Canada announces two-year cap on new study permits

Highlights of announcement by Canadian Immigration minister Marc Miller on 22nd Jan 2024 about new study permits which will be issued to International students:

  • Canada will establish a cap on the number of new study permits issued to international students
  • The cap will be in effect for 2024 and 2025, and is described as a temporary measure
  • Canadian immigration officials anticipate that the cap will result in a 35% reduction in the number of new study permits issued in 2024, compared to 2023 levels
  • In addition to the cap, the government also announced today that as of 1 September 2024, students enrolled in programmes delivered via public-private partnerships will no longer be eligible for post-graduate work permits
  • The government will also move to limit open work permits available to spouses of international students
  • However, post-graduate work rights will be expanded for students completing graduate studies in Canada, with such students soon being able to apply for a three-year post-graduate work permit

Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced today that Canada will establish a temporary, two-year cap on the number of new study permits issued to international students. The move is the latest in a series of measures that the government has taken in recent months to tighten integrity controls within Canada’s student visa programme.

Speaking in Montréal today, Minister Miller said, “These measures are to ensure that as future students arrive in Canada, they receive the quality of education that they signed up for and the hope that they were provided in their home countries. It would be a disservice to welcome international students to Canada knowing that now all of them are getting the resources they need to succeed in Canada. Allowing bad actors to continue their operations would be a disservice to all of the good institutions who pride themselves on providing a top-tier academic experience.”

In a clear signal as to where some of the government’s key concerns currently rest, he added, “It is unacceptable that some private institutions have taken advantage of international students by operating under-resourced campuses, lacking supports for students, and charging high tuition fees – all the while significantly increasing their intake of international students.”

The minister went on to explain that the government is announcing three principal measures today, most notably a temporary two-year cap on new international study permits.

“[This] is the latest in a series of measures to improve programme integrity, and to set international students up for success in order to maintain a sustainable level of temporary residence in Canada as well,” said Mr Miller. “For 2024, 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.”

“In the spirit of fairness, we are also allocating the cap space by province based on population…some provinces will see much more significant reductions. Some provinces will actually have room to [grow] if they so choose but the provinces that have been most heavily effected will have to decrease by about 50% or perhaps even a bit more than 50%, when it comes to new incoming [students].”

The minister also announced that effective immediately, applicants must provide a provincial attestation with their study permit application. A related statement from IRCC notes that, “Provinces and territories are expected to establish a process for issuing attestation letters to students by no later than 31 March 2024.”

However, he was quick to caution as well that the cap will not apply to students in graduate-level programmes, including master’s or doctoral studies. Study permit applications at the elementary and secondary school levels will also be exempt from the cap.

The minister added, “To be clear, the cap will not apply to applicants within Canada looking to extend their studies as it wouldn’t be fair to prevent someone from finishing their programme. Nor will the cap have an effect on study permit holders currently in Canada.”

The cap will be in place for two years, with the number of new study permit applications that will be issued in 2025 to be assessed at the end of 2024. IRCC adds, “During [the two-year cap 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 recognised institution framework, determining long-term sustainable levels of international students, and ensuring post-secondary institutions are able to provide adequate levels of student housing.”

Changes coming for work eligibility

Minister Miller also announced today that as of 1 September of this year, post-graduate work permits will no longer be available to students enrolled in programmes delivered via public-private partnerships. This model is especially prevalent in Ontario where international enrolment in programmes offered via such partnerships or licensing arrangements has skyrocketed in recent years.

The Minister’s concluded his announcements today by noting that, “In the coming weeks we will be announcing that open work permits will only be allowed and be available to spouses of international students enrolled in master’s and doctoral programmes as well as those enrolled in professional programmes, such as medicine and law. Spouses of students enrolled in other levels of study, including undergraduate and college programmes, will no longer be eligible [for work permits].”

At the same time, the government is also moving to expand post-study work rights for graduate students, explaining that, “Graduates of master’s and other short graduate-level programs will soon be eligible to apply for a three-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.”