Canada announces two-year cap on international student admissions

According to IRCC, the cap this year is anticipated to result in about 360,000 approved study permits, a reduction of 35% from 2023. It will be introduced for each province and territory, to be weighted by population and aimed at significant decreases in provinces where the population of international students experience the most unsustainable increases. 

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Canadian cap on international student admissions
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Amid the country’s housing crisis and with the goal of targeting “bad actors,” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced that it is imposing a temporary cap on the number of international students provided with study visas.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced Monday that the federal government will temporarily cap the number for student visas to be granted over the next two years.

Caps across provinces and territories

According to IRCC, the cap this year is anticipated to result in about 360,000 approved study permits, a reduction of 35 percent from 2023. It will be introduced for each province and territory, to be weighted by population and aimed at significant decreases in provinces where the population of international students experience the most unsustainable increases.

The caps, however, do not include masters and doctoral degree students, and will not affect current study permit holders or those set for renewals.

The immigration department added it will reassess the cap in 2025.

Changes to PGWP

The government also announced changes to the post-graduation work permit program (PGWP).

Current PGWP criteria dictate that the length of PGWP is based on the length of the study program, essentially limiting masters students as it renders short the amount of time they are eligible to attain work experience in the country and transition to permanent residency.

As of January 22, 2024, the federal government will also require international students applying for a study permit to furnish them an attestation letter from a province or territory. These PTs should establish a process for the letter issuance by March 31, 2024.

“To be absolutely clear, these measures are not against individual international students,” Miller said, adding the move is to “ensure that as future students arrive in Canada, they receive the quality of education that they signed up for and the hope that they were provided in their home countries.”

Beginning September 2024, too, international students starting a study program considered part of a curriculum licensing arrangement will no longer be eligible for the PGWP.

Under such curriculum licensing agreements, students physically attend a private college licensed to teach the curriculum of an associated public college. These programs, deemed having less oversight than private colleges, have become attractive to international students.

International students who have graduated from masters programs or other short graduate level programs, too, may apply for a three-year work permit.

‘Out of control’ system

Provinces and territories will ultimately decide how study permits are distributed across colleges and universities under them. The cap will be in place for two years.

Barely a day before, a leaked document obtained by The Toronto Star and circulated by Universities Canada provided insight into the intended cuts to international enrollment.

Some stakeholders worry that returning to previous enrollment levels, amid recovering from the COVID pandemic travel shutdown, could pose challenges for universities.

Miller, in a recent interview with CTV’s Question Period, disclosed plans to explore imposing a cap on the number of international students in Canada, citing concerns about the system being “out of control,” as reported by Reuters.

With immigration targets set at 485,000 for the current year and 500,000 for 2025-26, the influx of temporary residents, including international students, has intensified housing pressures.

The projection is an increase from the current 949,000 students to over a million next year and a further rise to 1.4 million by 2027.

Between January and November 2023, Canada issued 579,075 new international study permits, hosting approximately 900,000 international students.

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