BREAKING: Canada announces new measures to strengthen international student integrity

Marc Miller, Canada’s immigration minister, has just made an announcement today on strengthening international student program integrity.

The minister stressed that he is not in favour of imposing a cap on new international student arrivals. However, to limit fraud against international students, the federal government is rolling out a new scheme to verify the Letters of Acceptance (LOA) that prospective international students need to apply for a study permit.

In addition, the government will move ahead with a new “Recognized Institutions Framework” for Canadian designated learning institutions (DLIs) by the fall semester of 2024. DLIs are the colleges, universities, and other educational institutions approved by provincial and territorial governments to welcome international students. The framework will set a higher standard for services, support and outcomes for international students. The rationale behind the idea is that DLIs who meet certain IRCC integrity criteria would be eligible for certain benefits, such as priority processing of study permit applications by IRCC.

Further details will be shared about how institutions can become recognized and what the benefits will look like.

Miller also announced that IRCC will conduct its first review of the popular Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), which has not been reviewed in 10 years, and will announce reforms in the coming months. He says the goal is to calibrate the the PGWP to address Canada’s labour shortages in areas of the economy with a greater need, as well as regional and Francophone immigration goals.

Canada set to host 900,000 international students this year

Canada is a leading destination for international students. In 2022, it welcomed a record 551,405 international students from 184 countries. As of the end of 2022, there were 807,750 international students holding valid Canadian study permits, another all-time high. Canada’s international student population has quadrupled over the past 15 years. This is due to factors such as the rising global middle class seeking to study abroad, as well as Canada’s attractiveness to international students in areas like quality of education, employment prospects, and immigration pathways.

In 2022, the top source countries of new international students were India (226,450 students), China (52,165 students) and the Philippines (23,280 students). The leading destinations were Ontario (411,00 students) and British Columbia (164,000 students).

Marc Miller has shared that Canada is on track to host around 900,000 international students in 2023.

The Canadian government continues to issue a large number of study permits. Between January and June 2023, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issued more than 280,000 new study permits, a 77% increase compared to the same period in 2022.

International student challenges

Today’s announcement comes after more than 700 Indian students in Canada were faced with deportation earlier this year after finding out that their letter of acceptance (LOAs) were discovered by the Canadian government to be fake. Many of the students had come to Canada to study in 2018 and 2019, and the fraud was only discovered after many of them had completed their studies and were applying for permanent residency.

Reports indicated that the LOAs were forged by an unscrupulous immigration consultant in India and who has since disappeared.

At the time, IRCC announced that the international students that were not aware or involved in the fraud would not face deportation.

This situation brought even more light to the issue of Canadian international student fraud.

International student integrity highlighted in recent report from members of Canada’s Senate

International student integrity was also brought to the forefront recently thanks to a report released on September 20 by four members of Canada’s Senate.

The report, while highlighting the benefits of international students to Canada’s economy, as well as the country’s social and cultural landscape, also highlighted several challenge areas to do with the integrity of Canada’s international student system. Among them, the report highlights that education agents – those who work as a “middleman” in foreign countries on behalf of international student hopefuls – play a significant role in compromising the integrity of Canada’s international student landscape.

This is because many education agents may direct international students toward a Canadian post-secondary program that is ineligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). Completing a program that does not leave graduates eligible for a PGWP can often be a waste of significant time and money because they may not be eligible to work and gain permanent residence following graduation.

Miller’s past comments highlight concerns about integrity

Miller has addressed international student integrity a number of times since becoming Canada’s immigration minister this summer. In several interviews since the summer, Miller addressed the potency of this topic by noting the “integrity challenges” associated with “the current visa process for international students across Canada.”

Echoing many of the same points brought up in the Senate report, Miller articulated that international students are being driven by “false hope” provided to them by actors looking to take advantage of them – something the minister says IRCC recognizes they need to tackle head-on going forward.

He also spoke about the need to address integrity issues during a hearing earlier this week before the Canadian Parliamentary Committee for Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM).


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