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Changes to immigration requirements impacting international students and designated learning institutions

Since December 2023 the Government of Canada has announced the following measures to be implemented by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada impacting international students and colleges and universities providing educational opportunities to international students:

  1. As of December 1, 2023, post-secondary Designated Learning Institutions (“DLIs”) are required to confirm every applicant’s letter of acceptance directly with IRCC.
  2. IRCC will adopt a recognized institution framework that aims to benefit DLIs that set a higher standard for services, support and outcomes for international students. These DLIs will benefit from priority processing of Study Permits for applicants who plan to attend their institution.
  3. The 20-hour cap on student’s ability to work off-campus continues to be lifted for students who submitted their Study Permit Applications to IRCC before December 7, 2023. This policy is in place until April 30, 2024.
  4. As of January 1, 2024, an applicant coming to study in Alberta will need to show they have CAN$20,635 (in addition to their first year of tuition and travel costs), to be issued a Study Permit.
  5. The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (“Minister Miller”) will be setting an intake cap on Study Permit Applications which is expected to result in approximately 360,000 approved Study Permit Applications in 2024. The following temporary measures will be in place for 2 years:
    1. Provinces will be allotted an individual cap which will be weighted by population. Provincial authorities will then be responsible to distribute that allocation among its DLIs.
    2. As of January 22, 2024, every Study Permit Application submitted to IRCC must be accompanied by an attestation letter from the province.
      1. Provinces must establish a process for issuing attestation letters to students by March 31, 2024.
      2. Applications submitted after January 22, 2024 which do not include an attestation letter will be deemed incomplete and returned to the applicant.*
        *Note that since attestation letters will likely not be available until April 2024, students will not be able to apply for their Study Permits until then, as their applications will be returned without a letter of attestation.
    3. The cap does not apply to post-graduate programs (i.e. master’s and doctoral degrees) and elementary/secondary education.
    4. Current Study Permit holders will not be affected; renewals will not count towards the cap.
  6. Minister Miller also announced changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit (“PGWP”) Program:
    1. As of September 1, 2024, international students who begin a study program that is part of a curriculum licensing agreement will no longer be eligible for a PGWP post graduation.
    2. Graduates of master’s and other short graduate-level programs will soon be eligible to apply for a 3-year Work Permit. Under the current criteria, the length of a PGWP was based on the length of the program a student was completing.
  7. In the weeks ahead, Open Work Permits will only be available to the spouses of international students in master’s and doctoral programs. Spouses of students completing undergraduate and college programs will no longer be eligible for Open Work Permits.

As experienced Canadian immigration lawyers, we can help you with your immigration needs. If you are interested in studying in Canada or need assistance with compliance with these changes and forward planning, get in touch with us at to help you explore your options.