Study estimates impact of student visa cap on Canadian provinces

ApplyBoard says approval rates will be a key factor in whether or not provinces with room to grow are able to reach allotted application cap 

February 12, 2024
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Source: iStock/Eva Jiminez

All but two of Canada’s 13 provinces will be able to approve more international students for study next year despite the new application cap, according to a new report.

The Canadian government recently announced a limit to the number of visas for international students, which was understood to mean around 360,000 study permit applications would be approved for 2024 – a decrease of 35 per cent.

According to a new report from ApplyBoard, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has indicated that the cap refers to the number of new applications it will process in 2024 – 606,250.

The report found that the new cap could reduce application totals by just 9 per cent – but in practice, Canada is highly unlikely to reach its cap in 2024, as several jurisdictions would need to see large increases in student interest.

With provinces and territories to receive an application allotment weighted by the size of their population, the recruitment platform estimates that Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick will be the most negatively affected by the application cap.

Meanwhile, it found a number of provinces could see significant gains in student interest, which would require “strategic coordination and agility among sector stakeholders to inform students of the many world-class programs these locations offer”.

Using these projections, and a 60 per cent approval rate, ApplyBoard estimates that 11 of Canada’s 13 jurisdictions will be able to grow their number of approvals – with Quebec, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador having room to nearly double their number of approvals.

However, approval rates will have a significant impact on whether governments and institutions hit their targets.

By contrast, Ontario, the nation’s largest province by population, could be forced to see a reduction in foreign students of 50 per cent or more, and British Columbia would also see a large fall.

Using each area’s three-year approval rate average, the report found that New Brunswick and Nova Scotia would also be negatively affected.

ApplyBoard says the projections are only estimates, calculated with available 2023 IRCC data and Statistics Canada population data, and contain certain underlying assumptions due to continuing data availability limitations.

The Canadian government said it introduced the policy because it was concerned about disreputable institutions and chronic housing shortages, but universities have claimed it threatens deep and lasting damage to the nation’s academic reputation.

With application processing effectively paused, the Canadian company says that the country is unlikely to reach its application cap for the affected study levels in 2024.

Authors say that as the government provides more information, they will be able to better refine and adjust their predictions for the sector.

“The cap in place is on applications processed by IRCC rather than approvals themselves, and that approval rates will be a key determining factor for whether or not provinces with room to grow – such as Quebec, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador – are able to reach their allotted application cap for the affected study levels,” they conclude.

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