IRCC Toughens its Policies on International Students
Posted on 23/01/2024
If you’re a foreign national applying to study at a post-secondary institution in Canada, you’d better keep reading. IRCC has decided to clamp down due to what they state is abuse by some educational institutions of the international student programs available in Canada. However, there’s no need to panic. What the immigration authorities are putting in place is a series of measures that walk back some of the incentives from the last couple of years. But yes, it will now be a little bit tougher to jump through the loops as an international student in Canada.
Let’s find out what is or already has changed.
- In 2023, around 500,000 international students were approved to study in Canada. That number is going to be cut back by around 35% for 2024 with a target cap of 360,000 study permits to be issued.
- This reflects – in part at least – a concern over the impact on housing that international students may be having in Canada. Furthermore, there is also a concern over learning institutions with shady reputations issuing degrees that are apparently of low quality to enable applicants to use their study permit as a stepping stone to permanent residence.
- The new caps will be on a provincial and territorial basis and will be weighted by population. That seems to suggest that provinces with a higher number of international students per capita might see the highest number of cut backs, although it’s hard to say exactly which provinces will be hardest hit.
- The following international students will be exempt from (NOT affected by) these cut backs:
- Master’s and Doctorate post-graduate students.
- Secondary school students
- Elementary school students
- Starting in 2024, you will need an attestation letter from the province or territory your school is located in. The provinces or territories are supposed to have the process for issuing these attestation letters in place by March 31, 2024.
- As well, Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) have been – since December 1, 2023 – required to confirm every letter of acceptance that international students submit to IRCC. The DLI confirms the letter of acceptance directly with IRCC. Hopefully this will cut down on acceptance letter fraud which has been a problem over the last few years.
- IRCC is setting up a framework to evaluate how well DLIs support their international students. Those DLIs that rate higher will have international study permit applications to their institutions processed more quickly. Among the areas of concern is student housing for international students.
- As of September 1, 2024, if you are part of a Curriculum Licensing Arrangement – studying at a private post-secondary school that has been licensed to deliver a public education curriculum – then you will NO LONGER be eligible for a post-graduate work permit. The IRCC now sees these private schools as a loophole used to gain eligibility for a post-graduate work permit.
- Starting soon, graduates of master’s programs and other short-term post-graduate programs will be able to apply for 3-year work permits. This eliminates the policy of having your post-graduate work permit be only as long as your post-graduate study period.
- Only spouses of international students in master’s or doctoral programs will now be eligible for open work permits. All other spouses of international students in undergraduate, college programs, and other post-secondary levels of study will no longer be eligible.
- As of January 1, 2024, an international student must now demonstrate they have a minimum income of $20,635 – not including tuition and travel expenses – in order to show they reach the higher financial threshold now necessary for international students.
- The waiver (exemption) on the 20-hour work week limit for international students has been extended to April 30, 2024, and IRCC is examining the possibility of raising the limit to 30 hours per week to help students meet the costs of living and studying in Canada.
- For international students who begin a program on or after September 1, 2024, online studies will no longer be counted towards the length of any post-graduate work permit. If your studies began before this date, your online studies will still count towards your PGWP.
- The policy of providing additional work permits to international graduates will no longer apply in 2024. You will now only be eligible for 1 post-graduate work permit. This means that if your post-graduate work permit expires before you have obtained permanent residence you will have to either:
- Successfully apply to extend or change your status in Canada, OR
- Leave Canada when your work permit expires.
So, while the IRCC has indeed toughened some of its policies on international students, most of these changes are more like a return to the pre-COVID policies in Canada.
On a general note, the new regulations regarding international students have significant implications for your experience. They affect your ability to obtain a visa, determine the duration of your stay, or impact your eligibility for certain benefits. It is crucial to stay informed about these changes to ensure you can navigate them successfully. Stay updated with the latest information from your institution or immigration authorities to make the necessary adjustments and plan accordingly. Additionally, reach out to your support services for guidance and assistance throughout this process. Remember, knowledge is power, and being aware of the regulations will help you make informed decisions and mitigate any potential challenges.