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We compiled the questions from our International Student forum and elsewhere online and shared the answers, here.

The federal government’s cap on the number of study permits to be issued in Canada in 2024 has caused concern for many international students – as well as Canada’s educational institutions. To help clarify the confusion, we’re answering some of the most frequently asked questions about the international student study permit cap in this post.

Before we dig in, we want to share that, while some of these changes are disheartening for international students, the government has acknowledged its commitment to help international students stay in Canada after graduation. In recent years, the government has made an effort to open doors to students, so we are looking forward to impending changes in this regard. 

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How PGWP is affected by the Study Permit Cap in 2024

“My husband is still a student and will only graduate next year 2025. Will we be affected by the new PGWP rule?”

Most likely, no – unless your husband started a cross-jurisdictional program on or after February 1, 2023. A cross-jurisdictional curriculum licensing program is a program of study at a private college being delivered on behalf of a public college in another province or territory. 

Outside of this scenario, the new PGWP rule applies to international students who begin a curriculum licensing program within the same province on or after May 15, 2024, (and not September 1, 2024, as originally announced). Students who are already part way through their studies should not be affected. 

 

 

“I’m about to get a PGWP from a public college linked to a private institution… will I be affected even if I started this college last winter?”

It depends. 

If the public college is in a different province/territory to the private institution, then students who started these cross-jurisdictional programs on or after February 1, 2023 are not eligible for a PGWP. 

Otherwise,  the new PGWP rule applies to international students who begin a curriculum-licensed study project within the same province on or after May 15, 2024. Students who are already part way through their studies should not be affected.  

 

“I did a masters degree in 16 months and got a 16 month PGWP, under the new rules can I get an extension to my PGWP?”

From February 15, 2024, graduates of master’s degree programs may be eligible for a 3-year post-graduation work permit. This includes graduates of master’s degree programs that take less than 2 years to complete (so long as they meet all other PGWP eligibility criteria). 

IRCC has not commented on whether it intends to extend the PGWP for past students who have already graduated and hold a current valid PGWP. 

 

“Will graduate certificate courses receive PGWP?”

To receive a PGWP, both the course and institution must be approved as a DLI with PGWP approved courses. You can use the IRCC tool to see if your organization is a DLI and PGWP-approved. 

 

“Can I get 3 years of PGWP after 1 year of study?”

To get a 3 year PGWP, you must have done a program of study that was at least 2 years in duration or at a Masters or PhD level.


“Who is not eligible for PGWP?”

The new changes to PGWP eligibility affect those who are studying at a private school with a  curriculum licensing arrangement with a public organization. If you are studying at an organization that falls into this category, you will not be able to get a PGWP as of May 15, 2024.

The timing for this change to come into effect varies depending on the licensing arrangement: 

  • Anyone who started a cross-jurisdictional program on or after February 1, 2023 will not be eligible for a PGWP. A cross-jurisdictional curriculum licensing program is a program of study at a private college being delivered on behalf of a public college in another province or territory. 
  • Anyone who will start a study project under a curriculum license within the same province on or after May 15, 2024, (and not September 1, 2024, as originally announced) will no longer be eligible for a PGWP. 

 

“I would just like to clarify regarding the new policy on No PGWP starting May 2024, does this apply to those who are applying or about to apply for Study Permit and/or Visa? Because in my case, I was supposed to have the Jan 2024 intake but my visa stamp got delayed so I was moved to Sept 2024. Everything is settled already, I have a visa and SP, and the only thing that I need to do is to arrive there before my class starts. Would I still be able to acquire a PGWP?” 

The new PGWP rule applies to international students who begin a study project on or after May 15, 2024, and plan to study in a public-private partnership college program. It does not appear to be tied to the date your study permit was approved. 

To be eligible for PGWP if you begin an undergraduate program, both the course and institution must be approved as a DLI with PGWP approved courses. You can use the IRCC tool to see if your organization is a DLI and PGWP approved. 

 

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Spousal Open Work Permit Changes in 2024 for International Students

Before we delve into specific questions, here is some general information about the changes to the SOWP for international students from March 19, 2024:

IRCC released updated information about Spousal Open Work Permits on March 19, 2024. Whether or not your spouse can come to Canada depends now depends on a few factors including:

  • When they applied
  • Whether they are currently in Canada on a SOWP 
  • And your level of study in Canada.

 

 

If your spouse or common-law partner is applying for an SOWP on or after March 19,2024:

From March 19, 2024, spousal open work permits will only be issued for international students who are studying in specific programs, namely:

  • A master’s or PhD program in a university or polytechnic institution; or
  • Students of specific professional degree programs, namely: 
    • Doctor of Dental Surgery. 
    • Bachelor of Law or Juris Doctor. 
    • Doctor of Medicine. 
    • Doctor of Optometry. 
    • Pharmacy. 
    • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
    • Bachelor of Science in Nursing. 
    • Bachelor of Education. 
    • Bachelor of Engineering.

