"so that their parents in Punjab can pay back loans"
Canada is home to the largest Punjabi diaspora in the world and one of the main reasons they go to the country is to clear the debts they have accumulated in their native land.
It is a popular destination for Indian students and of the 800,000 international students, 320,000 are Indian.
Approximately 70% of the Indian students in Canada are Punjabi.
One reason for these students coming to Canada is that a study visa offers them easy passage to permanent residency in just five to six years.
But more than anything else, it is a lure to make quick cash while studying in Canada.
In many cases, the cash earned in Canada is sent to their families back in India to clear the debts accumulated from loans taken out to send them to Canada in the first place.
One immigration consultant said:
“Since almost all of these students are here only to get their PR, many work long hours per week to make money so that their parents in Punjab can pay back loans they took to send them to Canada.”
In some cases, Punjabi students work throughout the week in the Greater Toronto Area.
At the weekend, they travel together to Montreal to attend their classes.
One person affected by debt is Jalandhar-based tailor Jagtar Chand, who spent around Rs. 16 Lakh (£15,000) to send his daughter to Canada.
This desperation to earn money in order to clear their families’ debts has led some Canadian employers to take advantage of the situation.
The number of work permits issued to international students coming in through the International Mobility Program has increased significantly during the last three years, particularly after weekly limits on work hours were lifted.
The program allows Canadian employers to hire foreign workers without having to complete a Labour Market Impact Assessment.
This means many are hired to do labour-intensive jobs, working for below minimum wage.
A Brampton-based journalist said: “These students have become the source of cheap labour for Canadian businesses.
“They are willing to work below minimum wage because they want cash.
“The huge influx of Indian students here has introduced a parallel cash economy in cities like Brampton. Everybody wants to avoid paying taxes.”
Another reason why Canada has a lot of Punjabi students is that they can quickly get visas for their parents to visit them.
Once their parents arrive in Canada on a visitor visa, they also start working for quick cash.
The journalist continued: “I know many cases of students who have been in Canada only for six months, but they invited their parents to visit them immediately.
“Once their parents landed here, the very next day both father and mother were working for cash.
“They spent a few months in Canada and went back with enough cash to pay their debt.”
“This is happening under the radar. The Canadian authorities have no clues. That’s why most Punjabi students want to come to Canada.”
The study visa route is also being used by many Punjabi students to enter Canada and then buy a foreign worker permit from trucking companies at a hefty price so that they can work full-time and make money.