private institution students can’t work off campus without a new work permit.
  • Migrants students are over-represented in essential industries. They work in construction, cleaning, grocery stores, restaurants, warehouses, domestic work and as truck drivers and delivery workers. 
  • Migrant students pay retail tax on purchases, and property taxes through rent as well as income tax, EI and CPP. 
  • 42.9% of non-permanent residents are low-income (as compared to 12.5% of non-immigrants, and 17.9% of immigrants). They are therefore extremely vulnerable to economic crises – a single missed paycheque causes irreversible harm to health, safety, and future life possibilities.
  • Like other low-wage workers, migrant students spend the majority of their income on rent, basic necessities, food and transportation. As such, they play a critical role in sustaining and growing local economies. When income disappears for the poorest, the effects are amplified across the entire economy. 
  • In a global pandemic and economic downturn, many students have families back home that are struggling to make ends meet – migrant students need emergency income, as well as access to lower fees.
  • Over 7,000 students have signed a petition calling for healthcare for all, enhanced workers protections, open work permits and permanent resident status for all, an end to detentions and deportations, and community supports for migrant students: www.MigrantRights.ca/MigrantStudents

Free Legal Information Session for International Students

Are you on a study permit? Do you have questions about your study permit or other immigration matters? Is your boss not paying you enough? Do you have problems with school administration?

Then this session is for you. Come for free legal advice, to meet others in your situation and to ask questions

REGISTER NOW: info@migrantworkersalliance.org

Employment and Immigration Rights Session
May 3, 6pm – 9pm,
Suite 202, 720 Spadina Avenue

Organized by the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC). MWAC is Canada’s largest migrant worker rights coalition. We focus on service provision, advocacy and legal reform. Find us at www.migrantworkersalliance.org