 

If your spouse or common-law partner submitted their application for an SOWP before March 19, 2024 or if they’re applying to extend their existing permit:

Your spouse or common-law partner may be eligible for an SOWP if:

  • You have a valid study permit. 
  • You’re eligible for a PGWP. 
  • You’re a full-time student at a public post-secondary school, or a private college-level school in Quebec or a Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law. 

 

“I am an international student doing bachelor’s in Oshawa. Will my spouse’s open work permit be affected? I am planning to get married next year. So will my spouse be able to come here and work over here till I am completing my bachelor’s?”

Whether or not your spouse can come to Canada depends on whether they already have a SOWP that they would need to extend or if it would be a new application. It will also depend on what you’re studying and at which institution. 

If they applied before March 19, 2014 or they are applying to extend their SOWP, they may be eligible so long as you have a valid study permit, you’re eligible for a PGWP, and you’re studying full-time at public post-secondary school, or a private college-level school in Quebec or a Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law. 

If you haven’t yet applied for the SOWP, then you will need to be studying in an eligible program for your spouse or common-law partner to receive an SOWP. At the Bachelor level, eligible programs include Bachelor of Law, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Education, and Bachelor of Engineering.

 

“What about students who got a PGWP, and then pursued a Post Graduate Diploma program? Will my spouse be eligible for an open work permit?”

If you are on a PGWP and not a study permit, your spouse should still be able to get a spousal open work permit so long as you are employed.

If you’re currently studying a Post Graduate Diploma program, your spouse may be eligible if they applied before March 19, 2024 and you meet the other eligibility requirements (including that you have a valid study permit, you’re eligible for a PGWP, and you’re a full-time student at a public post-secondary school, or a private college-level school in Quebec or a Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law. 

This may be an issue for you if you previously held a PGWP. Generally, a person can only participate in one PGWP in their lifetime. So you may not meet the eligibility criteria required for your spouse to be eligible for an SOWP.

 

“Question… what happens if someone has already approved permits (open work permit for spouse, sudden permit for daughter and the main student permit) but they arrive in July to start courses in September? Are they still valid?”

Yes, they are. 

 

“Are there other ways my family can join me in Canada?”

If you are studying at a Masters or PhD level or certain professional degree programs, your spouse will be able to get an open work permit and your child can join you as a visitor or student depending on their age. If you are studying  a program that is not a Masters, PhD, or specified professional degree program, your spouse and children may be able to join in Canada as a visitor. Your children may be able to get a study permit, depending on their age.

 

“My spouse is on a SOWP, can this be extended if extend my study permit?”

Starting March 19, 2024, your spouse or common-law partner may be eligible to renew their SOWP if:

  • You have a valid study permit. 
  • You’re eligible for a PGWP. 
  • You’re a full-time student at a public post-secondary school, or a private college-level school in Quebec or a Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law.

 

“I have applied for a study permit and SOWP at the same time but we are waiting for a decision. Will the SOWP be rejected?”

If you applied before March 19, 2024, your spouse or common-law partner may be eligible for an SOWP if:

  • You have a valid study permit. 
  • You’re eligible for a PGWP. 
  • You’re a full-time student at a public post-secondary school, or a private college-level school in Quebec or a Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law.

 

“What options does my spouse have to work in Canada whilst I study?”

If you are studying your master’s or doctoral degree or a specified professional degree program, your spouse may still be eligible for an open work permit. 

Otherwise, your spouse could look into getting an IEC open work permit if they’re eligible. They could also consider permanent residence through Express Entry, or finding employment and applying for an LMIA.

Our free immigration quiz might be of assistance here.

 

“Is my existing spousal work permit still valid under the changes?”

A current spousal open work permit that hasn’t expired is still valid. The IRCC has not canceled the existing permits. 

2024 Study Permit Cap: Impact on those who want to study in Canada

“What do you mean by provincial approval?”

Each province or territory is developing an attestation letter, as well as the process to receive one. These processes are expected to be in place by March 31, 2024. 

Quebec – Since February 13, 2024, Quebec has been issuing an updated attestation letter for the Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (Québec Acceptance Certificate) for studies. This letter enables candidates to apply for a study permit, in accordance with the new instructions. The province says that at this point, no further action is required from either the applicant or the educational institution.

“Do students who are waiting for their visa results need to give attestation as well? And will their result be delayed due to the same for may 2024 intake?”

The attestation letter requirement only applies to applications received on or after January 22, 2024. Anyone who submitted their application before January 22 does not need to provide an attestation letter. Note that the IRCC must have received it by January 21 at the latest, or it may be returned. 

 

“I have already applied for a SP but I did not include an attestation letter, will my application be refused?”

The attestation letter requirement only applies to applications submitted on or after January 22, 2024. 

