International Students 2024:
Changing Eligibility Requirements, Targets and Numbers
On January 22, 2024, the federal government announced some sweeping changes to Canada’s student visa application process for prospective international students. For the past several years there has been a significant increase in the number of study permits issued by Canada, yet essential infrastructure in many parts of the country – namely housing and healthcare – hasn’t increased proportionally. As a protective measure, a two-year intake cap on study permit applications is now in force. It is expected that approximately 360,000 new study permits will be issued to international students in 2024, which is a 35% decrease compared to 2023. The cap for 2025 will be determined at the end of the year.
Each province and territory will also have a cap on the number of new international students being enrolled in post-secondary programs, as well as being able to allocate individual caps to university and colleges in their jurisdiction. Provinces that have seen the most unsustainable growth in international students will see sharper cuts in their study permit allocations.
In addition, most study permit application submitted to IRCC will also require an Attestation Letter from the province or territory they wish to study in. Provinces and territories are expected to establish a process for issuing attestation letters to students by no later than March 31, 2024.
Who will not be affected? The caps will not apply to international students pursuing master’s or doctoral (PhD) degrees in Canada. Existing international students who are renewing (extending) their study permit applications from within Canada will also not be affected.
Why is Canada enforcing an international student cap?
As mentioned above, the required supports have not been adequately in place to support this influx of international students. Moreover, some private institutions have been accepting more international students to increase their revenues without improving admission and curriculum standards. This new study permit cap is intended to give the Canadian government time to build a “Trusted Institutions Framework” which will encourage Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) to maintain a high standard of education and help eliminate bad actors in the education sector. This will also ensure that the international students arriving in Canada have the support they need to succeed academically and in other aspects of life.
Here’s an overview of changes that may impact international students planning to study in Canada:
- Temporary federal cap on international student intake: The number of study permits being approved in 2024 is expected to decrease by 35 per cent over 2023 to 360,000. The cap for 2025 will be decided at the end of 2024.
- Attestation Letters required from the province or territory they plan to study in. The steps and process to obtain these are set to be implemented by March 31, 2024.
- Updated cost-of-living requirements for students: Starting January 1, 2024, international students will need to show they have at least $20,635 (previously $10,000) to cover their living expenses (the requirement is different for students moving to Quebec).
- Changes to Open Work Permit eligibility for spouses / common-law partners: Only spouses of international students enrolled in master’s, doctoral, and professional programs will be eligible for open work permits.
How does the international student cap impact study permit applicants?
As an international student, you may be concerned about how this new cap might affect your chances of qualifying for a Canadian study permit. With fewer study permits being approved, it is expected that admission into Canadian DLIs will become more competitive.
If you’re applying to a master’s or doctoral program in Canada, your chances of getting a study permit will likely remain unaffected. However, students enrolling in undergraduate programs, such as bachelor’s degree, diploma or certificate programs, may find it harder to qualify for a study permit. The reduction in the number of study permits issued is also expected to be more drastic in Ontario, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia, so students interested in these provinces may face greater competition.
Will the study permit cap affect existing study permit holders?
No, Canada’s student visa cap will only impact international students submitting their study permit applications on or after January 22, 2024. Existing study permit holders looking to extend their study permits in Canada will not be subject to the new cap.
Will Canada’s study permit cap affect master’s or PhD students?
International students pursuing master’s or doctoral programs (graduate degrees) are currently exempt from the federal and provincial study permit caps. The caps will only apply to undergraduate programs (including bachelor’s degree, certificate, and diploma programs) being offered by colleges and universities in Canada.
Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP):
Changes to Eligibility Criteria
Starting September 1, 2024, international students beginning study programs in private colleges delivering licensed curriculum on or after September 1, 2024, will not be eligible for PGWP’s. Under “curriculum licensing agreements”, students physically attend a private college that has been licensed to deliver the curriculum of an associated public college. These programs have seen significant growth in attracting international students in recent years, though they have less oversight than public colleges and they act as a loophole with regards to post-graduation work permit eligibility.
Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP):
3-Year Permit Eligibility Expansion for certain International Graduates
Recently announced are upcoming changes to the eligibility for 3-year duration PGWP’s. Soon, graduates of master’s degree programs will soon be eligible to apply for a PGWP with a 3-year duration. Under current criteria, the length of a PGWP is based solely on the length of an individual’s study program, hindering master’s graduates by limiting the amount of time they have to gain work experience and potentially transition to permanent residence.