Canada is making sweeping changes in the international student sector. These changes will have an impact on all of Canada’s provinces and territories. Earlier in 2024, Canada announced that there would be changes coming in order to better protect international students. These changes included an increase in the cost of living requirement, an update on international student work eligibility, and perhaps most strikingly, an announcement that there would be a cap on study permits issued to international students.

International student numbers in Canada have increased greatly in the last few years. The number of international students swelled to over 800,000 in 2022 and has continued to increase as colleges and universities throughout Canada have been accepting growing numbers of students. The implementation of a cap is meant to address the rapid increase in international students in Canada.

International Student Allocations For Provinces And Territories

The announcement that there would be a cap implemented on the number of study permits coming in 2024 was unprecedented. Although a cap was talked about and considered in late 2023, the coming cap is historic in that this is the first cap on study permits in Canada’s history. Now, more details of the specific numbers of students allocated to each province and territory have been revealed.

The allocation of study permit applications amongst each province and territory were revealed in April 2024, a few months after the initial announcement that a cap on study permits was set to be implemented. The announcement from The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, contains information on how the numbers allocated as part of the cap were determined.

Methodology in Determining the Cap

The national cap was determined based on the number of study permits that were set to expire this year in Canada, in what Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is calling the net zero first-year growth model.

This means that, in 2024, the target would be to have 485,000 approved study permits based on how many study permits were set to expire. However, approximately 20% of students apply for an extension when their permit is about to expire. Thus, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada subtracted 20% from 485,000 to come to a revised target number of 364,000 approved study permits for 2024 throughout Canada.

However, even though this cap is being implemented, it is important to note that primary, secondary, master’s and doctoral degree students are exempt from the cap. As such, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada expects to allocate roughly 393,000 study permits to account for those students who are exempt from the cap. The total number of study permit applications allowed will be about 552,000, as not all study permit applications are accepted.

Cap Numbers Per Province and Territory

When allocating a portion of the cap to each province and territory, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada determined what portion of the 393,000 study permits to be issued based on the population share of each province and territory. This means that each province and territory will have an adjustment made compared with the number of study permits issued in 2023. To prevent unsustainable growth, provinces that were due for an increase, based on the proportion of the population, have had that increase limited to 10% when compared to 2023. Provinces due to see a decrease in the number of international students have had their allocations adjusted to lessen the negative impact of the cap in the first year.

The territories received large percentage increases in their study permit allocations. As a result of the total number of students in the territories being very low, they were not limited to the 10% increase that the provinces were limited to. Ontario and British Columbia are losing the largest number of students year over year as British Columbia is losing 18% of their student share and Ontario is losing 41% of their total. All of the other provinces have 10% increases or 10% decreases in their year-over-year number of international students.

Impact of the Study Permit Cap on Ontario

Ontario, being Canada’s largest province by population, has received the largest allocation of study permits at 235,000. This corresponds to a projection of 141,000 approved study permits. This number represents a drastic change from 2023, which reflects a 41% decrease. The Ontario government has responded to the allocation by prioritizing certain programs in high-demand areas, including skilled trades, health, human resources, STEM, hospitality and child care. French language enrolment will also be prioritized. Further, institutions cannot admit more students than they did in 2023, and international students cannot exceed 55% of the institution’s domestic first-year enrolment.

Moreover, 96% of the study permits will be allocated to students attending Ontario publicly assisted colleges and universities. The remaining four percent will be allocated to Ontario’s language schools, private universities and other institutions. Career colleges are not to receive any of the allocations. Now, attestation letters are required by international students to study in Ontario. Students can receive these letters from their postsecondary institutions.

These changes will drastically impact colleges, as 13 out of 24 colleges are set to see a decline in applications. Colleges with public-private college partnerships will see a large decline, and Conestoga College was specifically mentioned as a college that is going to see a large decline in the number of international students it can admit.

Overall, the number of international students in Canada is going to change, as the student population is being redistributed throughout Canada. Provinces like Ontario and British Columbia are set to be impacted the most, and the ramifications of the study permit cap will have far-reaching impacts throughout Canada.

Contact Garson Immigration Law for Canadian Immigration Assistance

Garson Immigration Law is a Toronto-based law firm that helps people find practical solutions for their immigration needs. Whether you are seeking to obtain permanent residence in Canada, overcome inadmissibility, or obtain a student visa, our trusted immigration lawyers can help. If you have questions about an immigration matter, contact us online or call us at 416-321-2860 to learn how we can assist you.

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