Canada commits to attracting and retaining more international students

Asheesh Moosapeta
Published: October 14, 2022

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has released their response to the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM); on needed measures to attract, aid, and protect international students coming to, and already in Canada.

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CIMM is an internal government committee that studies matters of immigration and citizenship in Canada. They have oversight over IRCC and monitor the federal multiculturalism policy. The CIMM report was written to address the fact that while Canada is a global leader in attracting international students, some students may be placed in disadvantageous and vulnerable situations due to several factors that can be addressed by IRCC.

The report focused on three main objectives in relation to international students:

  • Attracting international students to study in Canada;
  • Ensuring equity in the International Student Program; and
  • Improving service and communication for international students in the study permit and immigration processes.

The IRCC response focused on measures that can be taken, and are already in place to aid in these three objectives; covering each individually with the aim of reducing vulnerabilities and aiding international students through the permit application, study, and settlement process in Canada.

Attracting international students

The government recognized that from 2022 to 2023, the number of study permit holders is forecasted to rise to approximately 753,000 international students; while acknowledging the CIMM’s concern that despite increases, applications from certain countries and populations are not given adequate consideration by the department.

In response, IRCC has committed to:

  • Explore expansion of the Student Direct Stream (SDS) to specific Asian, African and French-speaking countries. The SDS is a fast-track stream for obtaining a study permit for candidates from 14 countries;
  • Investigate rates of study permit refusals (at large, and for Francophone African students specifically), destined for Quebec—through establishing a working group between Ministère de l'Immigration, de la Francisation et de l'Intégration (MIFI) and IRCC;
  • Maintain and re-assess the scope of the Nigeria Student Express (NSE) stream—a study permit stream created to aid students applying from Nigeria; and
  • Exploring how to best promote the transition to permanent residence for international students, particularly those with the skills, experience, and language levels necessary to succeed in Canada.

Ensuring equity in the international student program

The CIMM highlighted a number of areas in their initial report to IRCC, that identified potential initiatives to ensure equity in the international student program and application processes. In response, IRCC has committed to reviewing practices and ensuring equity throughout the International Student Program (ISP) by:

  • Continuing to include questions pertaining to accessibility, race, and gender in the annual voluntary client experience survey, to learn more about how clients face unique challenges based on their demographics;
  • Establish a Disaggregated Data and Analytics Framework (DDAF). Disaggregated data is data that has been filtered to understand specific relationships that it holds, based on demographic characteristics; to better understand how (for example) a specific group of people is impacted by a particular policy or phenomenon;
  • Exploring patterns and determinants of social well-being on immigration cohorts, with a focus on different racial groups;
  • Review the selection process for international students, and evaluate students on criteria more linked to their potential value; and
  • Improving client service and communication

Improving service and communication to international students

Many of the CIMM recommendations involved the importance of providing clear and transparent information to clients and stakeholders, including around processing times and reasons for refusals. In reply to these, IRCC has responded by:

  • Highlighting the recent hiring of 1,250 new processing staff by late fall 2022 to assist with processing capacity, and publish monthly data on the backlogs;
  • Committing to work with Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) to implement collection of enrolment and status information data about international students, whereby DLIs will submit data elements to IRCC for real-time processing; and
  • Expressing interest in continuing with initiatives like the 2022 pilot program wherein immigration officers proactively released their decision notes along with some temporary resident visa (TRV) applications, at the time of the decision, to ensure transparency and understanding;

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