International students play an important role in Canada’s economy, modern society, and the country’s role on the world stage. The role of international students in Canada’s education system has become much greater in the past few decades. In 2001, Canada had a minor global market share of less than 1% of international students in the world, however, the country has since become one of the top four countries of choice for students seeking to study abroad. In 2022, over 800,000 foreign nationals held study permits in Canada.

In recent years, Canada has been trying to attract more international students to Canada, as the number of foreign nationals holding study permits has drastically increased. The decision from the Government of Canada to increase the number of international students coming to Canada has been the subject of much debate recently, as some critics have been outspoken about the need to better regulate the numbers of international students in Canada. However, the Canadian Government has now implemented a cap on the number of international students in Canada.

Accordingly, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has announced that there are going to be some changes coming for international students in Canada starting in 2024, which will be explored in more detail throughout this blog.

What International Students Should Know

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada recently made an announcement titled “Revised requirements to better protect international students” which outlines the changes that will be implemented in order to ensure that international students are well equipped during their time in Canada.

Cost of Living Requirement

A key change is an increased cost of living requirement for study permit applicants. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the increase in the cost of living requirement is to ensure that international students are financially prepared for life in Canada. The previous cost of living requirement of $10,000 was instituted in the early 2000s and thus, an update was desperately needed, as the income requirement has not kept pace with inflation and the year over year rising costs of living. The income requirement has increased more than doubled as study permit applicants will now have to show that they have sufficient funds of at least $20,635. However, this amount is intended to be allocated for living expenses and does not include the cost of tuition and travel costs, so international students will need to take those expenses into additional consideration.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has indicated that the requirement will now be adjusted each year when Statistics Canada updates the low income cut off amount. The low income cut off is calculated as the minimum income necessary to ensure that an individual does not have to spend a greater than average portion of income on necessities. The financial requirement for students will be 75% of the low income cut off. These changes apply to study permit applications received on and after January 1, 2024.

Cap on Study Permits

The Immigration Minister announced that in order to improve “programme integrity” there will be a temporary two-year cap on new international study permits and noted that “the cap is expected to result in approximately 364,000 approved study permits, a decrease of 35% from [the number of study permits issued in] 2023.” The cap space will be allocated between provinces to ensure fairness, with some provinces seeing room to grow, while others will be heavily impacted and may see the amount of incoming new students reduced by up to 50%. It is important to note that the cap will not impact current students.

Targeted Pilot Programs

In their announcement, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada also made a mention of targeted pilot programs that will be used to test new ideas. These new pilot programs will be intended to benefit underrepresented groups of international students in Canada.

Housing for International Students

There is also a new focus on designated learning institutions to take stock of how many students they admit based on the number of students they can support academically. Further, the institution must offer adequate housing based on the number of students admitted.

To that end, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has strongly indicated that changes must be made by the designated learning institutions to address the present issues regarding housing and academic support. They have indicated that if changes are not made, measures will be taken before September 2024, which may include limiting the number of visas that are issued.

Temporary Policy Updates

Off-Campus Work

The pandemic policy that waived the requirement for international students to work less than 20 hours per week in Canada has been extended. Currently, international students can work off campus for more than 20 hours per week until April 30, 2024. This extension applies to current international students, as well as international students who applied for their study permit on or before December 7, 2023.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is reconsidering the 20 hours per week policy going forward, with an indication that they are considering expanding the hours per week allowance to 30 hours per week in the future.

Online Study May Satisfy Work Permit Requirements

The temporary policy that allows international students to have their online studying count for future post-graduation work permit requirements is going to be extended for students who begin their program before September 1, 2024. In order for online studying to satisfy this requirement, the online study must be less than 50% of the program of study. This policy will not apply to those who begin programs after September 1, 2024.

Key Takeaways for International Students Seeking to Study in Canada

Overall, there are a large number of changes coming for international students. Current and prospective international students should be aware of the changes that are coming in order to be best prepared for how the changes may impact them.

Contact the Lawyers at Garson Immigration Law for Assistance With Study Permit Applications

At Garson Immigration Law in Toronto, our experienced immigration lawyers help people find solutions for all of their immigration needs, such as obtaining permanent residence in Canada and dealing with issues of inadmissibility. Our focus on immigration allows us to understand our clients’ unique concerns and the obstacles they face. If you have any questions about an immigration matter, or to learn how we can assist you during the process, contact us online or call us at 416-321-2860 to arrange a confidential consultation.

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