Canada to stop processing study permits

Canada to stop processing study permits for colleges, universities that fail to track international students

Proposed regulations would compel the schools to report to the Immigration Department whether a student is attending school and complying with permit requirements.

Marc Miller
Immigration Minister Marc Miller has been rolling out changes to curb the growth in international students.

The federal government plans to suspend processing of study permits from post-secondary students if the schools fail to keep track of international students’ enrolment.

The proposed regulations would compel colleges and universities to report to the federal Immigration Department whether a student is attending school and complying with all study permit requirements.

The move is part of recent attempts to restore confidence in Canada’s international student program.

Under the plan unveiled in the Canada Gazette, students must also apply for a new study permit whenever they want to switch schools, and before the start date of the new study program.

In flexing its muscle to ensure compliance, the federal government is treading a fine line, as governance of the education system falls under provincial jurisdiction.

The Immigration Department is responsible for the entry of international students, establishing the conditions that study permit holders must meet while in Canada, and deciding whether a study permit should be issued.

Although Ottawa only grants study permits to “designated learning institutions,” it’s the provinces that designate if a college or university is authorized to admit international students.

As a result, federal officials have had a tough time monitoring what goes on after a student enters Canada. They don’t know if a student is enrolled in the school named in their study permits or if they are actually studying until they need to extend a permit or apply for postgraduation work permits.

“The regulatory amendments would allow IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) to effectively respond to integrity challenges and address common occurrences of unethical behaviours that undermine the integrity of the program,” according to the government notice recently published for public consultation.

In 2023, Canada welcomed more than one million study permit holders, compared to 352,305 in 2015.

The fast-growing international student program has been in the spotlight amid aggressive recruiting by the post-secondary education sector, and by unregulated foreign agents. Migrants increasingly look at studying in Canada as a back door to working and earning permanent residence here.

International students have been scapegoated for the country’s housing crisis, health-care shortages and social tensions, prompting Immigration Minister Marc Miller to introduce a two-year cap on new study permits issued.

The proposed changes are part of the plan to establish a “trusted institution framework” this fall. It’s meant to vet designated learning institutions and to speed up the study permit processing from “trusted” schools as an incentive for the sector to admit students responsibly.

Immigration officials said the amendments will give them the tools to ensure only “genuine” colleges and universities would be eligible for study permits, and pursue those who fail to play by the rules.

Designated learning institutions would be given 10 days to respond to the Immigration Department’s request to confirm a student’s acceptance to enter the program on the study permit. They would also have 60 days to file a compliance report about the enrolment status of each student and whether they are actively pursuing their course.

Officers could initiate a random check or make a request if there’s reason to suspect a letter of acceptance was improperly issued or if a school has not complied with conditions in the past.

In determining whether an institution is to be placed on the suspension list, and the penalty period, officials would consider factors such as the frequency and seriousness of the non-compliance, the efforts made to comply with the conditions and the level of the school’s co-operation during the verification process.

The immigration minister would make a final decision as to whether a school should be put on a suspension list, which would be published. A non-compliant institution could be placed on the list for up to 12 consecutive months. During the suspension, all study permit applications to that school would be returned to the applicants.

The government said the proposed changes are the result of extensive consultation though it received “mixed reactions” from its provincial counterparts on whether it’s appropriate to suspend the issuance of study permits to non-compliant institutions, citing concerns that “greater federal authorities may encroach on their education mandate.”

The changes are estimated to cost almost $87 million in present value over 10 years, covering government implementation, costs to designated learning institutions as well as costs to study permit holders who wish to change schools.

The regulatory amendments also include increasing the weekly off-campus work hours for international students to 24 hours from 20, as Miller previously announced. This change would help international students offset increasing costs of living, according to the government.

The public has until July 29 to comment on the proposed changes.

Canada to stop processing study permits for colleges, universities that fail to track international students


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