Uncharted territory: Canada doubles cost-of-living requirements for student visas - Immigration Lawyer Vancouver, Canada | Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre

BlogUncharted territory: Canada doubles cost-of-living requirements for student visas

12 December 2023

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New applicants will need to show they have C$20,635 to cover the first year of living expenses in Canada

On December 7, 2023, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced that, starting January 1, 2024, international students will be required to have more funds to be granted a student visa to ensure they can afford the costs of living in Canada. Speaking to reporters, the Minister acknowledged that there may be unintended consequences arising from the increase in financial requirements, which are more than doubling from $10,000 to $20,635 to cover the first year of living expenses in Canada, but he felt it was necessary so that students will not feel forced to work to make ends meet. There is already a debate about whether the Minister’s announcement will lead to a noticeable decrease in the number of international students in Canada and whether those who meet the higher financial requirements will truly benefit from this change. In this blog post we will review some of the experiences we have had at our law firm working closely with international students.

International students have always been required to demonstrate that they have enough financial resources to afford their studies in Canada. Before the Minister’s announcement, students needed to demonstrate that they could afford the first year of expenses in Canada, including $10,000 for living expenses for a single person, on top of additional funds for tuition and travel costs to come to Canada. However, given the current cost-of-living crisis, the Minister determined that the $10,000 amount requires updating to match current realities and to ensure that international students who come to Canada have realistic expectations about what it will cost to live here to complete their studies.

Will the increase in financial requirements lead to a drop in the number of international students in Canada? The Minister does not know for sure. When asked this question, he responded that for now he was less concerned about the actual numbers compared to ensuring that students are in Canada to study and that they are receiving a proper educational experience, especially given the data cited by the Minister that 80% of Canada’s international students currently work more than 20 hours a week to support themselves.

In our experience as immigration lawyers, increasing the financial requirements will not likely dissuade international students from applying for student visas. Over the years, we have found that families will find a way to raise the needed funds to achieve an immigration goal, even if it means taking some extreme measures. For example, the Minister noted that it’s possible for several people to pool funds to send a student to Canada or that individuals will find ways to move money around to the prospective student’s bank account to make it appear as though they have enough funding.

It is also likely that there will be other far-reaching consequences caused by the Minister’s announcement. For instance, I have frequently met international students who have been refused student visas not because they did not have sufficient funds but because immigration visa officers found it unreasonable to spend so much on an education in Canada when there were possibly cheaper alternatives closer to home. In other words, even prospective international students who meet the higher threshold of having $20,635 or more for living expenses may experience higher rates of refusal because the overall cost of an education in Canada now represents a larger percentage of their net worth or their family’s net worth. Perhaps this was contemplated by the Minister or perhaps this is just one of the “ripple effects” he referred to during his press conference.

Ultimately, from our experience representing international students the overall interest in coming to Canada as international students will not likely wane until the root problems are addressed. Primarily, the strong interest comes from the fact that many international students are led to believe by unscrupulous immigration agents and others that it is an easy pathway to obtaining Canadian permanent residence. Even the Minister seemed to acknowledge this fact when he stated that some families will do what it takes to meet the increased financial requirements if they feel that the student will help the family’s future. This might occur, for instance, if they believed that the student could one day become permanent residents and sponsor the family to come to Canada or that the student could have a much higher earning potential in Canada after acquiring permanent status and will be able to financially support family members back home.

Contrary to popular belief, it is rather difficult these days for international students to become permanent residents without a properly planned and executed strategy. Many international students are unaware that English and/or French proficiency is a significant factor when determining whether they will be able to acquire permanent resident status and will spend most of their time in Canada speaking their first language when outside the classroom. Many do not know that it is highly unlikely they will qualify for permanent residency without having already earned some skilled work experience back home. They may also be unaware that the work experience they earn while still a student in Canada does not count towards qualifying for permanent residency or be misled into believing that their chosen program of study in Canada will allow them to get a work permit after graduation.

These are just some examples of the misconceptions that exist regarding Canada’s International Student Program, all of which I have personally observed in my years of immigration law practice. For a more detailed history of the International Student Program and the challenges now faced by international students, I refer you to a recent blog post written by my partner, Catherine Sas, K.C.:


Only time will tell whether the Minister’s latest announcement will lead to improvements in the quality of life for the average international student in Canada and whether there will be a noticeable decrease in the number of international students in Canada. The Minister hinted that he is open to making further changes over time but that he is reluctant to use the tools available to him because they are probably limited to further increasing requirements to obtain a student visa or simply capping the number of student visas that can be issued. Longer term and broader solutions involving different levels of government are needed to ensure that the students who do arrive in Canada have sufficient funds to live comfortably, as well as suitable housing conditions to ensure they succeed in their studies. Starting in the new year, prospective international students must be aware of the new financial requirements to obtain a student visa to Canada and should consider speaking with a professional immigration representative beforehand to determine whether the extra costs are justified in light of their short and long term career and personal goals.

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