International Students Beware – Major Changes to Canadian Study Permits

International students hoping to study in Canada were dealt a massive blow today as IRCC announced major changes to the way Canadian Study Permits will be issued for the next two years, which will affect new international students and their family members.

Cap on the number of international students per year

Effective January 22nd, 2024, a cap has been placed on the number of international students that will be issued Canadian study permits in 2024. For 2024, the cap is expected to result in approximately 360,000 approved study permits, a decrease of 35% from 2023.

The cap will be different for each province. 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.

Changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program

One positive change for international students is the change to the duration of post-graduation work permits for graduates of master’s and other short graduate-level programs. Graduates of these programs will soon be eligible to apply for a 3-year open work permit. Currently, post­graduation work permit durations are based solely on the length of an individual’s study program. In the past, this has meant that master’s graduates may have only received a one-year work permit.

Not all international students will see an increase in the duration of their post-graduation work permits. 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.

Changes to spousal open work permit eligibility

Another major blow to potential international students coming to Canada is the change to which individuals will be eligible for a spousal open work permit. Moving forward 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 for a spousal open work permit.

Increased cost-of-living requirement for study permit applicants

The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced in December that as of January 1, 2024, the cost-of-living financial requirement for study permit applicants would be raised. The financial requirement for the cost-of-living requirement for study permit applicants has not changed since the early 2000s. It was previously $10,000 per year for a single international student. For 2024, this has increased to $20,635 a year for a single international student. This amount of money is required in addition to their first year of tuition and travel costs to and from Canada. IRCC will also adjust this amount each year when Statistics Canada updates the low-income cut-off (LICO). LICO is used in other immigration programs to assess financial requirements, including the Express Entry system.

Certain Designated Learning Institutions will be favoured in 2024

IRCC announced that in the fall of 2024, they will be creating a “recognized institution” framework to benefit post-secondary DLIs that set a higher standard for services, support, and outcomes for international students. IRCC has stated that these DLIs will benefit, for example, from the priority processing of study permits for applicants who plan to attend their school. This may play a factor in which educational institutions international students choose to study at in 2024.

Reduction in Working Hours for International Students

IRCC currently has a temporary public policy in place allowing international students with a valid study permit to work full-time hours during school time. Previously, students could only work 20 hours per week. This temporary public policy 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 April 30, 2024.

Online study will no longer count towards post-graduation work permits

IRCC previously announced a facilitative measure that allowed international students to count time spent studying online towards the length of their post-graduation work permit, as long as it constitutes less than 50% of the program of study. IRCC announced that they will continue to honour this 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 September 1, 2024.

No More Post-Graduation Work Permit Extensions

IRCC previously provided 18-month work permit extensions to post-graduation work permit holders.  These extensions were granted on three different occasions. The last extensions applied to those whose post-graduation work permits were expiring up to December 31, 2023. IRCC has announced that this temporary policy will not be extended any further.

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