Canada’s 2024 International Student Program Overhaul: What You Need to Know

On January 22, 2024, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) unveiled significant alterations to the international student program. These changes encompass a two-year limitation on student visa numbers and new constraints on post-graduation work permits (PGWP) and open work permits for spouses, with the aim of preserving the integrity of the international student program and easing pressures on housing, healthcare, and related services.

Two-Year Cap on International Student Permit Applications

Over the next two years, Canada will impose a cap on study permit approvals for most applicants outside the country. In 2024, this cap is anticipated to lead to around 360,000 approved study permits, marking a 35% reduction from 2023. The cap will be distributed among provinces and territories, who will then allocate it to designated schools. Notably, the cap does not apply to study permit renewals or those pursuing master’s, doctoral, or elementary/secondary education programs. An assessment of the study permit cap for 2025 will occur at the year’s end.

Attestation Letters

Effective January 22, 2024, the majority of study permit applicants must include an attestation letter from the province or territory where they intend to study. Exemptions include minor children at the primary/secondary school level, students applying for advanced degrees, and those seeking an extension. Provinces and territories are expected to establish a process for issuing attestation letters by March 31, 2024. Applications submitted without this letter on or after January 22, 2024, will be deemed incomplete unless exempted. Students heading to Quebec can fulfill this requirement with a Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ), while others must await the development of an attestation letter process in their respective province/territory.

No More Open Work Permits for Spouses of Most Students

In the upcoming weeks, open work permits will only be available to spouses of international students in master’s and doctoral programs. Spouses of international students in undergraduate and college programs will no longer qualify for open work permits.

Changes to PGWP Eligibility

Commencing September 1, 2024, students entering programs under a curriculum licensing arrangement will lose eligibility for PGWPs. This arrangement involves students physically attending a private college licensed to deliver a public college’s curriculum. As always, when applying for a study permit, it is crucial to verify if the chosen school offers PGWP-eligible programs. Graduates of masters and other short graduate programs will now be eligible for 3-year work permits, irrespective of program length.