IRCC says 292,000 permits will be approved for college and undergraduate students

Asheesh Moosapeta, Edana Robitaille
Updated: Mar, 11, 2024
  • Published: March 11, 2024

Recent comments by Canada’s Immigration Minister Marc Miller to the Globe and Mail have revealed that the actual number of study permits available for college and undergraduate international students this year is roughly 292,000.

On January 22nd Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) imposed an overall intake cap on the number of students of approximately 360,000 on study permit applications that would be approved this year.

The cap aims to curb “unsustainable growth” in Canada’s international student program by reducing the number of approved study permits by 35% over two years. IRCC also said it would improve the system’s integrity.

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What has been clarified?

According to the Globe and Mail, a reputable Canadian newspaper, IRCC has clarified that cap-exempt study permits were included in their 360,000 estimate of new study permits approved in 2024. Therefore, only 292,000 new college and university undergraduate study permits will be approved this year.

However, the immigration minister does not have the statutory authority to limit the number of approved visas, only the number of applications processed by IRCC.

Comments made by the Minister during the last meeting of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) highlighted this.
“I can only cap the applications and not the actual issuance of visas,” he said. “The way it works through the math is that we assume a level of acceptance and rejection at our level, and it churns out a bunch of visas. What we did was cap the intake at a certain level then we distributed it generally by population across Canada.”

In addition, the Minister’s instructions to set an application processing cap of 606,250 permits excluded primary and secondary school and master’s and doctorate level university programs. This would result in approximately 360,000 approved study permits in 2024, using an average approval rate of 60 percent.

This is in contrast with the latest Globe and Mail report that IRCC aims to approve only 292,200 new college and undergraduate study permits.

In addition, IRCC did not cite at the time that this processing limit also took into account students who would not be impacted by the cap (such as elementary and high school students, or master’s students).

How is Canada looking to implement this study permit cap?

IRCC has left the broader implementation of the study permit cap to provincial governments. To this end, provinces are responsible for giving international students eligible to study at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)* in their jurisdiction, a Provincial Attestation Letter (PAL). These letters signify to IRCC that the approved student is authorized under the province or territory their school is located in, to count towards the province’s study permit allocation.

*DLIs are the only schools in Canada that are approved to accept international students.

Based on ministerial instructions, PALs must be written and signed by the provincial/territorial government and must contain an applicant’s:

  • Full name;
  • Date of birth; and
  • Address.

Under the new system, study permit applicants will now need both a letter of acceptance (LOA) and a PAL to apply to IRCC for their study permit. Previously international students only required the former. The number of allocations given to a province or territory will be based on their respective populations.

Thus far, only two provinces have announced their system to deliver PALs to students—British Columbia and Alberta. Through both systems, students will be delivered PALs through their DLIs, which will apply to the provincial government, once they meet all eligibility criteria.

The federal government has given all provincial governments a deadline of March 31st, 2024, to create and implement their systems of delivering PALs.

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