Canada doubles international student wealth requirement

Federal immigration minister also warns provinces and campuses they ‘will not like’ his penalties if students from abroad aren’t treated better

December 8, 2023
Someone takes Canadian money from an ATM
Source: iStock

Canada’s immigration ministry is doubling the wealth requirement for incoming international students, while amplifying its warning that their institutions need to do a lot more to ensure their well-being or face serious penalties, including closure.

The current federal financial requirement, in effect for two decades, requires study permit applicants to show they have saved at least C$10,000 (£6,000) to cover their expected expenses. That will rise in January to C$20,635, in addition to the cost of travel and first-year tuition fees, the immigration minister, Marc Miller, announced at a briefing.

“International students need to be prepared for life in Canada, and we have a responsibility to make certain that they are well supported when they come to Canada,” Mr Miller said.

Universities Canada, the nation’s main higher education grouping, said it understood the reasoning behind the change. “The C$10,000 financial minimum was established in the early 2000s and should be adjusted to reflect today’s cost of living,” the group said in a response to the government’s announcement.

The policy could be even more effective, Universities Canada said, if it allowed for regional variations to reflect the differences in the cost of living across the country.

Canada has long been a leading global destination for students, with some 900,000 in the country, eagerly welcomed by institutions that charge them nearly six times the fees that domestic students pay.

But that benefit to Canada has been increasingly seen as harmful to students from abroad – many of whom struggle to afford food and housing in the host country – and attractive to some institutions and individuals who have recruited applicants regardless of their ability to manage the costs.

Mr Miller has for months been sounding increasingly threatening warnings to provinces and the institutions to fix the situation. That turned shrill at the briefing in Ottawa, where he declared: “Enough is enough – if provinces and territories cannot do this, we will do it for them, and they will not like the bluntness of the instruments that we use.”

The minister said he was concerned about the general affordability issues facing students, as well as specific instances of institutions that appeared to be focused on exploiting students rather than teaching them. He specifically noted an analysis by the auditor general in Canada’s largest province, Ontario, that recommended “some very important measures that have not been put into place, and that has contributed to the abuse”.

“There are, in provinces, the diploma equivalent of puppy mills, which are just churning out diplomas, and this is not a legitimate student experience,” he said. “There is fraud and abuse, and it needs to end.”

Mr Miller also announced the extension until April of Canada’s year-old suspension of its 20-hours-per-week limit on foreign student employment, while his ministry further studies the matter. That means students from abroad can keep working up to 40 hours a week, though the minister said that level seemed excessive, and he suggested his ministry would settle on a figure closer to 30 hours while classes were in session.

“Currently, with the data, we know rolling it back to 20 hours would have been on the draconian end of the spectrum,” he said. “My focus primarily is to make sure that the public policy that we have in place is one that reflects the ability of the student to actually do what they’re supposed to be doing, which is to study without bankrupting themselves.”

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles