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On January 22, the Canadian immigration minister announced new measures to curb the number of international students coming to Canada amid a nationwide housing crisis.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller made the announcement on January 22, saying the new measures would be:

  1. A 2-year temporary cap on international students at the undergraduate level.
  2. Starting January 22, 2024, international students will be required to submit a provincial attestation with their study permit application. The federal government expects the provinces and territories to establish a process for issuing attestation letters to students by no later than March 31, 2024.
  3. As of May 15, Post Graduation Work Permits (PGWP) will no longer be available to programs at institutions that are part of curriculum licensing arrangements. These programs have less oversight than public colleges and they act as a loophole with regards to post-graduation work permit eligibility, according to the government media release.
  4. Starting on February 15, Master’s graduates of programs of less than two years will be eligible to apply for a 3-year work permit. Under the current criteria, the length of a PGWP is based on the length of a student’s study program, which limits the amount of time these highly educated graduates have to gain work experience and potentially become permanent residents.
  5. In the coming weeks, Canada will be announcing that open work permits for spouses will only be available to international students in Masters and PhD programs. Spouses of international students in other education levels will no longer be eligible for an open work permit.

The cap will not have an affect on study permit holders currently in Canada, including those looking to extend their studies.

The 2024 cap will result in 364,000 approved study permits, a decrease of about 35 percent from 2023. The cap for 2025 will be reassessed by the end of this year.

With the cap, the number of new international student arrivals to Canada will equal the number of students who visas expire. The effect will be that there will be no increase of international students in Canada.

The measures comes as Canadians grapple with affordability and housing availability. Between October 2022-2023, Canada’s population grew by 1.25 million. With a growth rate of 3.2 percent, the quickest since the 1950s. Most of that increase was from temporary residents, such as international students and temporary foreign workers.

The caps will be based on population by provinces. Therefore, some provinces will see much more significant reductions. Some provinces will be able to increase their international student intake while other provinces could see decreases. The minister said Ontario could experience a decrease of about 50 percent.

Canadian media were previously reporting that the federal government was planning to cap the number of students in Ontario, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia.

CBC‘s source is cited as being a ‘senior government source’ who suggested that Ontario, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia may be required to cap the number of international students.

No caps will be put on Masters and PhD students. Students in primary and secondary school will also be exempt from the cap.

“To be absolutely clear, these measures are not against individual international students,” Miller said at a press conference. “They are to ensure that as future students arrive in Canada, they receive the quality of education that they signed up for and the hope that they were provided in their home countries.”

Provinces start introducing measures for students

Ontario is introducing more oversight of the approval process for international students and requiring all institutions to have a housing guarantee. The province is also strengthening enforcement of investigations into private career colleges.

Ontario is also putting a moratorium on any new public-private college partnerships while the province works to assess the integrity of the current system.

On January 29, British Columbia announced a two-year ban on new colleges enrolling international students. The ban is intended to allow the province time to identify exploitative practices such as poor-quality education, and a lack of instructors.

There will also be a language requirement at private institutions. More details about that will be available in March.

Canada increasing fund requirements for international students

These reports come following the federal government’s change to the amount of available funds an international student must show to secure a study permit. As of January 1st 2024, international students must now demonstrate at least $20,635 plus travel and tuition costs, if they wish to study in Canada. This is up from $10,000, the previous amount a single applicant needed to show.

Why such a big increase?

The truth is, increasing the funds threshold was long overdue. The previous threshold of $10,000 was in force since the early 2000’s. The new funds requirement is 20+ years in the making.

“International students provide significant cultural, social and economic benefits to their communities, but they have also faced challenges navigating life in Canada. We are revising the cost-of-living threshold so that international students understand the true cost of living here. This measure is key to their success in Canada. We are also exploring options to ensure that students find adequate housing. These long-overdue changes will protect international students from financially vulnerable situations and exploitation.”

– The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship- December 7th, 2023

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Background: The International Student Cap Discussion

On August 21, former immigration minister turned housing minister, Sean Fraser, told Canadian media he was in talks with Immigration Minister Marc Miller on how to change the international student program. Although Fraser, and others, explicitly said that international students are not the cause of the housing crisis — indeed it was there long before the influx of international students and furthermore, international students are some of the most affected— in certain concentrated areas it is causing a squeeze on the supply of affordable housing.

So, among other solutions like examining certain private institutions that seem to exist primarily to attract international students, and accept more than they have space for, the idea of capping international students was also up for discussion.

What is actually causing Canada’s housing crisis?

