Canada to stabilize growth and decrease number of new international student permits issued to approximately 360,000 for 2024
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.
The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced today 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. 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.
IRCC will allocate 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.
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.
In order to better align the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program, we are changing the eligibility criteria:
- 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 postgraduation 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.
- 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 postgraduation 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.
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 important measures announced today complement other recently announced reforms to the International Student Program. Taken together, they aim to ensure genuine students receive the support they require and have the resources they need for an enriching study experience in Canada, while at the same time stabilizing the overall number of students arriving and alleviating pressures on housing, health care and other services in Canada.
Changes to International Student Program aim to protect students
On October 27, 2023, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced several measures aimed at strengthening Canada’s International Student Program and at better protecting genuine students from fraud. These include:
- Since December 1, 2023, post-secondary designated learning institutions (DLI) have been required to confirm every letter of acceptance directly with IRCC submitted as part of a study permit application from outside Canada. This new, enhanced verification process aims to protect prospective students from letter‑of‑acceptance fraud and to help them avoid similar problems that some students faced earlier in 2023 as a result of that type of fraud. It also ensures that study permits are issued and foreign nationals arrive in Canada based only on genuine letters of acceptance.
- IRCC will adopt a recognized institution framework to benefit post-secondary DLIs that set a higher standard for services, support and outcomes for international students. These DLIs will benefit, for example, from the priority processing of study permits for applicants who plan to attend their school.
- IRCC has committed to completing an assessment of Post-Graduation Work Permit Program criteria and introduce reforms to better calibrate it to meet the needs of the Canadian labour market, as well as regional and Francophone immigration goals.
Revised requirements to better protect international students
On December 7, 2023, Minister Miller announced that the cost-of-living financial requirement for study permit applicants will be raised so that international students are financially better prepared for life in Canada. Moving forward, this threshold will be adjusted each year when Statistics Canada updates the low-income cut-off (LICO). LICO represents the minimum income necessary to ensure that an individual does not have to spend a greater than average portion of income on necessities. For 2024, a single applicant needs to show they have $20,635, representing 75% of LICO, in addition to their first year of tuition and travel expenses. This change was implemented for all new study permit applications received on or after January 1, 2024.
Update on temporary policies affecting international students
IRCC introduced a number of temporary policies affecting international students in 2022 and 2023 and recently provided an update on their status:
- The waiver on the 20-hour-per-week limit on the number of hours international students are allowed to work off campus while class is in session was extended to April 30, 2024, only, reflecting that many current students are relying on working more than 20 hours per week to cover their expenses and potentially jeopardizing their studies. We will continue to examine options for this policy in the future, such as expanding off-campus work hours for international students to 30 hours per week while class is in session.
- The facilitative measure that has allowed international students to count time spent studying online towards the length of a future post-graduation work permit, as long as it constitutes less than 50% of the program of study, will continue to be in place for students who begin a study program before September 1, 2024. This measure will no longer apply to students who begin a study program on or after that date. Distance learning facilitation measures were first implemented in 2020 in response to travel restrictions during the pandemic, and were reduced in scope in September 2022. At this point, the vast majority of international students are studying in person in Canada.
- In response to labour market disruptions during the pandemic and post-pandemic recovery, a temporary policy was introduced on three occasions to provide an additional 18-month work permit to post-graduation work permit holders as their initial work permit was expiring. Foreign nationals with a post-graduation work permit expiring up to December 31, 2023, remained eligible to apply. However, this temporary policy has not been extended, returning to the long standing policy that an international graduate is eligible for only one post graduation work permit in their lifetime. Those with post graduation work permits expiring in 2024 who haven’t transitioned to permanent residence will need to determine if they are eligible to apply for another type of work permit or if they will need to leave Canada when their status expires.