Making Canada’s International Student Program sustainable
Canada values the significant social, cultural and economic benefits that international students bring to Canada. For those benefits to continue and to ensure international students who arrive in Canada are set up for success, we must tackle issues that have made some students vulnerable and have challenged the integrity of the International Student Program. This includes making sure we can manage the number of international students coming to Canada in a sustainable manner, while punishing any bad actors who pose a threat to the system.
Today's announcement of a temporary two-year cap on international students is the latest in a series of measures by the Government of Canada to improve program integrity, set international students up for success and maintain a sustainable level of temporary residents. This will set an intake cap on international student permit applications to stabilize new growth, for a period of two years. For 2024, the cap is expected to result in approximately 360,000 approved study permits, a decrease of 35% from 2023.
Changes to International Student Program aim to protect students
On October 27, 2023, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced several measures aimed at strengthening Canada’s International Student Program and at better protecting genuine students from fraud. These include:
- Since December 1, 2023, post-secondary designated learning institutions (DLI) have been required to confirm every letter of acceptance directly with IRCC submitted as part of a study permit application from outside Canada. This new, enhanced verification process aims to protect prospective students from letter‑of‑acceptance fraud and to help them avoid similar problems that some students faced earlier in 2023 as a result of that type of fraud. It also ensures that study permits are issued and foreign nationals arrive in Canada based only on genuine letters of acceptance.
- IRCC will adopt a recognized institution framework to benefit post-secondary DLIs that set a higher standard for services, support and outcomes for international students. These DLIs will benefit, for example, from the priority processing of study permits for applicants who plan to attend their school.
- IRCC has committed to completing an assessment of Post-Graduation Work Permit Program criteria and introduce reforms to better calibrate it to meet the needs of the Canadian labour market, as well as regional and Francophone immigration goals.
Revised requirements to better protect international students
On December 7, 2023, Minister Miller announced that the cost-of-living financial requirement for study permit applicants will be raised so that international students are financially better prepared for life in Canada. Moving forward, this threshold will be adjusted each year when Statistics Canada updates the low-income cut-off (LICO). LICO represents the minimum income necessary to ensure that an individual does not have to spend a greater than average portion of income on necessities. For 2024, a single applicant needs to show they have $20,635, representing 75% of LICO, in addition to their first year of tuition and travel expenses. This change was implemented for all new study permit applications received on or after January 1, 2024.
Update on temporary policies affecting international students
IRCC introduced a number of temporary policies affecting international students in 2022 and 2023 and recently provided an update on their status:
- The waiver on the 20-hour-per-week limit on the number of hours international students are allowed to work off campus while class is in session was extended to April 30, 2024, only, reflecting that many current students are relying on working more than 20 hours per week to cover their expenses and potentially jeopardizing their studies. We will continue to examine options for this policy in the future, such as expanding off-campus work hours for international students to 30 hours per week while class is in session.
- The facilitative measure that has allowed international students to count time spent studying online towards the length of a future post-graduation work permit, as long as it constitutes less than 50% of the program of study, will continue to be in place for students who begin a study program before September 1, 2024. This measure will no longer apply to students who begin a study program on or after that date. Distance learning facilitation measures were first implemented in 2020 in response to travel restrictions during the pandemic, and were reduced in scope in September 2022. At this point, the vast majority of international students are studying in person in Canada.
- In response to labour market disruptions during the pandemic and post-pandemic recovery, a temporary policy was introduced on three occasions to provide an additional 18-month work permit to post-graduation work permit holders as their initial work permit was expiring. Foreign nationals with a post-graduation work permit expiring up to December 31, 2023, remained eligible to apply. However, this temporary policy has not been extended, returning to the long standing policy that an international graduate is eligible for only one post graduation work permit in their lifetime. Those with post graduation work permits expiring in 2024 who haven’t transitioned to permanent residence will need to determine if they are eligible to apply for another type of work permit or if they will need to leave Canada when their status expires.
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