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Ask Tito Mike by Michael Scott  

Cap of 360,000 study permits

announced for 2024

by Michael Scott


The worm has turned for international students in Canada. It is now common news to say that Canada has too many international students and they have become the cause of all problems that ail the country. We have a housing crisis, a health care crisis, and whatever else you can imagine and the blame rests with international students. The logic of blaming international students and Designated Learning Institutions (DLI’s) escapes me. The consequences of this generalized attitude are immediate on international student recruitment and settlement.

How many have read about the greedy DLI’s recruiting students from abroad because they pay higher enrolment fees? The opposition Conservatives blame the Liberal government, the government blames the DLI’s, and the popular sentiment appears to be against the international students. It is always too easy to blame the “other.”

Just yesterday the government praised the attraction of the foreign students as a positive for Canada’s reputation as a preferred target for immigration and the source of much needed human resources. We still need immigration and student immigration but perhaps the ratios are not right. If we have a housing crisis then cut the number of students for one or two years to adjust the supply. The problem is that the adjustments are too abrupt, and the impression is that there was little or no serious planning. Rather, there is an attitude that we hold the cards and can just limit the flow. This cavalier and irresponsible approach does little to keep Canada’s high reputation. It takes years to create a good impression and a few thoughtless changes to undermine all the good will we have accumulated.

I shall not get into the blame game where the Liberals are the ones wholly responsible or in the targeted complaint of Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre who says that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alone is responsible for the influx of too many students. This critic has an anti-immigration outlook and is desperate to become the next PM. His opinion on the issue appears little more than an opportunity to make points with his supporters. His position reflects the attitude of many Canadians. The response of the Liberals appears at best a knee jerk decision to change their political fortunes and falling popularity with the electorate. Politicians we should never forget are always focused on the next election and gaining power or maintaining power. The political reality is what it is, and we should thank the Lord that we are not the US where political theatre has replaced policy positions and platforms.

What is the immediate consequence of the assault on international students in Canada? The first was the government announcement to “stabilize growth and decrease the number of new international student permits to approximately 360,000 in 2024. This change represents a decrease of 35 per cent from 2023. The Minister said that the decrease would be distributed fairly with provincial and territorial caps established, weighed by population. Study permit renewals will not be impacted and those pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees, and elementary and secondary education are not included. Current study permit holders will not be affected.

The proposed changes are not yet in place. To implement the cap as of January 24, 2024, each study permit application submitted to IRCC will require an attestation from a province or territory. The provinces and territories are expected to establish their own processes of issuing attestations or support letters to students no later than March 31, 2024. These temporary measures are expected to be in place for the next two years. Some of the more notable changes will be:

  • Starting September 1, 2024, international students who begin a study program that is part of a curriculum licensing arrangement will no longer be eligible for a post graduate work permit (PGWP). This change is intended to restrict private colleges that deliver a curriculum of an associated college. These institutions have less oversight than public colleges and have provided a loophole with regard to PGWP eligibility;
  • Graduates of master’s and other graduate-level programs will soon be eligible to apply for three-year work permits;
  • Open work permits for spouses and partners will only be available to international students in master’s and doctoral programs. The spouses of international students in other levels of study, including undergraduate and college programs, will no longer be eligible.

The Minister’s announcement speaks of the genuineness of the recruitment and maintenance of international students but is still restrictive in terms of number and options. Our hope is that reason will prevail and the long-term intensions will be clarified.

Stay tuned for the upcoming changes because the federal and provincial and territorial counterparts will be meeting to clarify things. Hopefully reason will prevail, and balance restored to the system. As a country we must continue to be open to foreign student recruitment but ensure that housing, health etc. are in place to support them.

Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Immigration Canada and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with Immigration Connexion International Ltd. Contact him at 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: