Speaking notes for the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of IRCC: International Students Program update


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Speech was delivered on April 29, 2024 in Ottawa, ON

Thank you for being here.

I want to start by acknowledging that we are gathering today from the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg Nation

I am here to discuss the changes to off-campus work hours for international students coming into effect in the coming months, and highlight how we are working with our partners including provinces, territories and learning institutions to improve the integrity of the International Student Program and put in place rules to make sure students are supported and successful here in Canada.

International students are a source of social and cultural benefits for Canada. To preserve these benefits and protect some international students who have been left vulnerable, we are working to improve the integrity of the International Student Program.

In October 2022, we waived the 20-hours-per-week limit for off campus work for international students. At the time, we were recovering from the pandemic, employers could not find workers for positions, and many students were struggling with rising costs. Lifting this limit helped our local economies, our small businesses and international students alike.

In December, I announced an extension of the policy allowing for unlimited, off-campus working hours for international students. At the time, I did not want to make changes in the middle of the study year and put some students in a difficult financial position. However, that policy expires today and it will not be renewed – as it was successful in helping our economy recover from the pandemic, and is therefore no longer necessary.

The changes I am about to announce won’t affect most students who are just at the end of their academic year and planning to work through the summer because students are already allowed to work unlimited working hours during school breaks, under certain conditions stated in their study permits.

Students in programs that don’t follow the standard September-to-April academic year are still able to work full-time if their particular program has a similar break.

Working in Canada provides a number of benefits for students to help offset expenses and gives them work experience in Canada and potentially in their chosen field of study.

At the same time, as shown by research, we know that increased working hours while studying at postsecondary institutions can lead to declining academic performance and increase the risk that students will dropout of their programs. We need to support international students and make sure they are set up for success.

Looking at best practices and policies in other like-minded countries, most of them limit the number of working hours for international students. Canada’s rules need to be aligned or we will find our programs attracting more and more applicants whose primary intent is to work, not study. We also want to follow the research and continue to improve the integrity of the entire international student program.

To be clear, the purpose of the International Students Program is to study, not work.

With these considerations in mind, we intend to make a permanent change to allow up to 24 hours of off-campus work for international students, with a goal of having that in place for the Fall.

As work continues in order to implement the new work hour rule in the Fall, the small cohort of students whose program isn’t on a summer break during the summer are subject to existing regulations. Students whose program follows the standard September-April academic calendar can continue working unlimited hours during their summer break.

Students who are on an academic break can continue working unlimited hours during the summer.

As most shifts are 8 hours long, the new 24 hours rule means students can work up to three shifts a week.

As I announced this past December, we increased financial requirements for new study permit applicants to $20,635 for 2024. This figure is a more accurate reflection of the costs of living today in Canada and means that students are better prepared when they arrive. Going forward, the financial requirement will be tied to the low-income cut-off published by Statistics Canada each year to ensure it continues reflect the true cost-of-living in our country. This will ensure international students are financially prepared for life in Canada and as such, protected from fraud, abuse and exploitation.

This change is just one of our many planned reforms to the International Student Program, which includes the implementation of a new Recognized Institutions Framework that will reward postsecondary institutions that provide a higher standard of support for international students.

We want institutions to be accountable to provide the services students need, including finding adequate housing and accessing critical services like health care.

Work on the Framework is underway, and I will have more details to share in the coming months, once consultations with provinces, territories and institutions have taken place.

Taken together with previously announced reforms to the program, these changes will build a stronger framework to support and protect international students.

I want to thank my provincial and territorial colleagues for their ongoing work to help improve the program and address local and regional challenges.

As well, I’ll be meeting with Provincial and Territorial ministers on May 10 to discuss our plan for a sustainable, trusted immigration system - and how to better align our immigration levels with the needs across the country.

I would be pleased to take your questions now.

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