Updated: Canada Putting a Cap on International Student Admissions for Two Years

By Logan Bright Modified on March 26, 2024
Tags : News | Politics

After years of growth in the number of international students in Canada, the government is cutting back for 2024 and beyond. Here's what this means for you.

Canada Putting a Cap on International Student Admissions for Two Years

Updated March 26, 2024: The government has moved up the date for restrictions on post-graduation work permits delivered by private or public-private institutions. Click here to jump to the relevant section of this article.

The Canadian federal government is stepping in to slow the growth of international student enrollments in Canada, in response to concerns about attendance and housing availability. This news comes on the heels of findings that many international students accepted by schools are being rejected by visa officers.

2024 will see a total of 364,000 new study permits issued to international students ? a big decrease from the 491,000 new permits issued in 2023. Overall, between new and continuing study permits, Canada was home to nearly 900,000 international students in 2023. For comparison, Canada was host to fewer than 240,000 international students in 2011, but has seen huge growth in the years since.

International students typically pay much higher tuition fees than their domestic counterparts ? often triple or even quadruple what Canadians pay ? and must prove they have access to at least $20,000 CAD in savings to be eligible for a study permit.

Who will be affected by these new restrictions on study permits?

The only students who will be affected are new undergraduate students ? if you're looking to come to Canada for a college or university program at the undergraduate level, you'll be competing with other international students for comparatively fewer study permits.

Many students will NOT be affected, though! You will not be impacted if you:

  • already have a study permit for Canada
  • have a study permit that you will need to renew
  • are applying for a post-graduate degree (master's or doctoral level programs)
  • are applying to a "professional" program, like medicine, law, dentistry, etc.
  • are looking for a study permit to attend elementary or secondary school in Canada

Canada is specifically looking for professional students, and students at the graduate level, who can help build Canada's future.

Exactly which provinces/territories will be most impacted by the study permit reductions is still in flux. The government has had "conversations" with British Columbia and Ontario, two of the biggest provinces, and more are sure to come. Ontario may see a reduction in permits as large as 50% ? a significant drop in the number of international students who can study in the province. The Canadian Press (via National Post) estimates an overall drop of about 35% across the country.

The plan appears to be to divide the total number of new permits up among the provinces and territories, and let each jurisdiction decide how to use their allotment of permits. We should get more clarity on this in the coming weeks.

Updated: Big changes to the post-graduate work permit (PGWP) program for 2024

Another big change, effective May 15, 2024, is coming to the popular post-graduate work permit program, which lets graduates remain in Canada to work after their program concludes. Lots of students use this program to get on the road to permanent residency, which can potentially lead to citizenship down the line.

(The May 15, 2024 date was moved up from the original announcement of September 1, 2024.)

Students who attend a private college or university will no longer be eligible for a post-graduate work permit. (Private colleges are often called "career colleges" here in Canada. Some private institutions may partner with public institutions as well, in so-called "public-private partnerships.")

Students who attend a public college or university will still be eligible for a PGWP. The new restrictions only affect students who attend a private college or university.

If you're graduating from a private or public-private school before May 15, 2024, you'll still be able to apply for a PGWP. Otherwise, you'll be ineligible, unless you later attend a fully-public college or university. Be aware that you can still apply for another type of work permit.

Private and public-private institutions rarely offer the same level of housing supports as their fully-public counterparts. The availability of housing stock is one factor in the decision to limit study permits, and could be part of the reason private institutions are the only ones facing PGWP restrictions.

New rules on open work permits for students' spouses

Canada's "open work permit" system is also changing. Going forward, spouses of undergraduate students will no longer be eligible for an open work permit. An open work permit is required to legally work in Canada if not on a study permit.

There will be some exceptions. The spouses of post-graduate students will still be able to apply for an open work permit. This includes:

  • spouses of master's or doctoral-level students
  • spouses of students in professional programs, like medicine, law, dentistry, etc.

What's coming next for Canada's international student system?

The announced measures are "temporary," in effect for the next two years. The total number of international students Canada will accept beyond 2025 is still to be determined: the government will judge the results of these new provisions before announcing any updates.

Per Immigration Minister Marc Miller, these changes are required to ensure the "stability of the system." Consultations with schools, and the provinces/territories that oversee them, are ongoing. Canada aims to better serve international students, ensuring that the students who do come to Canada are academically engaged.

If you're already in Canada on a study permit, you can relax! You'll still be able to renew your permit as normal. You won't be impacted by these restrictions, and you'll be able to finish your program.

As always, we'll keep you updated on the latest news as it becomes available. If you're looking at studying in Canada as an international student, be sure to keep these restrictions in mind ? especially if your dream is to live and work in Canada after graduation.

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