IRCC Minister Transition Binder 2023: International Student Program
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- IRCC is in the midst of a review of the International Student Program (ISP) to address unsustainable growth and strengthen program integrity.
State of Play
International Student Program Review
- The review has identified the following areas of work following consultations with Provincial and Territorial (PT) ministries of education and immigration and education sector stakeholders. These areas are consistent with findings from the Strategic Immigration Review.
- Trusted Institutions Framework – Developing a “Trusted Institutions Framework” that would incentivize post-secondary educational institutions to meet higher standards with regards to international students;
- Tackling Bad Actors – Strengthening program integrity and enhancing protections to address student vulnerability, unethical recruitment and non-genuine actors in the program, ultimately better protecting international students and Canada’s interests;
- Equitable Access – Removing systemic barriers for international students to improve equitable access to the program and ensuring diversification of international student populations, including French-speaking students studying in Francophone Minority Communities;
- Compatible Work Pathways – Streamlining and clarifying the approach to co-op work opportunities, and making adjustments to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWP) eligibility and duration to better target labour market needs; and
- Program reform is being undertaken for the following reasons:
- Unsustainable application volumes undermine program integrity and contribute to processing backlogs in all IRCC business lines.
- The Program has moved away from education focus to fulfill economic incentives of institutions and for students to work more than study.
- Temporary migration of students is not calibrated with permanent residence planning and the pool of long term post-graduation work permit holders far exceeds available immigration levels space.
- Greater student vulnerability is apparent with more students in precarious situations, including financial hardship and mental health crises.
- Barriers for diverse students: various factors contribute to higher study permit refusal rates in some regions, creating barriers for equitable access to the program.
- The proposed reform initiatives can be achieved through existing federal authorities. However, because education is an area of PT jurisdiction, ongoing engagement with provinces and territories will be necessary as these proposals are further refined and implemented to mitigate concerns of federal overreach.
- A coordinated approach is required to strengthen program integrity and combat fraud in the international student program. Multi-stakeholder engagement including internal measures across IRCC and key external actors in the international education ecosystem is critical.
Task Force for Fraud
- The Task Force was created following reports of international student fraud following national and international media attention on Indian international students facing removals from Canada due to concerns of misrepresentation and fraudulent letter of acceptance.
- IRCC is leading this Task Force with the support of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to look at the individualized circumstances of students who may have been duped by unscrupulous actors.
- The CBSA has provided a list of students. On a case by case basis, their circumstances are being reviewed and for genuine students who have been impacted by fraud and are facing a removal order, and have no other adverse issues, the department is supporting their client journey through the issuance of a temporary resident permit.
- The Task Force will work to provide these individuals the opportunity to settle permanently in Canada, if so they desire. The Minister of IRCC and their delegated officials have the authority to facilitate the issuance of Permanent Residency, overcoming the inadmissibility findings, through Humanitarian and Compassionate considerations.
- Since Fall 2022, the department has consulted with PTs, national educational associations and other key partners and stakeholders on how to modernize the Program. Strengthening program integrity is a key priority of this review.
- IRCC is committed to providing a path to Canada that is honest and transparent. All applicants are urged to use the IRCC official website to get information and report fraud if they suspect they are victims of unscrupulous consultants.
- In June 2023, IRCC created a Task Force to deal with recent reports of international students and graduates facing removal from Canada, after letters of acceptance submitted as part of their study permit application were determined to be fraudulent. The Task Force will play an important role in supporting the students who were not complicit in the fraud by providing an avenue to overcome their inadmissibility.
- Given our shared responsibility for the success and integrity of the ISP, our partnerships with PTs, associations and designated learning institutions (DLIs) are imperative to maintaining and improving integrity in the ISP, protecting international students and reinforcing the credibility of educational institutions.
- You will be briefed on the review of the ISP in the coming weeks.
- The Department will provide you with the necessary support, including communications support.
- Decisions associated with implementing reform initiatives will require your attention in the short- to medium- term.
- The Task Force meets twice a week and a biweekly status report is shared with the Minister’s Office. A communications strategy is being prepared.
- The flow of international students to Canada continues to bring enormous benefits including contributing an additional $22B annually to the economy. It also boosts revenues of public institutions; increases participation in Canada’s labour market; brings increased diversity to Canada’s campuses and communities, including contributing to the vitality of Francophone Communities.
- Despite the benefits, the unprecedented growth in the program has been accompanied by increased integrity concerns and student vulnerability.
- Application intake has increased from approximately 240,000 in 2016 to over 700,000 in 2022. By 2026, study permit applications are forecasted to exceed 1.1 million applications per year.
- While international students are in Canada primarily for study purposes, they may also participate in the labour market. Increases over the past two decades in the number of international students, combined with regulations that facilitate their employment while studying, have potentially led to growth in this population’s role in the Canadian labour market. In many cases, data shows international students are working in low-skilled jobs that are unrelated to their studies.
- Following recent news reports that international students admitted into Canada with valid study permits were issued fraudulent college acceptance letters by immigration consultants, and are now facing deportation, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration issued a news release to condemn the actions of these fraudulent consultants.
- IRCC also responded stating that the Department has been working closely with DLIs, PTs, and organizations representing Canada’s colleges and universities to better detect and combat fraud, and uphold the integrity of Canada’s immigration programs.
- To support the integrity of the ISP, IRCC is developing a tool to systematically verify Letters of Acceptance from DLIs. This tool is expected to reduce the incidence of fraud in Letters of Acceptance and will be implemented later in the fall.
- IRCC has also implemented an international student compliance regime as an integrity tool to identify potentially non-genuine students and to gather additional data and trends on international students in Canada.
- IRCC conducts investigations and undertakes fraud disruption techniques in collaboration with CBSA and other partners. IRCC also investigates all tips or concerns related to specific cases/applications.
- IRCC is also working on the advancement of internal systems to better use data analysis to detect risk or fraud patterns
- In 2022, IRCC introduced a code of professional conduct to regulate immigration consultants. The code establishes strong ethical and professional standards that all licensed consultants must abide by. The Code has a provision on student recruitment activities which outlines conditions and obligations that licensed immigration consultants must follow, if they provide recruitment services.
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