phD in Canada/ permanent residency
August 15, 2010 7:04 PM   Subscribe

I have two seemingly separate questions that are connected: 1. Are Canadian phD programs in music as good as the ones in the US, especially in terms of job placement? 2. Can you defer phD acceptance and/or take a leave of absence during phD years? 3. Do universities sponsor US work visas?

I am a recently landed, permanent resident of Canada. I want a career/live in North America, and it was a ridiculous amount of work to get the PR so I don't want to lose it.

To maintain my PR status, by July 2015 I will have to have lived in Canada for another 23 months. To 'upgrade' to citizenship (at which point I don't have residency restrictions), I will have to have lived in Canada for another 3 years.

I'm spending the next year getting my Master's in New York. After that, I really want to go to school for phD. My understanding is that phD's in the humanities take a long time, often 6-7 years. As I am looking for phD programs to apply i have to take my immigration status into account. I want to pursue an academic career as a college professor, in Canada or in the US.

Logistically the easiest solution would be a phD program in Canada. I know there are about 5 in my field (compared to over 20 in US) that are well-reputed and I like quite a bit. However, in my years of study I have only met one professor with a Canadian phD. I searched on Academic Jobs wiki, and it seems like US phD's win an disproportional amount of jobs. I don't know if it's because Academic Jobs wiki only includes US jobs, or if excellent Canadian schools such as UBC, York, Memorial, McGill are somehow less competitive when job hunting. I am worried of the latter.

I am applying to all the Canadian schools that offer a program in my field. But really, there are several US programs that are truly excellent fit and extremely enticing to me. So I am applying to them as well. But I am curious, do people take a year or two off during their phD years? Hypothetically speaking, if I were to start phD in the US in fall 2011, would I be able to either defer the acceptance or take time off to fulfill the 2 year residency requirement in Canada?

The least favorable option would be to give up my PR so that I can pursue a phD in the US. In which case, I probably would suddenly pick up a habit of praying for jobs. But let's just be super optimistic for a sec and pretend the economical downturn isn't going to last that long, do universities sponsor work visas? I have never met a humanities professor who is not from the US or Canada, and I know the H visa costs the sponsoring organization quite a bit of money.

Obviously, I will only be thinking these questions in earnest when I do get in--there is of course the possibility that I don't get in, in which case I will just come back to Canada, live three years, get citizenship, and apply again. But by the time I am done with my current degree, I will be 26, which means I won't start phD until I am 29. That'd be kind of old.
Thanks in advance!
posted by atetrachordofthree to Education (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First, yes, you can get an international student visa. In my PhD land, with funding being tight there are less and less of these because departments have to pay more. Truly exceptional students (with good advisor matches) do make it through.

If you could swing it, you could probably move back to Canada after comprehensive exams.

But you really should google around and read past about grad school and the job market. It sucks. A lot.
posted by k8t at 7:17 PM on August 15, 2010

Oh yeah... If you got a job, they'd sponsor your visa but again, tight job market means that the visa issue might be a mark against you unless you were truly exceptional.
posted by k8t at 7:19 PM on August 15, 2010

I can't speak for humanities, but the lack of Canadian PhD's might be because of visa issues. As I'm sure you know, academic job hunts turn up far more qualified applicants than jobs, so having to go through the massive amount of paperwork for US visas doesn't look so appealing. University sponsored visas are definitely possible, but come with lots of catches and challenges. It would be helpful to know what country you are coming from originally.
posted by fermezporte at 7:34 PM on August 15, 2010

If you're planning on landing an academic job in Canada then there is nothing wrong with taking a PhD program which is respectable in your field in Canada. In my experience, generally Canadian PhD programs are preferred to US PhD candidates (but this maybe limited to my field-- social sciences). In any case, a Canadian PhD from the big 5 would not be worth LESS than a US PhD.

"Respectability" of the department is only one factor in the hiring process. You will need to demonstrate that you have a good, solid and develop-able research program, as well as good teaching experience. You should factor getting this experience in place in choosing your PhD program. The value on Research relative to Teaching will vary depending on where you are interviewing. Some Canadian universities would basically ignore where you got the degree and look only at teaching and/or research. Obviously you're more employable if you have all of "respectable dept", research and teaching.

I think some Canadian Universities have policies that they must consider Canadians first before looking elsewhere, so in that case maintaining permanent residency would clearly be an asset. I'd check into this though.
posted by kch at 7:43 PM on August 15, 2010

I can only answer the third:

US schools routinely sponsor hire foreign faculty and sponsor them for a visa.

But getting that far does not mean your dealings with USCIS are through, and your next task would be to get a green card. And (unless you happened to marry an American in the meantime) your next task would be to get a green card, and the employment-based route to a green card is in general Not Fun.

I'm not aware of any humanities job market that is not over-the-top brutal. If I were you, I would apply widely to programs in the US and Canada; application is not costless but is cheap. If you have multiple very good departments competing for you, then you have an interesting decision problem. If you don't, then I'd bow out before spending a bunch more lifespan on a PhD.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:20 PM on August 15, 2010

McGill PhDs in music research seem to do quite well in the job market both in the U.S. and Canada. As well as possible in this market, that is. It's not quite as prestigious in the U.S. as Yale, Columbia, etc., but it's close, and in certain fields (music theory/cognition, particularly), is one of the best PhDs to have right now.
posted by nosila at 7:36 AM on August 16, 2010

A couple of things to consider.

First, there are ten times more people and academics in the US so it just makes statistical sense that you're seeing more US PhDs get jobs (and you don't know how many of those are Canadians that have US PhDs). Relatedly, there are fewer universities in Canada so proportionally 5-6 good programs in Canada seems about what you'd expect compared with the US.

Also, for my field at least, who you work with for your PhD is as, if not more, important than the school you go to. A well recognized supervisor and a couple of papers will more than make up for going to a middle of the road school.

The other thing to consider is that on an academic visa (F-1) in the US you cannot work outside the university that you are studying at and that's only for a limited number of hours. If you break these rules, your visa is revoked and you have two weeks (?) to leave the country.

As for taking time off, I don't really know. However, I'd guess that a professor/supervisor would not appreciate you planning a two-year break. An accidental break would probably be tolerated but I think planning one would make you a worse candidate.

Finally, universities tend to hire within their country. Canadian universities hire Canadians (or landed immigrants I think) first and it doesn't matter where the degree is from (I hope). People in the US are generally less familiar with foreign universities (outside of Cambridge and Oxford) and, I suspect, think of them as all middle-to-lower quality unless they have personal experience with them.
posted by hydrobatidae at 9:22 AM on August 16, 2010

To maintain status, a Permanent Resident must spend 730 nights physically present in Canada over any 5 year period or apply for consideration on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

730 nights in 5 years is 146 nights per year on average (e.g. every weekend including long weekends, a week for Christmas break, and about 5 additional weeks). That could be compatible with studying at an institution close to the border if it was the best fit for your circumstances.
posted by thatdawnperson at 12:01 PM on August 16, 2010

a Permanent Resident must spend 730 nights physically present in Canada over any 5 year period

It's days, not nights, and any part of a day spent in Canada counts as a full day spent in Canada for the purpose of calculating whether someone has met the 730-day requirement.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:14 PM on August 19, 2010

« Older Action steps every day or insanity. Pick one.   |   Do you know the measurements for Ikea Billy shelf... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.