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Canada’s New Student Visa Rules: What You Need to Know Now to Avoid Being Rejected!

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Further clarification is being provided regarding the recently announced intake cap on new international study permit applications and other modifications. International students make significant contributions to Canada’s campuses, communities, and economy. However, the International Student Program has experienced unsustainable growth in recent years. The announced reforms aim to support sustainable population growth in Canada, improve system integrity, and ensure a positive experience for international students in Canada.

1. Cap and Provincial Attestation Letter

Starting at 8:30 a.m. ET on January 22, 2024, most new post-secondary international students at the college or undergraduate level must include a provincial attestation letter (PAL) from a province or territory with their study permit application. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will return applications submitted without a PAL, unless exempt.

This attestation confirms that the student is accounted for under a provincial or territorial allocation within the national cap. Provinces and territories are expected to have plans for issuing PALs by March 31, 2024. The Government of Canada is collaborating with the Government of Quebec to determine how the certificat d’acceptation du Québec pour études can serve as a PAL.

International students whose applications were received by IRCC before 8:30 a.m. on January 22, 2024, and those already approved for a study permit intending to travel to Canada for an upcoming program, do not need to take further action due to the cap.

Who needs a provincial attestation letter?

  • Most post-secondary study permit applicants
  • Most non-degree granting graduate programs (e.g., certificate programs and graduate diplomas)
  • Anyone else not included in the exceptions list below

Who doesn’t need a provincial attestation letter?

  • Primary and secondary school students
  • Master’s or doctoral degree students
  • In-Canada visiting or exchange students studying at a designated learning institution (Corrected on February 27, 2024)
  • In-Canada study permit and work permit holders (including study permit holders applying for an extension)
  • In-Canada family members of study permit or work permit holders
  • Students whose application was received before 8:30 a.m. EST on January 22, 2024

2. Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Update for Master’s Degree Graduates

Recognizing that graduates of master’s degree programs are excellent candidates for Canada’s labor market and potential permanent residence, a change has been made to the PGWP length to help them meet the required Canadian work experience for permanent residence applications.

Starting February 15, 2024, a longer, 3-year PGWP will be available to graduates of master’s degree programs less than 2 years in length who meet all other PGWP eligibility criteria.

PGWPs for other programs will continue to align with the length of the study program, up to a maximum of 3 years.

Who is eligible for a longer post-graduation work permit (PGWP)?

  • Graduates of programs at least two years in length at PGWP-eligible designated learning institutions are eligible for a 3-year PGWP.
  • Graduates of master’s degree programs less than 2 years in length.

3. PGWP Eligibility for Public-Private Partnership College Programs

Some provinces allow public colleges to license their curriculum to affiliated private colleges. Students physically attend the private college but graduate with a diploma from a public institution. Concerns have been raised about the quality of education and student support at these institutions. The Auditor General of Ontario has highlighted a lack of oversight into program quality and student services.

As a result, IRCC has restricted PGWP eligibility for these institutions, anticipating a reduction in international student enrollment without the PGWP incentive.

Who is eligible for a PGWP after graduating from a public-private partnership college program?

  • International students currently enrolled will remain eligible for a PGWP if they meet other program eligibility criteria.

Who is not eligible for a PGWP after graduating from a public-private partnership college program?

  • New students enrolling in this type of program will not be eligible for a post-graduation work permit.

4. Changes to Open Work Permit Eligibility for Spouses

In the coming weeks, eligibility for open work permits for the spouses and common-law partners of international students will be updated.

Who can get an open work permit?

  • Eligibility is limited to the spouses and common-law partners of students in graduate (master’s and doctorate) and professional degree-granting programs only.
  • Spouses and common-law partners seeking to extend their existing work permit will continue to be eligible under this stream.

Who will not be eligible for an open work permit?

  • The spouses and common-law partners of international students in other levels of study, including undergraduate and college programs, will no longer be eligible for an open work permit unless they already hold an open work permit under this stream.

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