Canada to cut new international student visas by a third

Trudeau administration acts after long warning that it won’t tolerate abuses by private campuses and resulting housing shortages

January 22, 2024
Niagara Falls, NY, USA - June 13, 2019 Ship with tourists moves to Niagara falls, Falls boat tour experience is North America oldest attraction, and has drawn millions of visitors since 1846
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The Canadian government has announced that it will limit the number of visas it allows for international students, saying it remains concerned about disreputable institutions and chronic housing shortages.

The policy, starting in the coming academic year, will aim to cut the number of new overseas students in Canada by 35 per cent over the following two years, to around last year’s level of about 364,000 students.

The announcement follows an escalating series of warnings from the Trudeau administration – voiced most frequently and aggressively by the federal immigration minister, Marc Miller – that the misuse of foreign student visas has grown out of control.

The visa caps will vary by province, with the nation’s largest by population, Ontario, expected to see a reduction in foreign students of 50 per cent or more.

Canada has long been one of the world’s top destinations for college students traveling abroad, with about 900,000 international students who heavily subsidise its post-secondary system by paying about six times the tuition fees of domestic students.

But the Trudeau administration move doesn’t seem intended to upset that general benefit for its public colleges. It instead appears to be aimed mainly at private institutions, especially those created as partner entities of public institutions, which have become a leading source of complaints about abuses in which overseas students are brought to Canada – often from India – as a strategy to create profits, sometimes without the intent to take legitimate courses.

In outlining the new rules, Mr Miller said he wanted to make clear that the federal government was not trying to send any kind of message against international students in general. Instead, the limits are intended to stop the situation in which “some private institutions have taken advantage of international students by operating under-resourced campuses”.

That stated goal is giving Canada’s more established and reputable institutions some reassurance that the effects on their student bodies could be minimal, while they await full details of Mr Miller’s plans.

In general, the Miller plan will allow the provinces and territories to distribute student permits across their institutions.

Along with the visa limits, the government’s plan also includes a ban on postgraduate work permits for students at privately operated institutions, and new limits on work permits for the spouses of students.

The situation in Ontario has drawn particular scrutiny from Mr Miller. The province has about a dozen public colleges in the Toronto area that share some level of branding with private educational entities where almost all their students are from abroad.

In response, Universities Canada said that it was “studying the announcement to understand the implications for Canadian universities”.

“We are concerned that the cap per province is going to add stress on an already stressed system and until more information is provided as to how each province will be rolling out this new programme, it is difficult to comment on its effect on Canada’s universities,” a spokeswoman said.

“We do welcome the announcement that current study permit holders will not be affected, that master’s and PhD students will be exempt from the cap and that they will soon be eligible to apply for a three-year work permit. We believe the key measure to remove eligibility to the post-graduation work permit for international students who begin a study programme that is part of a curriculum licensing arrangement with an associated public college will go a long way to addressing the issues the department is looking at.

“However, we anticipate the need for letters of attestation from each province could significantly affect processing times which could lead to students choosing to pursue post-secondary study in other countries.

“We will continue to advocate on behalf of international students who provide important knowledge, diversity and skills to our campuses and workforce, and we must continue to welcome them to study at Canadian universities.”

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