More than one million people have a valid Canadian study permit

Edana Robitaille
Published: January 24, 2024

According to The Globe and Mail, Canada’s international student population now exceeds 1 million students.

The Globe and Mail cited official information it received from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) which says there were 1,028,850 international students in Canada at the end of December.

It also reported that there were 526,015 international students in Ontario, 202,565 in British Columbia and 117,925 in Quebec. These are also the provinces with the highest number of Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs).

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On January 14, Immigration Minister Marc Miller spoke with CTV news and attributed the volume of international students to the permissive DLI model in some provinces. He recommended that provincial governments speak with DLIs to “rein in” the numbers.

In 2022, there were 807,260 international students in Canada and last fall the minister said he expected there to be over 900,000 by the end of 2023. The Globe and Mail says that number was exceeded by September 2023 and 1,015,744 people held a valid Canadian study permit.

A cap on study permits for international students has been under discussion since last summer. There has been growing pressure on the federal government to reduce the number of newcomers to Canada as the country faces a shortage of affordable housing and strain on the healthcare system.

IRCC says limiting intake will help strengthen in integrity of Canada’s international student system. It explains this is necessary because some institutions have increased their international student intake to increase their revenue, without offering students the support that they need.

The department noted that the intake cap will stabilize new growth and better protect international students from bad actors, such as fake immigration consultants who issue false letters of acceptance or institutions that accept more international students than they have the capacity to support.

Canada announces a cap on international students in 2024

On January 22, the minister confirmed that IRCC would be issuing only 360,000 study permits in 2024.

The cap represents an anticipated 35% reduction in the number of international students in Canada. It does not apply to study permit renewals or to students in a masters, PhD or other post-graduate program.

The permits will be allocated to each province based on population. Provinces with larger populations will receive the highest number of study permits. It is a temporary measure that will be in place for two years.

The announcement came alongside other changes to Canada’s international student program. Of note, after applicants receive a letter of acceptance (LOA) they must now also obtain a letter of attestation from the provincial or territorial government where their DLI is located.

This is a new step in the study permit application process and provincial and territorial governments have a deadline of March 31, 2024, to establish a process for issuing the letters. This means that there is the potential that no new study permits will be issued in Canada until the deadline.

Changes to PGWP eligibility

Additionally, IRCC has changed some of the eligibility criteria for international students who are considering remaining in Canada on a Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) after they complete their academic program.

Students enrolled in programs at private colleges through a curriculum licensing agreement with a public college will no longer be eligible for a PGWP.

In contrast, international students who complete a graduate-level program that is shorter than 8 months (the minimum length of a PGWP eligible program in Canada) will now be able to apply for a PGWP.

Finally, IRCC also revealed that the spouses of undergraduate students will no longer be eligible for Spousal Open Work Permits. No further details on this measure have been released and IRCC declined to speak with CIC News.

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