Canada announces reforms for International Student Program to fight admissions fraud, strengthen integrity in intl ed

The reforms include Designated Learning Institutions (DLI) to be required to confirm the letter of acceptance directly with IRCC, a new “recognized institution” framework set to benefit postsecondary institutions setting high standards, and an assessment of the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). 

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Pledging to introduce reforms to be completed by the fall semester of 2024, Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller has announced changes to the International Student Program geared toward fighting fraud in international admissions and preventing bad players from preying on them. 

The reforms include Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) to be required to confirm the letter of acceptance (LOA) directly with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), a new “recognized institution” framework set to benefit postsecondary institutions with high standards, and an assessment of the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). 

LOA verification

The federal government is unveiling a new scheme to verify LOAs, which international student applicants need in order to apply for a study permit. 

Starting December 1, 2023, postsecondary DLIs will be required to confirm every applicant’s LOA directly with the IRCC – an enhanced verification process to protect prospective students from fraud and avoid similar problems in the past as they came out on fraud investigations. 

Miller, however, noted that while they aim to limit fraud against international students, he is not in favor of implementing a cap on their new arrivals in Canada. 

Recognized Institutions Framework

The federal government is also moving ahead with a new “Recognized Institutions Framework” for DLIs by fall semester next year. 

The framework is said to benefit DLIs that meet certain IRCC integrity criteria, setting a higher standard for services, support, as well as outcomes for international students. DLIs can benefit, for instance, from priority processing of study permits for international applicants eyeing their college or university. 

DLIs are higher education institutions that are approved by provincial as well as territorial governments to welcome and host international students. International students can search a list of these DLIs in each province and territory on the federal government’s website.

Canada is set to implement a two-tiered structure for DLIs in 2024, where institutions meeting specific criteria will be designated as Trusted Institutions. While the exact implications of this status are not yet clear, IRCC has hinted at potential benefits, including streamlined processing for their applicants.

PGWP under review

The government is also assessing the PGWP criteria over the following months, introducing reforms said to better position it to meet Canadian labor market needs along with regional and Francophone immigration targets. 

The details of these new steps are to be disclosed later. 

The immigration minister appeared to single out Ottawa, warning potential intervention in the recognition of DLIs if the provincial and territorial governments do not act.

“If that job can’t be done, then it will be up to the federal government to step in and do it,” Miller said at an October 27 press conference. 

‘Genuine’ students

The recent move comes days after Michèle Kingsley, IRCC assistant deputy minister of operations, told the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration that 30 international students have already been granted temporary study permits to stay in Canada following a five-month probe by the federal government.

Kingsley said that the task force considers someone a “genuine student” if they “had enrolled within three semesters of their arrival and there were no other problems or issues with their applications, such as criminal activity.”

According to him, the task force has reviewed 103 cases, determining 63 were genuine students and 30 had been approved for temporary resident permits of up to three years. 

In previous statements, Miller said immigration is pivotal for building a stronger Canada and driving economic prosperity, underlining its role in counteracting the demographic challenges posed by an aging population. He rejected the idea of lowering immigration targets. 

Canada is on track to host about 900,000 international students this year – more than at any point in the country’s history, as well as about triple the number of students who entered the country in the past decade.

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