Housing affordability crisis in Canada is a long-standing issue caused by a number of factors putting strain on supply and demand. It is easy to look at this broad-stroke statement and try to fit “immigrants” into part of the problem, but it’s much more complex than that.

According to Advisorsavvy, some of the factors that put pressure on the supply and demand of Canada’s housing market include but are not limited to: inflation, low supply from foreign buyers who would purchase investment properties (not to live in), and the boom in short-term rentals.

While the federal government recently limited foreign buyers from purchasing Canadian homes and implemented a vacant-home tax, it is too soon to say whether this will affect housing prices.

Also, housing affordability is a multi-faceted issue where all levels of government play a part. Provinces and territories are responsible for zoning and development, and municipalities are responsible for implementing those rules. The federal government can provide tax incentives to make housing more affordable for renters and homeowners across the country.

Why are international students being blamed?

In recent years, Canada has seen an influx of international students. The Canadian Bureau for International Education says there were about 807,750 international students in Canada last year, a 43 percent increase from five years ago.

This increase is not the only variable affecting housing affordability. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) says Canada needs to build an additional 3.5 million new homes by 2030 in order to address these issues, but one of the barriers to achieving this target is the fact that skill shortages and supply chain challenges are pushing up the costs and time it takes to build new homes.

While the influx of international students may make them an easy scapegoat, immigrants, international students, and temporary workers are not the cause of the housing crisis. In fact, by welcoming immigrants in fields like construction, they may even contribute to the solution.

Is capping International Students the only option?

The minister of immigration’s office has stated that a cap on international students is not the only measure on the table.

“Abuses in the system exist and must be tackled in smart and logical ways,” a spokesperson for Minister Miller told the Toronto Star. “This potentially includes implementing a cap. But that can’t be the only measure, as it doesn’t address the entire problem. We’re currently looking at a number of options in order to take a multi-faceted approach to this.”

In fact, Minister Fraser said that while the influx of over 800,000 international students may be putting pressure on some concentrated areas, it is up to the institutions accepting these individuals to ensure they have adequate housing if Canada is to continue receiving high numbers of students.

You can see the clip here.

The measures that the federal government, alongside other levels of government, could include a cap but the idea is too premature to arrive at a decision on.

Many have responded with backlash to the idea of a cap, given that international students contribute about $21 billion to the Canadian economy per year, according to government figures.

How to know if you’re going to a good Canadian school or not?

A good Canadian post-secondary institution will not only provide you with a quality education, but it will have resources that will help you succeed.

First things first, to get a study permit to study in Canada, be sure to focus on schools that are considered a designated learning institution. If permanent immigration is your end goal, look for eligible programs that will allow you to apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), after graduation. This will give you the opportunity to gain valuable Canadian work experience.

Housing and other settlement support should also be considered in your research when choosing a Canadian school. Questions you need to ask include but not be limited to:

  1. Is this a designated learning institution?
  2. Does it have the program I want that will contribute to my future career goals and is that program eligible for a PGWP?
  3. Does it provide adequate housing for international students?
  4. What international student support does the school offer?

For more guidance, check out these Moving2Canada resources for students.

Could a cap on international students affect study permit renewals for students already in Canada?

No. International students in Canada will not be affected by the cap.

What impact could a cap on international students have on immigration targets?

When it comes to talking about increasing immigration but capping international students, it is important to note that “immigration targets” specifically refers to the number of permanent residents admitted each year. International students fall under the umbrella of temporary residents, which also includes visitors and work permit holders.

Canada has set an ambitious immigration target of welcoming 485,000 new permanent residents in 2024. The majority of these new permanent residents will be admitted under an economic- class immigration program, which favours applicants with some Canadian education. By capping the number of international students in Canada, the Canadian government may notice a decrease in permanent residents with Canadian education.

Considering permanent residents who have previous study or work experience in Canada have consistently shown to do better in the labour market than those who arrive with no previous Canadian experience. International students and temporary workers who become permanent residents tend to make more money and get better jobs.

If you’re serious about moving to Canada (or you’re already in Canada and want to see your options for permanent residency), take the free Canada Immigration Quiz to unlock exclusive resources for you. You’ll get access to tailored resources, job opportunities, and offers from our partners.

Want to be the first to find out about the latest Canadian immigration news? Create a free Moving2Canada account and sign up for our newsletter!

About the author

Shelby Thevenot

Shelby Thevenot

They/Them
Canadian Immigration Writer
Shelby is a journalist, freelance writer, and expert news analyst with more than five years of experience in writing about Canadian immigration.
Read more about Shelby Thevenot
Citation "Canada implementing temporary 2-year cap on international students." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation

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