Canada Announces Reforms For International Student Program

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Canada will bring in reforms to be completed by the fall semester of next year to fight fraud in international student admissions and stop bad actors out to exploit candidates, Immigration Minister Marc Miller pledged on Friday.

Those reforms are to include:

  • a requirement, starting Dec. 1 this year that all colleges and universities deemed to be Designated Learning Institutions (DLI) be required to confirm every applicant’s letter of acceptance directly with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
  • a new “recognized institution” framework by autumn next year to benefit post-secondary DLIs that set a higher standard for services, support and outcomes for international students. These DLIs will benefit, for example, from the priority processing of study permits for applicants who plan to attend their school.
  • an assessment of Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWP) criteria over the coming months and reforms to better calibrate it to meet the needs of the Canadian labour market, as well as regional and francophone immigration goals.

The details of the reforms are to be unveiled later.


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“International students are talented, bright and deserving of a positive experience as they pursue their studies in Canada,” said Miller.

“We will continue to improve Canada’s International Student Program by protecting students and weeding out those who try to take advantage of them. Whether an international student stays and works after graduation or returns home, we want their time as a student in Canada to have been beneficial to their growth and aspirations.”

In a press conference on Oct. 27, the immigration minister issued a veiled warning to provinces and territories, suggesting Ottawa may step into the recognition of DLIs if the provincial and territorial governments are not up to the task.

“If that job can’t be done, then it will be up to the federal government to step in and do it,” said Miller.


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The move by the immigration minister comes only days after Michèle Kingsley, assistant deputy minister of operations for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), told the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration that 30 international students have already been granted temporary study permits to stay in Canada after a five-month investigation by the federal government.

“If a student had enrolled within three semesters of their arrival and there were no other problems or issues with their applications, such as criminal activity, the task force assessed that person to be a genuine student,” said Kingsley.

“The task force has reviewed 103 cases and determined 63 were genuine students. To date, 30 have been approved for temporary resident permits of up to three years.”

Both Miller and Kingsley recognize the important contributions international students make to Canada.

International Education Is A $22b Sector In Canada

International education accounts for more than $22 billion in economic activity annually, greater than Canada’s exports of auto parts, lumber or aircraft, and supports more than 200,000 jobs in Canada. The temporary drop in international students in 2020 resulted in a loss of more than $7 billion for Canada’s gross domestic product that year.

“They support our local economies and bolster the skilled workforce across Canada,” said Kingsley.

In March, hundreds of international students found themselves facing possible deportation over fraudulent college letters despite having spent thousands of dollars to come study in Canada and having lived here for years.

A task force was struck in June to investigate that scam and see which newcomers were legitimate students who should be allowed to stay and which should leave.

“In some cases, people showed up at the doors of learning institutions only to find their hopes had been dashed.”

In Canada, each of the 10 provinces and three territories runs its own educational system and determines which schools, including elementary, middle and secondary schools as well as colleges and universities, are DLIs.

International students can search a list of the post-secondary schools, such as colleges and universities, and language schools that are DLIs in each province and territory on the federal government’s website here.

Since many international students want to work in Canada upon graduation with a PGWP, it is also important for them to know before they start their studies that not all DLIs and programs make them eligible for this work permit.

Colleges And Universities Provide International Students With Lists Of Required Documents

“Along with graduating from a PGWP-eligible designated learning institution, you need to meet all other criteria to get a post-graduation work permit,” notes the IRCC.

Once an international student has chosen a school, college or university, he or she must apply to go there and follow that school’s admission requirements. The admission fees can vary considerably from one school to another.

Canadian immigration officials suggest applying at least six months in advance to study at a primary or secondary school and one year in advance for a post-secondary program at a university or college.

“Contact the school where you want to study to learn how to apply,” notes the IRCC. “They’ll give you the list of all the documents you need to send them. They’ll also be able to tell you about: the cost to apply; tuition fees; health insurance; rent and how much it costs to live in Canada, and; language tests.”

Schools in Canada send international students acceptance letters once they have been admitted and that letter is a very important part of the application process for a study permit.

It’s at the point that a college or university has accepted an international student that he or she should apply for a study permit.

That is usually done online but those who suffer from a disability or some other barrier that prevents them from applying online or makes applying online unreliable can be exempted from this requirement and submit a paper application.

International students applying to a school in Quebec, will also receive, along with their acceptance letter, a Certificat d’Acceptation du Québec (CAQ) and must include this document in their study permit applications.

International Students Urged To Get Adequate Health Insurance

International students are responsible for their own healthcare costs as neither Canada nor the provinces pay for the medical costs of foreign students. Health coverage for foreign students varies between provinces.

It is very important for international students to ensure they have adequate medical and health insurance and can in an emergency situation pay those costs up front as many clinics and hospitals will insist on those payments being made upon treatment and insurance companies may only reimburse those costs later.

International students are advised to contact their schools to get more information about medical coverage and health insurance.

In order to successfully gain entry into Canada under the Student Direct Stream (SDS), every international student will also have to prove proficiency in English or French. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the preferred test for proficiency in English and students must score 6.0 or higher in each language skill: listening, reading and speaking. For francophone students, a Test d’Évaluation de Français (TEF) score that is equivalent to a Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) score of at least seven for each ability is required.

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Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of immigration.ca featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.