Big changes announced for students who want to study in Canada

During national housing crisis, the Canadian immigration minister announced fresh steps on January 22 to reduce the number of foreign students entering the country.

Prior to January 1, 2024, the cost-of-living requirement for applicants seeking study visas was changed to more accurately reflect the true cost of living in Canada and to lessen the risk of student exploitation.

The federal government says it will grant 360,000 undergraduate study licenses in 2024, intending to cut that figure by 35% from 2023.

Province-by-province population will determine the caps. As a result, certain provinces will experience substantially larger cuts. While some regions may be able to boost their intake of international students, others may experience a drop.

Permits will be awarded according to population, with a share of the total amount going to each province and territory. This, according to the federal government, will lead to “much more significant decreases in provinces where the population of international students has seen the most unsustainable growth.”

In the coming months, Canada also plans to continue exploring new ways to facilitate international students’ easier transition into the workforce and to provide students with highly sought-after skills with direct paths to permanent residency.

Both those who currently possess study permits and their renewals will be unaffected.

To enforce the cap, starting on January 22, 2024, every study permit application submitted to the IRCC will also require an attestation letter from a province or territory.

Provinces and territories shall establish a mechanism for supplying attestation letters to students by March 31, 2024, at the latest.

There will be no limits for PhD and master’s students. Primary and secondary school pupils will not be subject to the cap.

The distribution of permits among universities and institutions under their control will be left up to the provinces and territories. The cap will last for two years, and at the end of this year, a new assessment will be made regarding the total number of visas to be granted in 2025.

The cap will ensure that the number of foreign students who arrive in Canada will match the number of students whose visas expire. The result will be a decrease in the number of foreign students attending Canadian universities.

The Post-Graduation Work Permit Program is modifying its qualifying conditions to better harmonize them.

Graduates of master’s degrees and other short graduate-level studies will soon be able to apply for a three-year work permit.

Because the current restrictions base a post-graduation work permit’s tenure solely on the length of the individual’s studies program, they limit master’s graduates’ ability to gain work experience and potentially make the transition to permanent residency.

Effective September 1, 2024, international students enrolled in study programs that are part of curriculum licensing arrangements will no longer be eligible for a post-graduation work visa after they graduate.

Even though these programs are less regulated than public colleges and can be used as a way to get a work visa after graduation, the number of international students enrolling in them has surged dramatically in recent years.

The change impacts spouses of international students in undergraduate, college, and most non-PhD graduate programs. Spouses of students in Master’s, PhD, and specialized programs in medicine and law will still be able to obtain open work permits.

This change will not affect current international students whose spouses already have valid study permits and open work permits in Canada. They will still be able to renew their documents.

The actions are being taken as Canadians struggle with housing availability and affordability. October 2022–October 2023 saw a 1.25 million increase in Canada’s population had the fastest growth rate since the 1950s, at 3.2%. International students and temporary foreign workers accounted for most of that growth in population.

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