Canadian Minister issues statement on visa policies

Canadian Minister issues statement on visa policies

Earlier last week, Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC), Canada, issued a statement highlighting on the Canadian government’s changed visa policies. The statement issued on April 5, 2024, follows the national cap on study permit applications he announced on January 1, 2024, to address the rapid increase of international students in Canada. Apart from the provincial and territorial allocations for 2024, which have now been finalized, in the latest statement, Minister Miller shared the new figures and explained how the decisions were made.

Explaining about “Net zero first year growth model,” the Minister underlined that the national cap is based on the amount of expiring study permits this year. “This means that the number of international students coming to Canada in 2024 should be the same as the number of students whose permits expire this year. For 2024, the target is 485,000 approved study permits,” he said.

Minister Miller added that about 20% of students apply for an extension each year and remain in the country, due to which IRCC subtracted the amount (97,000) from the target of 485,000 and set aside a small buffer to allow for other variations, resulting in a revised target of 364,000 approved study permits in 2024.

“Accordingly, based on the national approval rate of 60% for study permit applications, the target of 364,000 approved study permits translates into a cap of 606,000 study permit applications received for 2024,” he said.

He added that some international students are exempt from the cap, such as primary and secondary school students and master’s or doctoral degree students. “IRCC deducted the estimated volume of these groups (140,000 based on 2023 data) from the 2024 target number of approved study permits. This resulted in a target of 236,000 approved study permits for 2024, which converts to roughly 393,000 study permit applications to be allocated,” the Minister explained.

On finalizing provincial and territorial allocations, he said that IRCC distributed the adjusted number of study permit applications, 393,000, based on the population share of each province and territory. Under this model, some provinces and territories would get more students in 2024 than in 2023, while others would see fewer new students.

“For provinces that would receive more international students in 2024 than in 2023 based on population share, we adjusted their allocation to limit growth to 10% compared to 2023,” he said. Meanwhile, for provinces that would receive fewer international students in 2024 than in 2023, their allocation was adjusted to lessen the negative impact in the first year and support broader regional immigration goals.

IRCC also topped up allocations for provinces whose approval rate was lower than 60%. The top¬-ups will help provinces with lower approval rates reach their expected number of approved study permits in 2024. “As a result, a total of about 552,000 study permit applications have been allocated to provinces and territories under the national cap. These allocations are expected to yield approximately 292,000 approved study permits, representing a 28% reduction from 2023 for the groups included under the cap,” he said.

However, the Minister said many variables may influence the number of new international students who arrive in Canada in 2024, such as provinces and territories with room to grow may not end up using their full allocations, approval rates may change and in-year adjustments may be required.

In January 22, 2024, Minister Miller, announced that the Government of Canada will set an intake cap on international student permit applications to stabilize new growth for a period of two years. A news release from the IRCC then, said that for 2024, the cap is expected to result in approximately 360,000 approved study permits, a decrease of 35% from 2023. “In the spirit of fairness, individual provincial and territorial caps have been established, weighted by population, which will result in much more significant decreases in provinces where the international student population has seen the most unsustainable growth. Study permit renewals will not be impacted. Those pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees, and elementary and secondary education are not included in the cap. Current study permit holders will not be affected,” it underlined.

Other measures included IRCC allocating a portion of the cap to each province and territory, who will then distribute the allocation among their designated learning institutions. To implement the cap, as of January 22, 2024, every study permit application submitted to IRCC will also require an attestation letter from a province or territory. Provinces and territories are expected to establish a process for issuing attestation letters to students by no later than March 31, 2024.

IRCC stated that these temporary measures will be in place for two years, and the number of new study permit applications that will be accepted in 2025 will be re-assessed at the end of this year. “During this period, the Government of Canada will continue to work with provinces and territories, designated learning institutions and national education stakeholders on developing a sustainable path forward for international students, including finalizing a recognized institution framework, determining long-term sustainable levels of international students and ensuring post-secondary institutions are able to provide adequate levels of student housing.”

It was also announced on the same day that starting September 1, 2024, international students who begin a study program that is part of a curriculum licensing arrangement will no longer be eligible for a post¬ graduation work permit upon graduation. 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.

The January news release said graduates of master’s degree programs will soon be eligible to apply for a 3-year work permit. Under current criteria, the length of a post¬ graduation work permit 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.

It also mentioned that in the weeks ahead, open work permits will only be available to spouses of international students in master’s and doctoral programs. The spouses of international students in other levels of study, including undergraduate and college programs, will no longer be eligible.

The news release stated, “International students enrich our communities and are a critical part of Canada’s social, cultural and economic fabric. In recent years, the integrity of the international student system has been threatened. Some institutions have significantly increased their intakes to drive revenues, and more students have been arriving in Canada without the proper supports they need to succeed. Rapid increases in the number of international students arriving in Canada also puts pressure on housing, health care and other services. As we work to better protect international students from bad actors and support sustainable population growth in Canada, the government is moving forward with measures to stabilize the number of international students in Canada.”

By Ugyen Tenzin, Thimphu