Newfoundland & Labrador Says Canada’s Study Permit Cap Ambiguous 

Newfoundland & Labrador Says Canada’s Study Permit Cap Ambiguous
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Newfoundland and Labrador wants clarity on Canada’s cap on study permits in the wake of what provincial Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne is calling mixed signals from the federal government.

“We’ve got to get clarity from Ottawa. That’s the bottom line,” Byrne reportedly told CBC News.

“The ambiguity around this right now … I can’t tell you if this is fit to eat. I cannot tell you if we’re going to stay the same, we’re going to shrink, we’re going to grow a little bit.”

When Immigration Minister Marc Miller first announced the cap on study permit applications, Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial government figured it was sitting pretty, with its allocation of study permits likely to result in more international students in the coming school year.

Now, Byrne isn’t so sure.

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“They have changed their mind and they have continued to change their mind and I think they may change their mind again,” he reportedly said.

“So what was a significant story about potential for growth is really about kind of staying still, treading water for Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Newfoundland’s immigration minister isn’t the only provincial politician in Atlantic Canada to be worried about the upcoming school year and the number of international students who will be allowed to come to the region’s colleges and universities.

On March 27, the Council of Atlantic Premiers (CAP) fired off a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to press him about issues facing the region. International student enrollment was one of them.

“The allocations identified for the Atlantic Provinces diverge significantly from the initial announced cap and ‘weighted by population’ commitment by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC),” wrote Newfoundland Premier Andrew Furey, the council’s chair.

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“This unbalanced approach creates particular challenges for our region, especially considering the lower numbers of international students compared to other jurisdictions.”

In that letter to the prime minister, the Atlantic Canadian premiers question the 60-per cent approval rate of study permits assumed by the IRCC, noting there are significant differences among the provinces in study permit application approval rates.

“Additionally, under current federal policy, international students are able to transfer to another jurisdiction after they obtain a study permit,” wrote Furey.

“This policy impacts Atlantic provinces and institutions as applicants can use Atlantic provinces as pathways to move elsewhere in the country. Addressing this policy loophole would be impactful and enhance predictability and sustainability within our post-secondary environment.”

Francophone Student Enrolment Likely To Be Hardest Hit By Study Permit Application Caps

Among the groups likely to be hardest hit by the study application caps are francophone students from other countries, notes the Newfoundland premier.

“The negative impact on our francophone post-secondary institutions, which tend to be more reliant on international students to maintain enrollment, will likely be even greater,” he wrote.

After Miller announced the cap of only 606,250 study permit applications in the coming year for new international students, The Globe and Mail reported this would likely mean a drop of 35 per cent study permits compared to last year.

The actual drop is now expected to be much higher, closer to 40 per cent.

The original estimated drop in study permits was based on the number of applications which are to be accepted and the historical approval rate of 60 per cent for those applications.

But Ottawa has since clarified that the figure for the study permit applications included students who are exempt from the cap and so the actual number of new study permits for those international students subject to the cap is expected to be only 292,000, or 18.9 per cent less than the 360,000 previously expected.

Among the provinces which have already been told how many study permit applications will be allotted for international students in their provinces, some are decidedly unhappy.

Alberta, which has about 11.5 per cent of the country’s population, is only getting 6.8 per cent of study permit applications.

“This is significantly lower than the allocation Alberta anticipated,” Mackenzie Blyth, press secretary to Alberta Advanced Education Minister Rajan Sawhney, reportedly told The Globe and Mail.

British Columbia has been allotted 83,000 study permit applications although its population is only about 15 per cent more than Alberta’s.

And Nova Scotia has seen a reduction to the number of its study permit applications.

In early February, the Canada Gazette reported that certain categories of international students would be exempt from the cap on study permit applications.

Seven Categories Of International Students Exempt From Cap On Applications

“As stipulated in these Instructions, certain categories of study permit applications are excluded from the conditions set out in these Instructions and the associated application cap established by these Instructions.”

Exempt from this new cap on international study permits are those international students who already have study permits and are seeking to renew them and the family member of a temporary resident who already has either a work or study permit.

Also exempt from the cap on study permits are:

  • members of the armed forces of a country under the Visiting Forces Act, including a person who has been designated as a civilian component of those armed forces;
  • officers of a foreign governments sent, under exchange agreements between Canada and one or more countries, to take up duties with a federal or provincial agency;
  • participants in sports activities or events, in Canada, either as an individual participant or as a member of a foreign-based team or Canadian amateur team;
  • employees of foreign news companies reporting on events in Canada;
  • people responsible for assisting congregations or groups in the achievement of their spiritual goals and whose main duties are to preach doctrine, perform functions related to gatherings of their congregations or groups or provide spiritual counselling.

Throughout Canada, colleges and universities have expressed concern over the cap on study permit applications, saying it sends the wrong signal to international students.

President and CEO of the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) Larissa Bezo said in a webinar organised by The PIE and Student VIP that the cap on study permits is not the way her organizations would have chosen to proceed to address the housing issue.

The CBIE issued a statement in January expressing concern the cap on the number of international students might have serious unintended consequences.

“This hasty one-size-fits-all solution may jeopardize the benefits of international education that many communities across the country experience and rapidly unravel a strong global Canadian education brand that has taken years to build,” notes the CBIE on its website.

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Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of 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.