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Canada has seen unprecedented changes to its study program in 2024, as well as the temporary resident program more broadly. What’s more – there are significant changes planned for Fall of 2024. These changes, past and planned, will likely have an impact on the source countries of international students in Canada going forward. Here’s what we know so far.

Key Takeaways 

  • Canada plans to introduce a French-speaking student program with increased access to study permits. 
  • Canada also plans to introduce a pilot program to increase access to international student programs for students in underrepresented regions, including Africa. 
  • Approval rates for study permits have dropped to 50% in 2024.
  • Processing rates for study permits have also dropped in 2024, so fewer study permit applications were processed between January – April 2024 than in the same period in previous years. This is likely due to the international student cap. 
  • The Recognized Institute Framework will be delayed to 2025. 

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Shifts in Source Countries For International Students in Canada

The changes to the international student program in Canada that were announced this year are likely to have lasting impacts on the source countries for international students in Canada. We’re already seeing a significant reduction in the number of international students applying from India, as well as impacts on students from Nepal and the Philippines. 

First, with the good news: we saw significant increases in study permit processing between January – April 30, 2024 for international students from these countries: 

  • Burundi
  • Ghana
  • Republic of Guinea 
  • China
  • Rwanda.

Unfortunately, processing for students has decreased significantly for the following countries: 

  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Ethiopia
  • France
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Peru
  • Thailand
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine.

There are a range of factors that may have influenced the decreases in processing rates including reduced interest in studying in Canada as a result of the changes, political reasons (such as Russia’s war in Ukraine), and generalized drops due to the international student cap.

One trend is particularly noteworthy: study permits issued to Indian students fell off a cliff in 2024. Here’s what the data tells us: 

In 2023, IRCC processed: 

  • 33,135 study permit application for Indian students in January
  • 24,228 study permit applications for Indian students in February
  • 28,071 study permit applications for Indian students in March
  • 19,205 study permit applications for Indian students in April. 

In 2024, IRCC processed: 

  • 18,759 study permit applications for Indian students in January
  • 26,219 study permit applications for Indian students in February
  • 4,201 study permit applications for Indian students in March
  • 7,405 study permit applications for Indian students in April.  

The decrease in the number of study permit applications processed for international students from India is huge. There are a range of reasons likely contributing to this, including decreased interest from Indian students caused by political tension between Canada and India. 

A Note About Nigeria and the Philippines

Processing rates for Nigerian and Filipino students look around the same in 2024 as they did for 2023, but that was due to very strong processing in January and February. The number of study permits processed for Nigerian and Filipino students significantly decreased in March and April. We need to wait for further data from IRCC to draw any conclusions about what this means for these students in 2024. 

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IRCC Has Planned More Changes

As we hinted above, IRCC has planned significant changes to the study permit programs. The planned changes, outlined in the IRCC Deputy Minister Transitional Binder, are as follows:  

French-Speaking Student Program

IRCC plans to introduce a pilot program to introduce the number of French-speaking international students studying in Canada, specifically in Francophone Minority Communities. 

IRCC’s plans to increase the number of French-speaking students include to: 

  • Increase the attractiveness of Canada as a study destination for French-speaking students. 
  • Increase access to study permits. 
  • Improve integration of French-speaking students to aid with retention beyond the study permit. 

IRCC aims to announce this program in Fall of 2024, though this timeline may change. 

Recognized Institutions Framework Delayed

In October 2023, we announced IRCC’s plans to introduce a Recognized Institutions Framework (RIF), which would rank post-secondary educators into tiers. These tiers would be based on the recruitment standards and supports for international students (including housing), as well as post-graduate outcomes. 

The RIF was originally supposed to be introduced in time for the Fall 2024 academic year. 

Due to the significant changes in this year’s study permit program, specifically the international student cap, IRCC now plans to delay the RIF until 2025. It will likely become available first to public universities and colleges with more than 50 study permit approvals per year for the last three years. It will then roll out to private institutions at a later date. 

IRCC still intends to offer students applying to higher ranked educational institutions with faster processing times. 

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Underrepresented Regions To Benefit From Equitable Access Pilot

Trends in IRCC data show that some regions face higher refusal rates for study permits than others. Students from Africa in particular face significant barriers to study permit approval. 

MPower Financing, a provider of student loans and funding, released a special report in June 2024 highlighting the disparities in study permit approvals: 

 

“Over the six year period from 2018 to 2023, African students systematically received study permit approvals at rates substantially lower than their classmates from other countries (27% for African students versus 74% for students from other nations on average over the six-year period). This difference persisted when comparing across educational levels and controlling for non-SDS study permit applications. In addition, students from Francophone African nations were accepted at even lower rates when compared with students from nonFrancophone African nations (22% versus 29% on average over the six-year period).”

 

To summarize: 

  • The Study permit acceptance rate for African students is 27%, while it’s 74% for students from other nations. 
  • French-speaking students from Africa had even lower study permit acceptance rates, with just 22% being accepted. 
  • These results were consistent across education levels and programs (SDS vs non-SDS) for a six year period. 

The Equitable Access Pilot

IRCC plans to introduce an Equitable Access pilot to reduce barriers for students from Africa and other underrepresented regions. 

Very little else has been published about the proposed pilot or how IRCC plans to reduce the barriers for African students. However, IRCC did note that it intends to introduce the pilot in Fall of 2024, so hopefully we will know more soon. 

International Student Roadmaps With Moving2Canada

Moving2Canada is a free resource for international students and other newcomers. We publish news updates, like this, alongside other resources designed to help you navigate your move.

Sign up for a free Moving2Canada account to access the international student roadmap, our newsletter, and a study permit checklist that walks you through all the steps for studying in Canada. 

About the author

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Stephanie Ford

She/Her
Finance, Law and Immigration Writer
Stephanie is a content marketer who has written for law firms (with a focus on immigration and privacy), legal tech companies, and finance professionals for more than 9 years. She earned a Bachelor of Laws and a Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning in Australia. Stephanie is now a permanent resident of Canada and a full-time writer at Moving2Canada.
Read more about Stephanie Ford
Citation "The State of Study Permits: What Recent Changes Tell Us About Tomorrow’s Students." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation

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