“There are, in provinces, the diploma equivalent of puppy mills that are just churning out diplomas, and this is not a legitimate student experience. There is fraud and abuse and it needs to end,” Immigration Minister Marc Miller said at a news conference.
OTTAWA, ON: The Canadian government this week revised financial requirements for international students who are waiting to obtain their study permits. The government also changed 20 hours per week work limit for international students living in Canada. The government also shared intentions of limiting study visas in 2024.
Those who are still waiting to get their study visas will be hit harder by the new requirements as the government has now raised the cost-of-living financial requirement for study permit applicants. Starting January 2024, a single applicant will need to show they have $20,635 in addition to their first year of tuition and travel costs. The requirement before was $10,000.
The waiver on the 20-hour-per-week limit on the number of hours international students are allowed to work off campus while class is in session will be extended to April 30, 2024. International students already in Canada, as well as applicants who have already submitted an application for a study permit as of December 7, 2023, will be able to work off campus more than 20 hours per week until that time.
Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship while making the announcements said that the revised requirements are needed to protect international students from rising inflation and housing challenges. “International students provide significant cultural, social and economic benefits to their communities, but they have also faced challenges navigating life in Canada. We are revising the cost-of-living threshold so that international students understand the true cost of living here. This measure is key to their success in Canada. We are also exploring options to ensure that students find adequate housing. These long-overdue changes will protect international students from financially vulnerable situations and exploitation.”
This financial requirement for study permit applicants has not changed since the early 2000s, when it was set at $10,000 for a single applicant. As such, the financial requirement hasn’t kept up with the cost of living over time, resulting in students arriving in Canada only to learn that their funds aren’t adequate. “Moving forward, this threshold will be adjusted each year when Statistics Canada updates the low-income cut-off (LICO). LICO represents the minimum income necessary to ensure that an individual does not have to spend a greater than average portion of income on necessities,” the minister said.
The new financial guidelines are also being applied to the Student Direct Stream, a special study permit application process available to residents of 14 countries that requires additional up-front information from the applicant and provides priority processing.
“While this will help prevent student vulnerability and exploitation, we recognize that the impact of the change could vary depending on the applicant. Next year, in collaboration with partners, we intend to implement targeted pilots that will test new ideas aimed at helping underrepresented cohorts of international students pursue their studies in Canada,” Miller said.
“There are, in provinces, the diploma equivalent of puppy mills that are just churning out diplomas, and this is not a legitimate student experience,” Miller said at a news conference “There is fraud and abuse and it needs to end.”
The announcement follows important reforms to the International Student Program announced on October 27, 2023, regarding the development of a new framework to recognize learning institutions that provide top-quality services and support, including housing, to international students. We expect learning institutions to only accept the number of students that they can provide adequate supports for, including housing options.
“In welcoming international students, we have a responsibility to make sure that students are supported when they come to our country. Ahead of the September 2024 semester, we are prepared to take necessary measures, including limiting visas, to ensure that designated learning institutions provide adequate and sufficient student supports as part of the academic experience. In order to achieve this result, it is imperative to work together with provincial and territorial governments, learning institutions and other education stakeholders, so we can ensure international students are set up for success in Canada,” he said.
The facilitative measure that has allowed international students to count time spent studying online towards the length of a future post-graduation work permit, as long as it constitutes less than 50% of the program of study, will continue to be in place for students who begin a study program before September 1, 2024. This measure will no longer apply to students who begin a study program on or after that date. Distance learning facilitation measures were first implemented in 2020 in response to travel restrictions during the pandemic, and were reduced in scope in September 2022. At this point, the vast majority of international students are studying in person in Canada.
In response to labour market disruptions during the pandemic and post-pandemic recovery, a temporary policy was introduced on 3 occasions to provide an additional 18-month work permit to post-graduation work permit holders as their initial work permit was expiring. Foreign nationals with a post-graduation work permit expiring up to December 31, 2023, remain eligible to apply. However, this temporary policy will not be extended further.
Sarom Rho, national organizer of Migrant Students United, a section of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said, “Federal immigration policy is a roller coaster, the 20 hour work permit rule was removed after migrant student workers spoke up but just for 4 months. We don’t need monthly improvisations and chaotic twists that let exploitation and abuse continue; we will continue to speak up for stable, fair rules and permanent residency for all. At the same time, the feds just doubled the financial requirements for study permits, effectively creating a cap and excluding prospective working-class students worldwide who will now be scrambling in the next three weeks to find an extra $10,000 dollars. Post-graduate work permits will also no longer be renewable, even as the minimum score for permanent residency skyrocketed to 561 two days ago. Thousands of graduated students doing essential jobs in low-wage industries are not able to count their crucial work toward permanent resident applications and will be forced to leave or become undocumented.”