Canada’s New Rules for Student Visas in 2024

Studying abroad is a challenging process, but not an impossible one. By planning meticulously and diligently, students can pursue international education. To embark on this journey successfully, staying updated with the rules and regulations of your desired destination is crucial.

Canada is a prominent choice for many prospective international students looking to study abroad. Recently, Canada changed a number of regulations pertaining to studying abroad, mainly those pertaining to the requirements for study permits and post-graduate work permits (PGWPs). Being informed of these recent events is crucial, regardless of whether Canada is already on your shortlist or you are just starting to look at university and college possibilities in the nation. In order to make sure you are updated on the changes impacting international students in Canada, this article attempts to offer insights into the most recent updates.

Overview of New Rules for International Students
As an aspiring student, you must be aware of the changes in the study visa rules. Here are the key changes:

1. Temporary Federal Cap on Study Permits
We anticipate a 35% reduction in approved study permits in 2024, with the intake capped at 360,000. The cap for 2025 will be determined by year-end 2024 only.

2. Changes to Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Eligibility
As of September 1, 2024, international students enrolling in private colleges with licensed curricula will not qualify for PGWPs.

3. Extended PGWPs for Master’s Graduates
Graduates of master’s programs in Canada can now benefit from a prolonged post-graduation work opportunity as they become eligible for three-year PGWPs.

4. Revised Cost-of-Living standards
Effective January 1, 2024, international students must show a minimum of CAD 20,635 (previously CAD 10,000) to cover living expenses. For Quebec, the rules are different.

5. Eligibility Changes for Spousal Open Work Permit
Open work permits for spouses are now limited to those of international students enrolled in master’s, doctoral, and professional programs.

1. Temporary Cap on Study Permits
The announcement made by the federal government on January 22, 2024, signals a big change in foreign education. Authorities have capped the number of years that study permit applications can be approved in order to control the influx of foreign students. Forecasts suggest that there would be a significant 35% decrease in the number of new research permits issued in 2024 as compared to the year before, with an approximate total of 360,000 permits anticipated to be approved. At the conclusion of the year, a decision will be made regarding the cap for 2025.

This transformative policy extends to provinces and territories, which will implement caps on the enrollment of new international students in undergraduate programs. Regions experiencing unsustainable growth, such as Ontario, will likely be hit with approvals for study permits possibly dropping by 50%. These provinces can now allocate study permit caps to specific universities and colleges within their jurisdictions.

However, these rules don’t affect students pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees. International students already studying in Canada and renewing their study permits will not face any impact, giving them a smooth continuation of their studies there.

Canada’s Decision to Limit International Students
Canada has witnessed a significant rise in the issuance of study permits, creating challenges in infrastructure, especially in the housing and healthcare sectors. Additionally, certain private institutions have admitted more international students to boost their revenues, neglecting admission improvements and curriculum standards. These factors collectively compelled the government to enforce a cap on study permits. Ultimately, this initiative ensures that international students in Canada receive the necessary support for academic success and overall well-being.

Impact of International Student Cap on Study Permit Applicants
The new study permit cap raises concerns for international students. As there will undoubtedly be significant consequences, let us explore the direct impact of the student cap on study permits.

Increased Competition: As study permit approval decreases, the competition for admission into Canadian Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) is anticipated to increase.

Master’s and Doctoral Programs: The rule does not apply to students enrolled in master’s or doctoral programs in Canada.

Challenges for Undergraduate Programs: Enrolling in undergraduate programs such as bachelor’s degrees, diplomas, or certificates will pose a more significant challenge for students in qualifying for a study permit.

Regional Variation: The reduction in study permits is anticipated to be more significant in Ontario, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia, potentially resulting in heightened competition for students interested in these provinces.

Additional Documentation: Starting January 22, 2024, along with the Letter of Acceptance (LOA) and proof of funds, obtaining an attestation letter from the specific province or territory becomes mandatory for study permit applications.

Longer Processing Times: Provinces and territories have until March 31, 2024, to set up processes for attestation letters. This might result in longer processing times and potential delays for students applying for the summer intake in 2024.

Exemption of Study Permit Cap on Different Student Categories

A. International students in Quebec are unaffected, as they were already required to submit a Quebec Acceptance Certificate for study permit approval.

B. Existing study permit holders seeking extensions in Canada are unaffected by the study permit cap introduced for applications after January 22, 2024.

