The Canadian government has announced a targeted three-pronged strategy to strengthen its International Student Program (ISP). This latest initiative aims to provide a safer, more supportive environment for international students while also combating fraudulent activities that have marred the program. The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, detailed the plans in a press conference earlier today.
Three Core Measures
1. Enhanced Verification of Letters of Acceptance
Starting December 1, 2023, post-secondary designated learning institutions (DLIs) will have to confirm each applicant’s letter of acceptance directly with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). This move is aimed at minimizing letter-of-acceptance fraud, a critical issue that negatively affected students earlier this year. This additional verification will also ensure that study permits are issued solely based on verified letters of acceptance.
2. Introduction of “Recognized Institution” Framework
In preparation for the fall 2024 semester, IRCC will introduce a “recognized institution” framework. This framework will favor post-secondary DLIs that offer higher standards of services, support, and outcomes for international students. As a result, these recognized institutions will benefit from priority processing of study permits for their applicants.
3. Reforms to Post-Graduation Work Permit Program
IRCC has committed to completing an assessment of the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program in the coming months. The goal is to calibrate it to meet the needs of the Canadian labour market better and to align it with regional and Francophone immigration objectives.
The State of Canadian Education Today
In light of the economic and social value that international students bring to Canada, contributing over $22 billion annually and supporting more than 200,000 jobs, the government is taking steps to bolster the integrity of its International Student Program (ISP). The decline in international students in 2020 led to a loss of over $7 billion in GDP, amplifying the need for reforms.
To address this, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), in collaboration with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), formed a taskforce earlier this year to investigate fraudulent admission cases. Out of 103 cases reviewed, 63 were found to be genuine students, while 40 were not, highlighting the imperative to tighten regulations.
In June, IRCC and CBSA collaborated to take legal action against Brijesh Mishra, an unlicensed immigration consultant in India. He had used fake letters of acceptance to apply for visas for students, leading to these students being deported upon arrival at the airport, being denied entry for the next five years, and having this information permanently recorded in their Canadian immigration profiles as well as with the Five Eyes partners (U.S., Australia, U.K., New Zealand). Hundreds of his clients are currently being investigated, including those with permanent resident applications. According to Canadian law, only immigration consultants, lawyers, and paralegals have the authority to represent and consult on immigration matters.
Forecasting Changes in Canada’s Educational Landscape
After these comprehensive changes to the International Student Program (ISP), several potential impacts need to be noted. One notable feature could be the introduction of a new DLI mechanism, subject to varying levels of verification based on multiple factors. Although this may result in slower processing times for some cases, admissions usually start one year in advance to minimize potential disruptions, thereby not significantly affecting international students. In addition, another criterion is the provision of scholarships. Recently, with the significant increase in tuition fees in some provinces, tuition may undergo major adjustments along with competitive scholarships. However, this change will be aligned with marketing strategies for specific target markets.
Concerning reforms to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWP), future changes may focus on the program and the level of study. For example, the current provision allowing a three-year work permit for a two-year program may be revised or limited to certain specific programs, or be abolished. Furthermore, some programs may lose their eligibility for post-graduation work permits. As of now, not all programs are eligible for PGWPP, and some programs from private colleges and universities still qualify. Importantly, these changes in the PGWP will be applied in the future, and current students will not be affected.