February 19, 2024

Balancing Growth and Opportunities: Canada's New Cap on International Student Permits for 2024

With the goal of stabilizing growth and addressing challenges posed by high numbers of international students entering Canada to study, as well as ensuring the quality of the educational experience of international students, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has introduced temporary measures that include a cap on study visas being issued in 2024. The temporary cap is being placed for two years.

Study Permit Cap and Provincial/Territorial Limits

This two-year, temporary intake cap on international student permit applications is projected to result in a 35% reduction compared to the number of permits issued in the previous year, with approximately 360,000 approved study permits expected for 2024. 

In addition to the national cap, each province and territory will have their own limits, based upon their respective populations. To streamline the process and ensure transparency, every study permit application submitted to the IRCC will require an attestation letter from the relevant province or territory. By March 31st, 2024, each province or territory is expected to establish a process for issuing these letters.

These caps will not impact current study permit holders, study permit renewals, or those pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees.

Addressing Systemic Concerns

The purpose of these measures is to ensure that designated learning institutions (DLIs) provide robust support structures as an integral part of the academic experience for international students, as well as to address issues arising from a significant growth in the number of international students, which has strained the integrity of the system.

Some institutions may have been more focused on prioritizing financial incentives, so have substantially increased their student intakes, leading to concerns about the quality of support provided to these students. Furthermore, the rapid rise in international student numbers may potentially strain not only educational resources but also housing, healthcare, and other essential services in Canada.

There have also been criticisms of a permissive DLI structure within provinces in certain cases, suggesting a need for provincial governments to have more active involvement in ensuring DLIs meet certain standards. DLIs are the exclusive post-secondary institutions in Canada authorized to admit international students, so they are critical in properly implementing an effective international student program.

happy female student backpack notebooks looking-camera-while holding canadian

Eligibility Changes

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has also announced changes to the eligibility criteria. 

Beginning September 2024, international students beginning a study program as part of a curriculum licensing arrangement will no longer be eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). Under current rules, there has been a substantial increase in international students enrolling in private colleges that have been licensed to deliver the curriculum of public colleges. However, with this situation, some of these private colleges may be providing inadequate controls and oversight, compared to their public counterparts. This deficiency not only creates a loophole in post-graduation work permit eligibility but also raises concerns about the overall quality control and academic standards for students in these programs. The new eligibility requirements aim to address these issues.

Post Graduate Work Permits (PGWP) 

A positive change for international students in master’s programs or other short graduate-level programs, these graduates will be able to apply for a three-year work permit under the new criteria. This differs from the previous model, where the PGWP duration was linked to the length of the study program. This particularly benefits master’s students, whose study program is often less than three years, by providing them with an extended timeframe for gaining Canadian work experience and potentially transitioning to permanent residency.

Open work permits will now be only available to spouses of international students in master’s and doctoral programs. This is a change from previous policies that granted such permits to spouses of students at all levels, including undergraduate and college programs.

Cost of Living Changes

Another change that was announced in December was an increase in the cost-of-living requirement for international students, which jumped from $10,000 to $20,635. This adjustment is intended to ensure international students are better prepared for the current, actual cost of living in Canada, to match a more realistic financial expectation.  

mixed race college student studying

Future Plans 

Looking ahead, a Trusted Framework Agreement with DLIs is expected to be implemented by the IRCC for the 2024 academic season. This should expedite the processing of study permits for eligible DLIs and streamline administrative procedures.

Again, these changes are temporary measures; a reassessment of new study permit applications is scheduled for 2025. During this period, the Canadian government will collaborate with provinces, territories, DLIs, and national education stakeholders to develop a sustainable plan of action for the future for welcoming international students. This includes finalizing a recognized institution framework, determining long-term sustainable international student levels, and ensuring that post-secondary institutions can provide adequate student housing. 

The end goal is to create an environment that balances growth with the well-being of both international students and the Canadian community.

In the meantime, it can be a confusing and stressful time for those interested in becoming an international student. The experts at Oro Immigration can help support and guide you, or help you find alternative paths to staying in Canada that you may be eligible for.

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