C. Master’s or doctoral students pursuing graduate degrees are exempt from federal and provincial study permit caps, with these restrictions exclusively targeting undergraduate programs offered by Canadian colleges and universities.

2. Changes to Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Eligibility
PGWP is an open work permit for international students completing eligible study programs in Canada. Previously, most students who completed Canadian study programs longer than eight months were eligible for PGWPs.

Starting September 1, 2024, a significant change unfolds as graduates of study programs offered by public-private partnership (PPP) institutions under curriculum licensing agreements will no longer qualify for PGWPs upon graduation.

Reasons Behind the Exclusion of PPP Institution Graduates
Under curriculum licensing arrangements, private colleges deliver a curriculum created by an associated public college. However, these institutions face relatively less regulatory oversight. The Canadian government has accused some PPP institutions of providing inadequate educational value to international students. As a strict response, these measures have been implemented to safeguard the education system and international students from entities exploiting them for significant profits.

Another notable change in the PGWP program involves master’s degree program graduates becoming eligible for a three-year work permit. Unlike the previous structure, where the PGWP duration aligned with the length of the study program, this change provides master’s graduates with an extended timeframe to accumulate Canadian work experience, enhancing their eligibility for PR programs.

Impact of changes to PGWP
Changes are made to Canada’s PGWP program to enhance its effectiveness. The PGWP program allows Canada to retain skilled professionals who graduate from its universities and colleges, contributing to the job market and economy. The modifications aim to ensure that international students qualifying for PGWPs possess the necessary qualifications for success in the Canadian job market, and they also incentivize academic institutions in Canada to elevate the quality of education provided to students.

Changes to the PGWP program aim to ensure that qualifying international students possess the necessary qualifications for success in the Canadian job market, encouraging academic institutions to enhance the quality of education they provide. Also, with the gained Canadian work experience, it becomes easier for students to qualify for PR programs like the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), Federal Skilled Worker (FSW), and Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).

3. Longer PGWPs for Master’s Graduates
Starting February 15, 2024, a significant change takes place. This change involves providing a more extended post-graduation work permit (PGWP) for three years. It applies specifically to graduates from master’s degree programs that are less than two years long. However, they must meet all other eligibility criteria for the PGWP. Additionally, graduates of master’s degree programs, even if less than two years in duration, also qualify for a 3-year PGWP. The government has modified the length of the PGWP, enabling individuals to accumulate the necessary Canadian work experience essential for applying for PR.

4. Revised Cost-of-Living standards
Starting January 1, 2024, international students must meet an increased cost of living requirement of CAD 20,635 (previously CAD 10,000), excluding tuition fees. In Quebec, the minimum proof of financial support is CAD 15,078, except for students under 18, who must show access to at least CAD 7,541.

For those applying for a Canadian study permit on or after January 1, 2024, it is essential to provide sufficient proof of financial support to meet the revised cost of living standards. Remember, as an international student, you do not pay these funds to the IRCC or your academic institution; you only need to have this money available for your living expenses during your studies.

Changes to Increase Support for International Students
Implementing an increase in the cost of living requirement aims to present a more accurate reflection of students’ living expenses in Canada.

This adjustment ensures that international students have ample funds to cover necessities during their stay. The cost of living requirements will undergo annual revisions.

Previously, reports surfaced about international students facing financial challenges in Canada. All these measures are taken to ease financial burdens and support international students in focusing more on their studies.

5. Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) Eligibility Changes
Spouses of international students enrolled in a full-time study program were eligible for SOWPs until 2023. However, a change is underway, restricting open work permits under section C42 to spouses of master’s and doctoral students and those in professional programs like law and medicine. Regrettably, spouses of international students enrolled in undergraduate and other college programs will no longer qualify for open work permits.

The recently imposed annual study permit restrictions for international students in Canada may increase competition for admissions and permits. However, this shift ensures government support for improving the quality of education for international students. Modifications to the PGWP and open work permit programs simplify job opportunities for foreign talents in Canada, guaranteeing Canadian employers access to high-caliber candidates. Furthermore, although a higher cost of living requirement may prompt incoming students to reassess their budget, clarity on their realistic financial needs supports the long term. All these initiatives bolster international student programs, highlighting the Canadian government’s commitment to enriching education and fostering a vibrant global community.

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