International students walking with backpacks

On January 22, 2024, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced major changes to the international student program, including a two-year cap on the number of student visas, as well as new restrictions to post-graduation work permits (PGWP) and open work permits for accompanying spouses. The government states that these measures are part of its efforts to protect the integrity of the international student program and alleviate pressures on housing, healthcare, and other services.


Two-Year Cap on International Student Permit Applications

For the next two years, Canada will set a cap on study permit approvals for most applicants outside Canada. For 2024, the cap is expected to result in approximately 360,000 approved study permits, a decrease of 35% from 2023. A portion of the cap will be allocated to each province and territory, who will then distribute it among designated schools.  Notably, study permit renewals, and those pursuing master’s, doctoral, or elementary/secondary education programs are not included in the cap. The study permit cap for 2025 will be assessed at the end of this year.


Attestation Letters

Effective January 22, 2024, most study permit applicants will need to include an attestation letter from the province or territory where they plan to study, other than minor children applying to study at the primary/secondary school level, students applying for a Masters, PhD or other post-graduate program, and students applying for an extension. Provinces and territories are expected to establish a process for issuing attestation letters to students by March 31, 2024. Applications submitted on or after January 22, 2024, without this letter, will be returned as incomplete, unless the applicant is exempt.

Students looking to study in Quebec can fulfill this attestation letter requirement by obtaining a Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ). Students going to any other province/territory will need to wait for that province/territory to develop a process to issue an attestation letter.


No More Open Work Permits for Spouses of Most Students

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


Changes to PGWP Eligibility

Starting September 1, 2024, students who begin a program that is part of a curriculum licensing arrangement will no longer be eligible for PGWPs. Under curriculum licensing agreements, students physically attend a private college that has been licensed to deliver the curriculum of an associated public college. As always, when applying for a study permit, it is important to check if the school offers PGWP-eligible programs.

Meanwhile, graduates of masters and other short graduate programs will be eligible for 3-year work permits, regardless of the length of the program.


Details to Come

As with many new policies IRCC has announced in the last few years, currently there are a lot of unknowns regarding the changes coming for international students. When will each province/territory start issuing attestation letters? How will the cap work for applications that were initial refused, but later reconsidered and approved? When will the limitations on spousal work permits take effect? How will they affect spouses who are already in Canada? When will master’s graduates become eligible for three-year PGWPs? We hope to receive answers to these questions in the coming days and weeks.

For more information on how these new policies may affect you and your family, please contact us.


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