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Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has proposed changes to give it more control over Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) and international students in Canada.

It’s important to note that the changes are not currently law in Canada. They have been proposed by the federal government in the Canada Gazette (which is part of the law making process). There is a 30-day consultation period for the proposed changes, which runs until July 29, 2024. So we will need to wait and see whether the proposed changes pass into law and what the practical impact on international students in Canada will be. 

Key Takeaways

  • IRCC has identified 3 issues in the current system that makes it challenging for it to manage international student attendance or DLIs. 
  • If the proposed changes pass, IRCC will have the ability to require DLIs to monitor student attendance, require reporting from DLIs, and maintain a public DLI suspension list for non-compliant DLIs.
  • In addition to amendments impacting DLIs, the proposed changes would mean study permits become invalid once a student stops attending a DLI. International students would need to apply for another study permit to switch to a different school.
  • On a positive note, these proposed changes would also give international students the ability to work 24 hours a week rather than 20 hours. IRCC previously announced these changes, and it is now working on making the changes into law. 

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What’s Behind The Proposed Changes?

The way Canada’s study permit program works is a little complex. It’s a joint effort between the federal government and the provincial and territorial governments. 

  • The federal government assesses, issues and sets conditions for study permits through IRCC; and 
  • The provincial and territorial governments determine the standards for designating learning institutions and decide how to allocate their study permit allocations. 

The federal government identified that the study permit program’s integrity is impacted by existing processes for giving and removing designation status to ‘Designated Learning Institutions’ in Canada. At the moment, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) cannot: 

  • Compel reporting from DLIs, which means IRCC does not have a reliable way to monitor student attendance or detect fraudulent letters of acceptance. 
  • Impose conditions on non-compliant DLIs, which means IRCC must issue study permits even where it is unsure whether the student is still enrolled or participating in the Letter of Acceptance verification system. 
  • Compel international students to notify IRCC if they change DLIs. Without this information, there is a risk that the study permit cap could be circumvented. 

IRCC has proposed changes to address these issues. 

How Do The Proposed Changes Affect DLIs?

The changes to the study permits processing proposed by the Federal Government of Canada fall into four categories: 

  1. Conditions on Designated Learning Institutions, which require DLIs to report on the enrollment and attendance of international students. 
  2. Verification (by IRCC officers) of DLI compliance with conditions, along with compliance reporting 
  3. Creation of a suspension list and penalty period for non-compliant DLIs; and 
  4. Confirmation of letters of acceptance by DLIs. 

As you can see, the changes for the most part directly impact DLIs and immigration officers in Canada. DLIs will be required to make changes to monitor international student attendance and compliance, and will also need to report it to IRCC. 


How Do The Proposed Changes Affect International Students? 

As part of the reporting attendance and enrolment requires DLIs will need to follow, international students may have to do additional administrative tasks. 

However, the biggest impact these changes would have on international students would be the requirement to get a new Study Permit if they switch DLIs. 

At present, in some cases, an international student can switch DLIs without applying for a new Study Permit. If the proposed changes become law, students will need to apply for a new study permit when switching to a different college or university. Study permits will become invalid if the student is no longer enrolled at the DLI named on the permit. 

It is not all negative for international students though. 

These proposed changes also formalize the changes IRCC announced earlier that would allow international students to work 24 hours a week off campus. Further, accompanying family members will be exempt from the letter of acceptance provisions if their study or work permit is approved before their entry into Canada. 

How Politics Might Impact These Proposed Changes

The federal government is responsible for creating and administering the conditions for study permit holders to meet in Canada, as well as deciding whether or not study permits should be issued. Beyond that, the education system is supposed to be managed at the provincial/territorial level.

As a result, these changes may be controversial within Canada. The proposed changes toe the line of what the federal government is supposed to be responsible for, so there is a chance that Canada’s provincial or territorial governments could ask the courts to decide whether the changes are constitutional. 

Navigating The Changes To Canada’s Study Permits

The Canadian government is overhauling it’s study permit program, and it plans to introduce targets for temporary residents (including international students) in 2025. Staying up-to-date with these changes is going to be key for anyone looking to study in Canada in the coming years.

A free Moving2Canada account can help. We have created tailored checklists for international students, and we regularly share updates through our newsletters. Sign up for your free account to get your free checklist. 

About the author

Rebecca Major profile picture
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Rebecca Major

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 "IRCC To Track International Student Attendance Under Proposed Changes To Study Permits." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation


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