Minor children applying for a primary or secondary school, students in post-graduate programs, and existing students applying to extend their study permits are also exempt from the attestation letter requirement. 

 

“I have applied for a SP but it is with a private college, will my application be refused?”

This is complicated, and we don’t have all the answers yet.  Public-private institutions or curriculum licensing agreements are no longer eligible for PGWP. Based on the information we currently have, you will not be eligible for a post-graduation work permit after you graduate from the public-private college. If you had planned to live and work in Canada after completing your studies, you may wish to apply for a public college instead. 

As for whether your application will be refused, this will likely depend on which province you’ve applied to. While we are waiting for more specific information, it does sound like student permits in some provinces will be limited – and provinces may need to be selective about the institutions permits are approved for. Other provinces may be subject to less severe restrictions, in which case your application may not be impacted. 

 

“How do I know if my college is approved for a DLI?”

You should search for the college on the Canadian Government’s list of designated learning institutions.

 

“How can I increase my odds of being accepted to study in Canada?” 

We are still waiting on further information from the government about the changes to the study permit program. However, based on the information we currently have, we believe that the following factors might increase your odds of being accepted to study in Canada: 

  • Applying for Master’s or PhD programs, instead of undergraduate programs. 
  • Applying to public institutions, or Trusted Institutions once Canada introduces its Trusted Institutions framework. 
  • Increasing your English or French proficiency. 
  • Providing strong proof of adequate financial resources to support yourself while you study. 
  • Providing proof that you have somewhere to stay during your studies. 

 

“Does the new international student policy affect those applicants who have applied before 22 January 2024?”

In some ways, yes. 

 

If you applied before January 22 2024, you do not need to provide a Provincial Attestation Letter. So, the application process should not be affected. 

 

Also, another new PGWP rule applies to international students who began a public-private partnership study project on or after February 1, 2023 where the public institution is in a different province to the private college administering the program. 

But, if you commence studies on or after May 15, 2024 (and not September 1, 2024, as originally announced), then the new rules about PGWP may apply if you plan to study in a public-private partnership college program

The changes may also impact your spouse’s eligibility for a spousal open work permit, if applicable to you. 

 

“Can I have 2 study permits in Canada?”

If your study permit restricts when and what you can study, you will need an additional permit to undertake additional studies. 

Impact of the International Student Cap 2024 on Current Students

“I started studying in Canada in 2023. Do I need to re-apply for 2024?”

You don’t need to start over from scratch, you need to reapply for your study permit but it will follow the ‘usual’ process. Study permit renewals are not affected by these changes. 

 

“Will my course fees increase in 2024 as a result of the cap?”

We don’t know yet. Canada’s educational institutes have spoken out about the impact this change will have on them, so it’s possible that we will see fee increases, but it’s not a guarantee. Hang tight while we wait to see what impact, if any, the international student cap has on fees.

 

Studying in Ontario

“What changes has Ontario made as a result of the study permit cap?”

In response to the international student cap, Ontario has introduced a moratorium on new public college-private partnerships. This means that no new programs that would not be eligible for PGWP will be added in Ontario (at least until the moratorium ends). 

Ontario’s government has also announced that colleges and universities will need to guarantee that housing options are available for all incoming international students. We are not sure what this guarantee will look like, and we’re awaiting further announcements in this regard.

Studying in BC

“What changes has BC made as a result of the study permit cap?”

BC announced that it will be pausing approvals for any new post-secondary institutions that want to enroll international students. The province also introduced changes to improve the quality of education, including: 

  • Higher standards for approval for private degree programs. 
  • New minimum language requirements at private training institutions. 
  • More frequent inspections at private post-secondary institutions. 

BC will also require post-secondary educational institutions to publish the costs of tuition for the entire program for international students. The province wants to ensure that students coming to study in BC know the entire cost of their education before starting the program. 

Masters & PhD Students: FAQs about the International Students Cap

“I am applying for a masters program, do I need to provide a letter of attestation?”

No, students in a masters or PhD study program are exempt from the attestation letter requirement. 

This means that you can apply to your post-graduate study program today, even though the provinces have not finalized the process for the attestation letter. 

Please note, a previous version of this answer stated that students in “other post-graduate” programs are exempt. IRCC has since updated its website and removed this group from the list of exempt study programs. 

“I’ll study for a postgraduate degree in Langara in 2024. With the current announcement, can I still bring my husband?”

If you’re completing a masters or doctoral program, then you can still bring your husband and he can still apply for a spousal open work permit. The changes for spouses of international students apply to undergraduate and college programs. 

About the author

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Rebecca Major

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Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Rebecca Major is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (R511564) with nearly 15 years of licenced Canadian Immigration experience, gained after graduating with a Bachelor of Laws in the UK. She specializes in Canadian immigration at Moving2Canada.
Read more about Rebecca Major
Citation "International Student Study Permit Changes: Your Questions, Answered." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation

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