Each year, Canada welcomes hundreds of thousands of international students into the country to study at post-secondary institutions from coast to coast. This number has continued to rise in recent years, as Canada hosted more than 800,000 international students in 2022, which was a substantial increase from the 600,000 international students in 2021. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2019, Canada hosted approximately 400,000 international students.

Since the pandemic, Canada’s policy towards international students has been clear. The country has been trying to attract more international students. However, in order to come to Canada on a study permit, potential international students must provide proof of acceptance into a designated Canadian Learning Institution and establish they have sufficient funds to pay tuition and living expenses for themselves, along with any accompanying family members, throughout the duration of their stay. Programs such as the Student Direct Stream have been implemented in order to make the immigration process easier for international students and are also indicative of the Canadian Government’s intent to increase student immigration over the past few years.

Policy Considerations of Increasing Numbers of International Students in Canada

The number of international students in Canada has almost doubled since 2019 and has been a divisive matter for both the Canadian public and the Canadian Government. There are several proponents associated with the arguments to increase and decrease immigration into Canada – part of which is impacted by the discussion of the amount of international students Canada is prepared to host each year.

Arguments for Increasing International Student Numbers

In some ways, the increase in international students is good for the Canadian economy and other nationwide goals. International students provide a large amount of revenue to post-secondary education institutions as they are typically charged higher tuition rates than domestic students. Further, international students contribute to Canada’s overall goal of building national diversity within the country, thereby enriching Canada’s culture. International students also provide Canada with skilled labour and professionals, as they may choose to remain in Canada following their graduation if they apply for and successfully obtain a post-graduation work permit. Given Canada’s labour shortages in certain key professions, having domestically educated and trained workers to fill those roles is beneficial to both Canada’s economy and society.

Arguments for Decreasing International Student Numbers

Despite some of the arguments made in support of increasing the number of international students in the country, Canada’s expansionist policy in relation to increasing the number of study permits that are issued has caused some negative sentiment in relation to the policy and its impact on Canadian society. Detractors of the increased issuance of study permits to international students lends itself to a variety of issues in order to argue against the policy. Of important focus is Canada’s ongoing housing crisis, which has been exacerbated by international students seeking accommodations across the country. Concerns have been raised that the learning institutions that admit these students are not taking enough responsibility with respect to their housing. Many schools have far more students enrolled than they have space in student residences, which creates housing pressure on the municipality in which the school is located and subsequently impacts local residents.

Federal Government Consideration of a Cap on International Students

One of the ways in which the Canadian Federal Government is considering addressing these concerns is by implementing a cap on the number of international students who may enter Canada each year. When asked about implementing a cap on international students, Federal Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Sean Fraser commented that it is “one of the options that we ought to consider.” The Honourable Mr. Fraser is the former minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and is well aware of the issues arising from the substantial presence of international students in Canada, as well as the housing crisis.

Currently, there is no concrete plan for limiting or capping international student admissions into Canada, as the discussions in the Canadian Federal Government are of a preliminary nature. While it is unclear exactly what it would look like if the cap was implemented, it could take a few different forms. International students could be capped on a total level, meaning the number allowed into Canada throughout Canada would be limited to a certain number, or it could be specifically tailored to certain areas. It is also possible that designated learning institutions may each be capped on the amount of international students they are permitted to admit. Alternatively, a cap may apply to the students’ countries of origin, limiting the number of study permits issued per country. Of course, it remains to be seen if and how a cap on international students is implemented and how it will impact Canada’s immigration, economy, labour market, and housing crisis.

Contact Garson Immigration Law for Advice on Canadian Immigration Requirements and International Student Options

Garson Immigration Law is a Toronto-based law firm that helps individuals determine the best strategy to achieve their immigration needs. The skilled immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law have extensive expertise in many immigration matters, including work permits, student visas, and US immigration from Canada. Our lawyers help clients understand exactly what is required of them in various circumstances, including those seeking to obtain permanent residence in Canada, as well as those who are dealing with inadmissibility. Our exclusive focus on immigration allows us to understand our clients’ unique concerns and obstacles. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us online or call our office at 416-321-2860.

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