Canada has announced a two-year cap on the number of new international students admitted to the country, citing concerns over housing, health care and education quality. The cap will result in a 35% decrease in approved study permits for 2024, compared to 2023.
The decision was made by Immigration Minister Marc Miller, who said that the government wants to stabilize the growth of international students and protect them from “bad actors” who exploit them for profit. He also said that the cap will help ease the pressure on housing and other services, as Canada faces a record population growth driven by immigration.
The cap will only apply to undergraduate and diploma programs, and will not affect students pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees, or elementary and secondary education. Current study permit holders and renewals will also not be impacted.
The government will allocate a portion of the cap to each province and territory, based on their population and current student intake. Provinces and territories will then distribute the allocation among their designated learning institutions. Students will need to obtain an attestation letter from a province or territory to apply for a study permit.
The cap will be in place for two years, and the number of new study permit applications for 2025 will be re-assessed at the end of this year. The government will also work with stakeholders to develop a long-term strategy for international students, including a recognized institution framework and sustainable levels of intake.
Canada is one of the most popular destinations for international students, who contribute to the country’s social, cultural and economic fabric. In 2022, there were over 800,000 international students in Canada, up from 214,000 in 2012. International students also have the option to apply for permanent residency after graduation, which makes Canada an attractive choice for many.
However, some critics have argued that the rapid increase in international students has created challenges for the country, such as housing affordability, health care access and education quality. Some private colleges have been accused of offering low-quality programs, charging high fees and providing inadequate support for students. Some students have also faced exploitation, fraud and abuse by unscrupulous agents and employers.
The cap is expected to affect some provinces more than others, depending on their current share of international students. Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, which host the majority of international students, will likely see the biggest reductions. Some smaller provinces, such as Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island, may see an increase in their allocation.
The cap has received mixed reactions from the education sector, students and advocates. Some have welcomed the move as a necessary step to ensure the integrity and sustainability of the system, while others have expressed concern over the impact on the diversity, innovation and competitiveness of Canada’s education and economy. Some have also questioned the timing and rationale of the cap, given the ongoing recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for skilled workers and immigrants.