Canada to cut student permits by 35% this year

Immigration Minister announces more changes in student visa program

By Charmaine Y. Rodriguez

Saying that the rapid increases in the number of international students arriving in Canada put pressure on housing, health care and other services, the Government of Canada announced a reduction of student visas by 35 percent for 2024.

In a press conference yesterday, Immigration Minister Marc Miller also said not all international students will get a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) after citing a loophole in meeting the eligibility was happening specifically in a curriculum licensing arrangement. He was referring to a system where students physically attend a private college that has been licensed to deliver the curriculum of an associated public college.

“These programs have seen significant growth in attracting international students in recent years, though they have less oversight than public colleges and they act as a loophole with regards to post-graduation work permit eligibility,” he said.

“International students are vital to Canada and enrich our communities. As such, we have an obligation to ensure that they have access to the resources they need for an enriching academic experience. In Canada, today, this isn’t always the case. Today, we are announcing additional measures to protect a system that has become so lucrative that it has opened a path for its abuse. Enough is enough. Through the decisive measures announced today, we are striking the right balance for Canada and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system while setting students up for the success they hope for,” Miller added.

International students contributed more than $21 billion annually to the Canadian economy in 2021. This reportedly increased to $22.3 billion in 2022.

The change in Canada’s policy could mean fewer schools or Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) will issue PGWPs. International students need to enroll in DLIs in Canada.  A PGWP, on the hand, is very much coveted to be able to find employment after graduation.

Another major difference this year is that Canada will give more advantage to graduates of master’s or doctorate programs.

“In the weeks ahead, open work permits will only be available to spouses of international students in master’s and doctoral programs. The spouses of international students in other levels of study, including undergraduate and college programs, will no longer be eligible,” the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said in a news release.

Graduates of master’s and other short graduate-level programs will soon be eligible to apply for a 3-year work permit. Under current criteria, the length of a post­graduation work permit is based solely on the length of an individual’s study program, hindering master’s graduates by limiting the amount of time they have to gain work experience and potentially transition to permanent residence.

Those pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees, and elementary and secondary education are also not included in the cap.

International students who are already in Canada will not be affected by the new policies, the IRCC assured. (Pexels photo/George Pak)


However, IRCC assured that current study permit holders will not be affected and that they will allocate a portion of the cap to each province and territory, who will then distribute the allocation among their designated learning institutions.

To implement the cap, as of January 22, 2024, every study permit application submitted to IRCC will also require an attestation letter from a province or territory. Provinces and territories are expected to establish a process for issuing attestation letters to students by no later than March 31, 2024.

These temporary measures will be in place for two years, and the number of new study permit applications that will be accepted in 2025 will be re-assessed at the end of this year.

During this period, the Government of Canada will continue to work with provinces and territories, DLIs and national education stakeholders on developing a sustainable path forward for international students, including finalizing a recognized institution framework, determining long-term sustainable levels of international students and ensuring post-secondary institutions are able to provide adequate levels of student housing.

However, the IRCC assured that the changes that will be in place are aimed at providing clear pathways to permanent residence for students with in-demand skills and explore new measures to better transition international students to the labour force.

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