Canada’s Immigration Minister Unveils Plan to Strengthen International Student Program Integrity
Canada’s immigration minister, Marc Miller, has made a significant announcement regarding the reinforcement of the international student program’s integrity. In this statement, Miller emphasized that while he opposes imposing a cap on new international student arrivals, the government is taking measures to combat fraud targeting international students. The key initiative involves implementing a new scheme to authenticate Letters of Acceptance (LOA), a vital requirement for prospective international students when applying for a study permit.
Furthermore, the government is progressing with the introduction of a “Recognized Institutions Framework” for Canadian designated learning institutions (DLIs) by the fall semester of 2024. DLIs encompass colleges, universities, and other educational institutions authorized by provincial and territorial governments to admit international students. This framework is intended to elevate the standards for services, support, and outcomes for international students. DLIs meeting specific integrity criteria set by the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) would be eligible for benefits, including priority processing of study permit applications.
Details about how institutions can attain recognition and the associated benefits will be disclosed in the near future.
Additionally, Minister Miller disclosed that the IRCC will conduct the first review of the popular Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) in a decade, with forthcoming reforms aimed at addressing labor shortages in sectors of higher demand and regional and Francophone immigration objectives.
Canada: A Premier Destination for International Students
Canada has solidified its status as a preferred destination for international students. In 2022, it welcomed a record-breaking 551,405 international students from 184 different countries. By the end of 2022, a historic high of 807,750 international students held valid Canadian study permits, demonstrating a quadruple increase in Canada’s international student population over the past 15 years. This surge can be attributed to a growing global middle class seeking educational opportunities abroad and Canada’s appeal to international students due to its high-quality education, employment prospects, and immigration pathways.
In 2022, the top source countries for new international students included India (226,450 students), China (52,165 students), and the Philippines (23,280 students), with Ontario (411,000 students) and British Columbia (164,000 students) being the leading destinations.
Minister Miller revealed that Canada is on track to host approximately 900,000 international students in 2023.
The Canadian government continues to issue a significant number of study permits, with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) granting more than 280,000 new study permits between January and June 2023, marking a 77% increase compared to the same period in 2022.
Addressing International Student Challenges
Today’s announcement comes in the wake of a situation where over 700 Indian students in Canada faced deportation earlier this year after their fraudulent Letter of Acceptance (LOAs) was uncovered by the Canadian government. Many of these students had arrived in Canada to study between 2018 and 2019, and the fraud was only detected after they had completed their studies and were seeking permanent residency. Reports indicated that the fraudulent LOAs were fabricated by an unscrupulous immigration consultant in India who has since disappeared.
At the time, the IRCC stated that international students who were unaware or uninvolved in the fraud would not face deportation, bringing attention to the issue of international student fraud in Canada.
Senate Report Highlights International Student Integrity Concerns
The topic of international student integrity gained prominence with the release of a report by four members of Canada’s Senate on September 20. While recognizing the economic, social, and cultural benefits of international students to Canada, the report also underscored challenges in the integrity of Canada’s international student system. It highlighted the significant role played by education agents, who act as intermediaries on behalf of international student applicants in foreign countries, in compromising the system’s integrity.
The report revealed that many education agents direct international students to Canadian post-secondary programs that do not make graduates eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). Completing such programs can result in a waste of time and money, as graduates may not be eligible to work and obtain permanent residence following graduation.
Minister Miller’s Commitment to Integrity
Minister Miller has consistently addressed the issue of international student integrity since assuming the role of Canada’s immigration minister in the summer. In various interviews, he has highlighted the “integrity challenges” within the current visa process for international students in Canada. Aligning with the points made in the Senate report, Miller emphasized that international students often fall victim to “false hope” provided by individuals seeking to exploit them, an issue that the IRCC acknowledges and is determined to tackle head-on.
During a recent hearing before the Canadian Parliamentary Committee for Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM), Miller reiterated the need to address integrity concerns in the international student program.