Has IRCC’s LOA verification system successfully protected Canadian international students?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) introduced a new verification process for Letters of Acceptance (LOAs) on December 1, 2023.

IRCC announced its LOA verification system among several changes to its international student program. These changes aim to protect foreign nationals studying in Canada and improve overall program integrity.

The new verification system requires all Canadian designated learning institutions (DLIs) to manually confirm every LOA they receive with IRCC through the department’s online portal within 10 calendar days.

Note: LOAs are documents that international students were already required to submit in support of their application for a student visa in Canada.

Through this verification system, IRCC intends to protect international students in many ways, including making sure they are not wasting valuable time, money and other resources to pursue a study permit in Canada. The system will cancel and return a student visa application to the international student applicant:

If a DLI fails to validate their LOA within IRCC’s 10-calendar-day timeframe

If an LOA processed by this system is assessed as invalid/fake

Has IRCC’s system been successful?

According to data published by IRCC in a news release on April 29, in the first four months of its implementation – between December 1, 2023, and April 1, 2024 – IRCC’s LOA verification system has “identified almost 9,000 LOAs that [either did not] match any [letter] issued by a DLI or that the DLI had already cancelled before the foreign national applied for a study permit.”

In other words, IRCC’s new system has theoretically already protected thousands of international students from potentially wasting time and money in pursuit of a study permit based on an invalid LOA.

More positively, IRCC also notes that almost 142,000 LOAs have been successfully processed as valid through this LOA system in just four months. IRCC says they were “confirmed … as valid directly with [DLIs across Canada].”

Note: IRCC says it has received nearly 162,000 total LOAs for verification in this timeframe.

Although there is no data or projections available for how the department expects its LOA verification system to perform in the future, IRCC says that this new procedure has thus far “been a success.”

Other ways to stay safe as an international student

While IRCC has deemed its LOA verification system successful thus far, it is not the only way international students can protect themselves and stay safe from fraud.

Be aware of bad actors

International students, largely because of their willingness to do whatever it takes to study in Canada, are often the target of fraudulent bad actors in the immigration space.

These actors may make guarantees of success to international student applicants and promise them expedited application processing.

Although they say they are working in the best interest of the student, many of these actors are purely interested in taking money away from students and their families.

Ensure that your LOA includes all information recommended by IRCC

Although DLIs do not need to include all recommended information, international students are still cautioned to review their LOAs because this is a good way to make sure they are genuine and legitimate.

For instance, if an LOA is missing a key piece of information such as the school’s DLI number, it may be more likely that the LOA is a fake.

Although IRCC’s LOA verification system exists to confirm whether a letter is genuine, this is a good first step for international students looking to eventually pursue a study permit in Canada.

Other ways Canada is protecting international students

Other steps that IRCC is taking, or has taken recently, towards this goal, include:

  • Limiting the number of international study permits that will be issued over the next two years
  • Increasing the cost-of-living requirement for international students
  • Making several changes to its popular Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) program*
  • Altering the eligibility criteria for its Open Work Permit (OWP) program
  • Developing and implementing a Trusted Institutions Framework

*Certain students are now ineligible for a PGWP, while master’s graduates are now eligible for a permit that is three years in length

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