Setback for Indians? Canada announces cap on international student permits

The cap will result in a decrease of 35% in student intake compared to 2023

CANADA-IMMIGRATION/STUDENTS-REASONS A student walks in front of the University of Toronto, St. George campus in Toronto, Ontario | Reuters

Faced with a housing and employment crisis, Canada has announced that it was bringing in a two-year cap on international student permits with immediate effect. This would entail a decrease of 35% in student permits this year as compared to 2023.

A statement from the immigration ministry said this would mean approximately 360,000 approved study permits in 2024. It added that the country would also stop giving work permits to some postgraduate students.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller said the federal government would work with the provinces, which oversee the educational system, to apply the cap. He said the main reason for the cap is to protect students who attend colleges, which are often private-public partnerships, that provide inadequate services at high costs, but also to ease pressure on housing and services. 

However, the caps will not affect existing study permit holders or those seeking permit renewals. Masters and doctoral degree pursuits are also exempt from these limitations. 

Miller had earlier stated that his government was mulling a cap on the number of international students, stating that the system has "gotten out of control."

"Some private institutions have taken advantage of international students by operating under-resourced campuses, lacking support for students and charging high tuition fees, all the while significantly increasing their intake of international students," Miller told reporters on Monday. "This increase is also putting pressure on housing, healthcare and other services," he said, adding that fewer numbers would primarily help lower rent prices.

His statement comes as the country faces a housing and employment crisis. Local media reports claim that the federal government was warned by public servants two years ago that its ambitious immigration targets could jeopardise housing affordability. "In Canada, population growth has exceeded the growth in available housing units," their report said.  

Besides housing and employment, the rapid population growth fueled by immigration has put pressure on services, like healthcare and education. 

Official data show there were more than 800,000 foreign students with active visas in 2022, up from 275,000 in 2012. 

The new move is likely to impact students from India, as a sizable chunk of students applying for study permits in Canada are from India. However, the number has come down drastically. Between July and October 2023, the Canadian government processed nearly 87,000 new study permit applications for Indian nationals though this is over 40 percent less than the same period in 2022.

While the move could be welcomed by the local population, the cap could be detrimental for Ottawa as the money that comes in from students from abroad is crucial. 

"There's a real worry happening about the fact that international students who have basically been used as cash cows by our institution are funding many of the programs and services and education for local students because the university is basically at cost for local students," Delphine Robitaille, president of the University of Ottawa Students' Union, told Toronto-based CTV News. "International students pay the bulk of the tuition, so there is a very real worry about what's going to happen now."


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