This cap will be temporary, remaining in place for two years. It is expected to result in a 35% reduction in the number of study permits issued for 2024, with the federal government stating it will approve 360,000 undergraduate permits this year.
Cap space will be distributed amongst the provinces, proportionately with population. This will result in provinces such as Ontario and British Columbia seeing up to a 50% decrease in international students.
The cap will not apply to graduate or professional students, nor will it apply to those applying for study permits at the elementary or secondary school level.
Alongside the cap, changes to work permit availability for students and their families were also announced. Beginning September 1, 2024, postgraduate work permits will no longer be available to public-private institution models. Further, the availability of open work permits for accompanying spouses of international students will be curbed, with only spouses of graduate or professional students being eligible.
These new limits may negatively impact the future Canadian labour market, which is already suffering significant gaps and relying on the availability of foreign workers in many sectors. However, there remains some good news on the horizon for Canadian employers looking to fill labour shortages with local foreign workers. The announcements made on January 22, 2024, come in the wake of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s December 2023 announcement that full-time international students already in Canada, and those who submitted a study permit application prior to December 7, 2023, will continue to be able to full-time work off-campus until April 30, 2024. This policy was initially set to expire on December 31, 2023.
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January 22, 2024—Ottawa—International students enrich our communities and are a critical part of Canada’s social, cultural and economic fabric. In recent years, the integrity of the international student system has been threatened. Some institutions have significantly increased their intakes to drive revenues, and more students have been arriving in Canada without the proper supports they need to succeed. Rapid increases in the number of international students arriving in Canada also puts pressure on housing, health care and other services. As we work to better protect international students from bad actors and support sustainable population growth in Canada, the government is moving forward with measures to stabilize the number of international students in Canada.
The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced today that the Government of Canada will set an intake cap on international student permit applications to stabilize new growth for a period of two years. For 2024, the cap is expected to result in approximately 360,000 approved study permits, a decrease of 35% from 2023. In the spirit of fairness, individual provincial and territorial caps have been established, weighted by population, which will result in much more significant decreases in provinces where the international student population has seen the most unsustainable growth. Study permit renewals will not be impacted. Those pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees, and elementary and secondary education are not included in the cap. Current study permit holders will not be affected.
IRCC will allocate a portion of the cap to each province and territory, who will then distribute the allocation among their designated learning institutions. To implement the cap, as of January 22, 2024, every study permit application submitted to IRCC will also require an attestation letter from a province or territory. Provinces and territories are expected to establish a process for issuing attestation letters to students by no later than March 31, 2024.
These temporary measures will be in place for two years, and the number of new study permit applications that will be accepted in 2025 will be re-assessed at the end of this year. During this 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 recognized institution framework, determining long-term sustainable levels of international students and ensuring post-secondary institutions are able to provide adequate levels of student housing.
In order to better align the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program, we are changing the eligibility criteria:
- Starting September 1, 2024, international students who begin a study program that is part of a curriculum licensing arrangement will no longer be eligible for a postgraduation work permit upon graduation. Under curriculum licensing agreements, students physically attend a private college that has been licensed to deliver the curriculum of an associated public college. These programs have seen significant growth in attracting international students in recent years, though they have less oversight than public colleges and they act as a loophole with regards to post-graduation work permit eligibility.
- Graduates of master’s and other short graduate-level programs will soon be eligible to apply for a 3-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.
In the weeks ahead, open work permits will only be available to spouses of international students in master’s and doctoral programs. The spouses of international students in other levels of study, including undergraduate and college programs, will no longer be eligible.
The important measures announced today complement other recently announced reforms to the International Student Program. Taken together, they aim to ensure genuine students receive the support they require and have the resources they need for an enriching study experience in Canada, while at the same time stabilizing the overall number of students arriving and alleviating pressures on housing, health care and other services in Canada.
“International students are vital to Canada and enrich our communities. As such, we have an obligation to ensure that they have access to the resources they need for an enriching academic experience. In Canada, today, this isn’t always the case. Today, we are announcing additional measures to protect a system that has become so lucrative that it has opened a path for its abuse. Enough is enough. Through the decisive measures announced today, we are striking the right balance for Canada and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system while setting students up for the success they hope for.”
– The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
- In the coming months, we will continue to work to provide clear pathways to permanent residence for students with in-demand skills and explore new measures to better transition international students to the labour force.
- The department has introduced several measures recently to make sure the International Student Program works for in-coming students, as well as the country as a whole, including:
- On January 1, 2024, the cost-of-living requirement for study permit applicants was updated to better reflect the true cost of living in Canada and help prevent student vulnerability and exploitation.
- Since December 1, 2023, post-secondary designated learning institutions have been required to confirm every letter of acceptance submitted by an applicant outside Canada directly with IRCC. This enhanced verification process protects prospective students from fraud and ensures that study permits are issued based only on genuine letters of acceptance.
- In 2024, we intend to implement targeted pilots aimed at helping underrepresented cohorts of international students pursue their studies in Canada.