Canada’s Immigration Minister Dramatically Changes International Student Program - Immigration Lawyer Vancouver, Canada | Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre

BlogInternational StudentsStudying in CanadaCanada’s Immigration Minister Dramatically Changes International Student Program

23 January 2024

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In response to public concerns raised about the impact of foreign students to the overall economy and housing, this past Monday, January 22, 2024, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC), the Honourable Mark Miller, introduced sweeping changes to Canada’s international student program decreasing the overall number of applications to be accepted, introducing provincial and territorial caps and modifying the post-graduation work permit (PGWP) program. While the changes are set to take effect September 1, 2024, certain aspects of the program will be affected as of Monday, effectively suspending further study permit applications until the end of March.

Minister Miller’s announcement limits the number of international students for 2024 to 360,000, which is a decrease of 35% from 2023. In addition, he has introduced provincial and territorial caps to be weighted based upon population with more significant decreases in those regions where the international student population has resulted in the most unsustainable growth. Translation: those provinces or territories who don’t have the necessary infrastructure to fully maintain an international student population will experience a lower cap allotment threshold.

Minister Miller also indicated that study permit renewals will not be affected and that neither Masters nor PhD students will be included in the cap.  IRCC will allocate a portion of the cap (a portion of the 360,000 limit) to each province and territory who in turn will then distribute the allocation amongst their designated learning institutions (DLIs). In order to implement the cap of total applicants, new study permit applications will require an attestation letter from the province or territory in which they intend to study.  Provinces and territories are now required to establish an attestation process by no later than March 31, 2024.  Effectively, this means that there can be no new study permit applications until each province and territory sets up their own attestation system.  Motivated provincial and territorial governments will need to act quickly if they seek to maintain the international student flow to their region.

These new measures will be in place for two years and the cap levels for 2025 will be set at the end of this year.  It is yet another system to control intake of temporary applications following in the path of the Express Entry selection system for permanent residence established on January 1, 2015.

Minister Miller also introduced significant changes to the PGWP criteria. As of September 1, 2024 students who enroll in a program which is part of a curriculum licensing arrangement where students attend a private college that has been licensed to teach the curriculum of a public DLI will no longer be eligible for a PGWP after completing their program. However, those students pursuing a graduate program – either at the Master’s level or a shorter duration – will be eligible for a 3-year PGWP.  There are no more concerns for graduate students who complete their studies in a shorter time period – they will now be eligible for a 3-year work permit to assist them in obtaining permanent residence.  However, as we have been saying for some time, proper planning is required for international graduates to achieve the goal of permanent residency due to immigration changes that have made it more difficult than in years past to qualify. For additional information, please refer to our previous blog on this subject matter:

Of significance is that spousal open work permits (SOWPs) will no longer be available to the spouses of students enrolled in certificate, diploma or undergraduate programs and only to spouses of Master’s or PhD students. This begs the questions about what will happen to spouses who are already in Canada accompanying students in undergraduate programs. Will they be granted renewals of their SOWPs?

The Minister’s announcement is a dramatic and sudden response to perceived concerns about Canada’s international student program. The ongoing government announcements over the past several months have been clear that international students can’t count on obtaining permanent residence at the conclusion of their studies and many of the aspects of the program that they have counted on prior to coming to Canada, have now changed. For future aspiring international students considering coming to Canada, be forewarned for further changes to come.

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