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Students Canada Tightens Visa Rules and Increases Minimum Funds Requirements

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Recent changes in Canadian immigration policies reveal a stricter approach towards international students, as the minimum financial requirements for study permits have been significantly raised. From January 1, 2024, applicants must prove they possess CAN$20,635 in available funds, more than double the current requirement of around CAN$10,000.

This shift in policy addresses concerns about international students struggling to make ends meet due to insufficient savings upon their arrival in Canada. By increasing the necessary funds by 75% of the national low-income cut-off (LICO), the government intends to reduce instances of students falling prey to exploitative employers or unsatisfactory living conditions.

Canada’s immigration ministry has been closely examining its international student program and implementing a series of reforms in response. For instance, the temporary measure allowing international students unlimited work hours while studying has been extended to April 30, 2024. Additionally, online study will continue to be counted towards Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) eligibility until September 2024. However, PGWP extensions are expected to be phased out soon.

The new rules aim to ensure that international students are better prepared for the actual cost of living in Canada, thereby safeguarding their well-being and preventing financially vulnerable situations. Immigration Minister Marc Miller asserts that these changes are essential for promoting their success while protecting them from potential exploitation and housing difficulties.

New Financial Requirements Challenge Underrepresented Students

The government of Canada has recently acknowledged that not all students will be able to meet the new savings threshold of CDN$ 20,000+ for international applicants. As a result, they are developing plans to pilot initiatives aimed at supporting underrepresented cohorts of international students coming to Canada.

However, for the time being, it is expected that less wealthy students may struggle to pursue their studies in Canada. According to Sarom Rho, the national coordinator of Migrant Students United, the increased financial requirements create a barrier for working-class students worldwide. Mr. Rho’s organization plans to advocate for more stable and fair immigration policies and permanent residency for all.

Rising Cost of Living Affects International Students’ Experience

Many international students are already finding it difficult to cope with the rapidly increasing cost of living in Canada. A Daily Bread food bank survey conducted in September 2023 revealed that Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada’s estimated living expense during the application process is nearly half what a student in Toronto typically spends. Students interviewed pointed out that the costs associated with housing and food were much higher than they originally anticipated.

This has led to a rise in temporary visa holders – such as students, visitors, and workers – relying on food banks. The proportion of food bank users with temporary status has increased from 10% in 2022 to 24% in 2023. For first-time food bank users, 87% were born outside of Canada.

Minister Issues Warning to Improve Student Support Services in Institutions and Provinces

In a recent press conference, Minister Miller emphasized the government’s expectation that educational institutions only admit a number of students that they can effectively accommodate with on-campus housing or assistance in finding off-campus living arrangements. He also stated that necessary measures, including limiting visas, might be taken before September 2024 to ensure that designated learning institutions offer adequate student support services.

Miller reiterated the importance of cooperation among all stakeholders, including provincial and territorial governments, learning institutions, and other education-focused organizations. However, he firmly declared that the government would not hesitate to take more stringent actions if the provinces failed to fulfill their responsibilities. This could result in some designated learning institutions being shut down.

Over the past year, the national government has been proactive in regulating Canada’s international education sector. In 2024, they plan to introduce the “Trusted Institution Framework” which will reward certain designated learning institutions (DLIs) for exceptional support and outcomes provided to international students.

While many details of this new framework have not been disclosed yet, it is proposed that post-secondary institutions—including colleges and universities—will be assessed based on criteria such as sustainable intake, genuine student identification, compliance monitoring and reporting, and ensuring a secure and enriching experience for their international students.

Three major announcements

Extended Off-Campus Work Hours for International Students Until 30 April 2024

The Canadian government has decided to extend the current rule allowing international students to work more than 20 hours per week while studying in Canada until 30 April 2024. As a majority of students are still in the middle of their academic year, the decision ensures minimal disruption to their work routines. After 30 April 2024, the government may consider setting the limit at 30 hours per week, but full-time work during study periods will not be allowed.

Online Study Contributions Towards PGWP Eligibility Until September 2024

During the pandemic, eligibility for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) was granted to students studying online. Initially, a program could be entirely online, but this scope was reduced in 2022. The government has now confirmed that online study will still count towards PGWP eligibility for students beginning a Canadian program before 1 September 2024, as long as it comprises less than 50% of their total course. Presently, most international students in Canadian higher education attend in-person classes.

Phasing Out Extensions of PGWP Beyond December 2023

Due to labor shortages caused by the pandemic, international students have been offered the opportunity to extend their post-graduation work permit by up to 18 months on three separate occasions. This extension option will remain available for those whose work permits expire up until 31 December 2023, but extensions will no longer be provided beyond that date.

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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, exclusively written and published by IntraSource. The published information is sourced from various trusted platforms, such as news agencies and online media, mainly the Government of Canada and Canadian online media/websites, and should not be considered as legal or professional advice. IRCC’s requirements may change, so consult a lawyer/s and receive professional advice before making decisions or applications.

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