Canada mulls over fixed allotment for int’l study permits, leaked memo reveals

According to the proposed plan, each province will receive a designated allotment from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for study permits. The leaked memo also noted that immigration officials are considering a model similar to Quebec’s, where provincial governments must provide a supporting letter for each study permit application.

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Canada is set to implement a fixed allotment system for international study permits across provinces later this year, according to a leaked memo.

The leaked document, obtained by The Toronto Star and circulated by Universities Canada, provided insight into Ottawa’s intended cuts to international enrollment.

Provincial allotments

According to the proposed plan, each province will receive a designated allotment from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for study permits. 

The provinces will then decide how to distribute these permits among authorized post-secondary institutions within their jurisdictions.

The exact number of international student study permits remains undetermined, but the memo suggested that IRCC aims to roll back international student numbers to more sustainable levels, potentially returning to figures from at least two years ago.

Undetermined permit numbers and rollback objectives

The leaked document, confirmed by a post-secondary source, also outlined a “two-year stopgap measure” until the federal government can fully implement the new “recognized” institution regime. This regime is expected to eliminate the need for a cap on study permits. 

The recognized institution scheme, set to commence in the upcoming fall semester, will vet colleges and universities based on undisclosed criteria, aiming to expedite the processing of study-permit applications from trusted institutions.

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

If the government decides to roll back the numbers to those of two years ago, a 23 percent reduction in the annual number of new study permits issued would be necessary.

Concerns and challenges for universities

Concerns have been raised by university presidents, urging the government to distinguish between publicly assisted and private institutions when implementing caps. 

Private post-secondary schools, particularly colleges, lack caps on international students and do not offer the same level of student and housing support as public institutions.

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

Additionally, the issue of capping student visas has become a significant concern for families from various countries.

Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller has been critical of provincial counterparts for not monitoring the quality of authorized institutions admitting international students. 

While several changes have been introduced to the international student program, including the authentication of schools’ admission letters and increased financial requirements for study-permit applicants, the possibility of imposing a hard cap remains uncertain.

Hard caps and exemptions

According to the leaked memo, immigration officials are considering a model similar to Quebec’s, where provincial governments must provide a supporting letter for each study permit application.

However, master’s and PhD program applicants may be exempted from the proposed cap. Federal authorities are also contemplating updating the postgraduate work permit duration to align with the years spent studying in Canada.

As discussions unfold, Universities Canada said it remains in close contact with IRCC, aiming to keep stakeholders informed of any updates. 

Miller’s cap proposal: Housing pressures

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. While the extent of the reduction was not specified, he emphasized the need for federal-provincial collaboration to address the issue.

The federal government, facing criticism for increasing immigration amid a housing shortage, received warnings about housing affordability challenges two years ago. 

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.

Acknowledging housing concerns, Miller mentioned considering a cap on international students in the first and second quarters of this year. 

He stressed the importance of a federal-level assessment before implementing specific actions at the provincial level, aiming to verify offer letters and ensure financial capabilities for those coming to Canada.

Miller clarified that a uniform cap would not address housing shortages nationwide, emphasizing the need to evaluate regional impacts. 

He noted housing as one aspect of broader immigration targets and underscored the importance of reducing the average age of the workforce in immigration considerations.

Pressed on the timing of considering a cap, Miller explained the necessity of comprehensive federal-level data analysis before addressing actions taken by academic institutions in different provinces. 

While specific figures were not provided, Miller confirmed active consideration of a cap on international students, with discussions to involve provincial counterparts and account for academic institutions’ financial needs.

According to an internal policy document obtained by the Globe and Mail via CIC News, the IRCC foresees a rise in international student applications. 

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. 

The data indicated substantial annual growth, with nearly 300,000 more study permit applications for international students expected from 2019 to 2022.

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos has been a professional journalist for five years now. She has contributed and covered stories for premier Philippine dailies and publications, and has traveled to different parts of the country to capture and tell the most significant stories happening.

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Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos has been a professional journalist for five years now. She has contributed and covered stories for premier Philippine dailies and publications, and has traveled to different parts of the country to capture and tell the most significant stories happening.

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