Canada will more than double the cost-of-living financial requirement for incoming international students beginning January 1, Immigration Minister Marc Miller has announced, a move that will impact the arrival of foreign students into the country, including from India.
Starting next year, prospective students will need to show they have access to 20,635 dollars instead of the 10,000-dollar requirement that has been in place for two decades, in addition to paying travel and tuition. The amount will be adjusted yearly based on a Statistics Canada benchmark for living costs.
India was the first among the top ten origin countries of study permit holders in 2022 in Canada, with a total of 319,000 students.
Miller said the financial requirement has not kept up with the cost of living over time, resulting in students arriving in Canada only to learn that their funds aren’t adequate.
This change will apply to new study permit applications received on or after January 1, 2024.
According to the global education search platform Erudera, the total number of international students in all education levels in Canada is 807,750, including higher education. Of this, 551,405 received a study permit in Canada last year.
"Moving to a more accurate cost of living level that helps international students arrive with necessary resources to live and study in Canada, future increases will be tied to the low-income cut-off Statistics Canada announces every year," CTV News quoted Miller as saying.
"Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced today that starting January 1, 2024, the cost-of-living financial requirement for study permit applicants will be raised so that international students are financially prepared for life in Canada," the government said in a statement on Thursday.
Moving forward, this threshold will be adjusted each year when Statistics Canada updates the low income cut-offs (LICO), which represents the minimum income necessary to ensure that an individual does not have to spend a greater than average portion of income on necessities, it said.
He also threatened to cap visas in provinces that don't help house students or who won't shut down educational institutions that he argues shouldn't be operating.
"There are, in provinces, the diploma equivalent of puppy mills that are just churning out diplomas, and this is not a legitimate student experience," Miller said at a news conference.
For years, critics have argued that some colleges are providing foreigners with inadequate education while giving them a chance to get visas to work in Canada and eventually immigrate.
"There is fraud and abuse and it needs to end," the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation quoted him as saying.
Miller said the measures are meant to ensure international students aren't vulnerable to sketchy employers and "unscrupulous" schools that leave them unable to afford life in Canada.
"Clearly, we have become a country that has been targeted for abuse and exploitation by some unsavoury actors," he said.
The issue has attracted close scrutiny as an uptick in international students has coincided with a housing shortage. Media outlets have reported on students scraping by in exploitative jobs.
Miller announced a handful of other updates to the international student programme, including that the waiver on the 20-hour-per-week off-campus work limit will be extended to April 30, 2024, for current international students.
Moreover, Miller said the government is considering expanding the off-campus work hours for international students to 30 hours per week while class is in session.
"Our data shows us that 80 per cent of international students work more than 20 hours per week," Miller said.
The federal government launched the pilot project that removed the cap on the number of off-campus hours international students can work in November 2022, and it was set to expire at the end of this month.
Miller also announced the extension of a distance learning measure that allowed students to count time spent studying online toward the length of a future post-graduation work permit, as long as it constitutes less than 50 per cent of the programme of study.
The measure will stay in place for students who begin a study programme before Sept. 1, 2024, but not for students who begin study on or after that date.
Meanwhile, the government will wind down a temporary policy to allow international graduates with expired or soon-to-be-expiring work permits to apply for an 18-month permit extension.
Foreign nationals with a post-graduation work permit expiring up to December 31, 2023 are still eligible to apply, but anyone whose permit is set to expire after that date is not.
The changes come as Miller said the federal government plans to "significantly" limit the number of visas issued to international students "to ensure that designated learning institutions provide adequate and sufficient student support as part of the academic experience." Last month, in response to growing concerns about the rising cost of living and widespread affordable housing shortages in Canada, the ministry announced a new framework to recognise learning institutions that provide international students with high-quality services and support, including housing.
"It would be a mistake to blame international students for the housing crisis but it would also be a mistake to invite them to come to Canada with no support including how to put a roof over their heads," Miller said on Thursday.
"That's why we expect learning institutions to only accept the number of students that they're able to provide for, able to house or assist in finding off-campus housing."
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