Bhutanese undeterred by Canada Visa reforms

Earlier at USD 10K, the new reforms necessitates international students to have atleast USD 20K as cost of living requirement threshold

Following in the footsteps of Australia to revamp immigration policies on international students, the Canadian government announced significant ‘reforms to Canada’s study permit requirements’ for international students.

The changes, ‘in a move aimed at enhancing the financial preparedness of international students,’ and which took effect from January 1, 2024, include a substantial increase in the cost-of-living financial requirement for study permit applicants.

Since the early 2000s, the cost-of-living requirement has remained stagnant at USD 10,000 for a single applicant. However, in response to the evolving cost of living, the threshold will now be raised to USD 20,635, representing 75% of the low-income cut-off (LICO). This adjustment, to be updated annually with Statistics Canada’s LICO, aims to ensure that international students are adequately prepared for the financial demands of life in Canada.

Despite these changes and substantial increase in the threshold of the cost of living requirement, there is no dearth of Bhutanese students applying for Canadian visa. Education consultancy firms in the country said that the number is still intact.

“It seems it doesn’t make any difference to the students. But they just need to pay more interests for the bank loans they are availing while applying for Visa since they have to avail more amount corresponding to the reforms by the Canadian government,” a spokesperson from Yarab Global ECPF said.

“Earlier, a couple has to pay just around Nu 40,000 as interest, but since the reforms, they are paying close to Nu 90,000 as interest only.”

In an official news release by Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marc Miller reiterated that while international students provided much needed social, cultural and economic benefits to Canadian communities, they also faced hardships in their day to day life in Canada.

The move is not only a response to the rising cost of living but also addresses the challenges faced by international students, such as finding suitable housing. The reforms align with the government’s commitment to protecting students from financial vulnerability and exploitation.

“We are revising the cost-of-living threshold so that international students understand the true cost of living here. This measure is key to their success in Canada. We are also exploring options to ensure that students find adequate housing. These long-overdue changes will protect international students from financially vulnerable situations and exploitation,” Miller was quoted as saying.

To further support underrepresented cohorts of international students, the government plans to implement targeted pilots in collaboration with partners in 2024. These pilots will test new ideas to facilitate the pursuit of studies in Canada for students facing unique challenges.

The announcement follows the October 27, 2023, reforms to the International Student Programme, introducing a new framework to recognise learning institutions providing top-quality services and support, including housing. Learning institutions are expected to accept only the number of students they can adequately support, it added.

Additionally, Minister Miller provided updates on three temporary policies affecting international students, including an extension of the waiver on the 20-hour-per-week limit for off-campus work until April 30, 2024, and the continuation of a facilitative measure allowing the counting of online study time towards post-graduation work permits.

While recognising the significant benefits international students bring to Canada socially, culturally, and economically, the government emphasizes the need to address challenges that have made some students vulnerable. The revised cost-of-living threshold is seen as a crucial step to ensure the success and well-being of international students in Canada, the official release said.

Canada is one of the preferred destinations for people who love to work and study abroad. Roughly 4000 Bhutanese are currently residing across Canada.

Tashi Namgyal from Thimphu